Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Farm Report

Winter plods along into March. I think March is my least favorite month of the year, despite the fact that my oldest child and my second grandchild were both born in March. The mud and the grey skies....-sigh-

But, then again, March is when spring starts. I don't just mean that the spring equinox comes then. March 1 I will cover my first two garden beds with tarps, so they can gather heat, thaw out, and be ready for planting at the first of April with the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage I'll start this week. The first week of March, I will pull down all the greenery I had up for winter, and replace it with silk pansies. The snowmen will come off of the kitchen shelves, and bunnies and chickens will take their place. I'll change out the framed winter pictures for framed spring pictures. Days will get longer, and not just artificially, because of CDT, but because the Northern Hemisphere will continue to slowly, slowly, "point" more toward the sun. I always find it funny that that ends on the summer solstice. I mean, isn't summer all about long, hot days? Ah, well, let's not jump the gun.

So, all in all, March, despite it's mud and raw weather, is a good thing. I'll enjoy these last two days of February, but I'm looking forward to changing the calendar come Tuesday!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Eagle

We had a very relaxed weekend, with only a couple of obligations. Miss Mary competed in the county Hippology competition; she placed fifth. I can't remember if there were 6 or 7 kids, so it wasn't a stellar finish. But, considering that this was only her second year, and that she competes with her age group, most of whom have been competing for at least 6 years, I'm pretty proud of her.

We had a small birthday party for her with a couple of friends on Saturday night. We planned to take the kids to see I Am Number Four, which Michael Medved had said he planned to rate "Number Two," but actually liked. But one of the party goers reminded us of The Eagle, and we changed our mind.

Back in junior high/high school, I read a raft of historical novels by British writer Rosemary Sutcliff. Many of her books are set in Bronze Age or Roman Era Britain; one memorable one for me was a retelling of the Arthurian legend. My kids read her retellings of The Iliad and The Odyssey.

The Eagle is based on her novel, The Eagle of the Ninth. Marcus Aquila is a young Roman officer of a Gallic legion posted to Britain. His own father served there some 20 years before, in command of the 9th Spanish Legion, which marched north and never returned. The consensus is that they fled to the other side, joining the British tribes and dishonoring the Empire. In the process, the Eagle standard of the 9th was lost. (The Legio IX Hispania/9th Spanish Legion actually existed; look it up.) Aquila is severely injured in a dramatic rescue of some of his troops, and, although honored by Rome, is discharged from the army due to his injuries. Having been disgraced in his eyes, and living under the stigma of his father's supposed actions, he decides to undertake a quest into the north of England/Scotland to retrieve the Eagle, which reports say is being worshiped by a very nasty tribe.

He takes along his British slave, Esca. Wacky hijinks, as my son would say, ensue, and both learn much about honor, friendship and themselves. I highly recommend this film, especially for young teens. It has all the action and adventure of films like Gladiator, with less of the gore and none of the sexuality or innuendo. The teens I saw it with enjoyed it, and, between them, they've seen tons of movies.

By the way, I am posting this from my new laptop. It is an inexpensive Gateway, but it was inexpensive and does what I need it to do. And, if I stupidly leave it on the Milan-Venice train in THREE MONTHS!!! no harm done!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Excuse me.

I am not posting today because I am very, very tired.

I suppose that's a post.

Never mind.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spring is Coming

I went into my pantry the other night, looking for the sweet potatoes, which I wanted to bake. I found some that I forgot about. They had sprouted. So I did what I've often thought of doing...three days after I pitch the sprouty ones. I put them in soil.

And now they are sitting on a shelf in our breezeway, hopefully growing and getting ready for May, when they will go out into the garden.

Oh, and what do you think? Is my jasmine doing well inside this winter, or what? (Point of information; I trimmed all the sprouts back just after the New Year. This has grown since then.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Petermans Go To Springfield

Long ago, in grade school, I would think, you were taught that one of the great things about this country is our participatory government. We elect people to head to Congress or the State House or the County building or wherever, and these people make laws that order society. Every once in a while, there's a disconnect, and one of these guys tries to make a law that isn't fair, or would cause problems in implementation, or oversteps boundaries. OK, enough for 5th grade civics.

Recently, in Illinois, such a law was proposed by a well-meaning state senator. The bill, seen in it's current form here, would require all parents of students not enrolled in a public school to register their students yearly with the state. Since 1950, Illinois has put the "burden" of home education on the parents of students, as explained here. Homeschooling in Illinois requires only of parents that we keep records of days of attendance for our kids/students; no registration, testing, curriculum reviews, home visits, teacher certification, or any of the like have been required of Illinois parents. We like it that way. Most of us who homeschool talk about the freedom of tailoring curriculum to our students' learning style, teaching appropriate subjects at the appropriate times, looking for the teachable moment. This bill is seen as an intrusion, a way of compelling us to "answer" to another authority when designing our curriculum.

Yesterday, hearings were held in Springfield to discuss this bill, where to assign it to committee for further study, and whether it was workable. About 4,000 homeschoolers (that statistic is an estimate from Capitol security) decided to show up for the "festivities," and let our legislators know that, no, thank you, we're doing fine and don't need any help from the state of Illinois.

We stood in line, waiting to get into the Capitol building.

We talked to others in the line, and noticed various levels of information about the day's events. Some who had arrived for a pre-hearing information session to be held at 9am were turned away; security at the building where the meeting was held couldn't handle the crowds. The Capitol building was much more capable, although they asked us to stay on the main floor. Seems the upper levels were already full to capacity. Four floors of our State Capitol filled with homeschooling families. Too bad I didn't get a picture of that. My journalism professor would smack me upside the head.

Some families were convinced that voting on the bill was happening yesterday. The Gub'mint, see, always lies and sneaks things past us when we're not looking. Yeah, well, we were looking yesterday, and this was just a hearing day.

Several folks we talked to spoke of taking the opportunity to meet their representatives and senators, "While we're here." One family told us that their senator was obviously in favor of the bill, although he insisted it was a "bad bill," and would be withdrawn, rewritten and re-presented. He couldn't understand their deep concern over something as innocuous as registration. Well, my friend, when the stated purpose is "to find the homeschoolers," people get suspicious.... This lady sums up my concerns about the bill. Although our daughter is about to leave our homeschool, and she's our last student, I want the flexibility and freedom we enjoyed during these years to be available to those who choose to homeschool in this state in the future.

We waited in line for a little over an hour before we got inside. It was cold, but the sun was warm. It really wasn't too bad.

We tried to meet our senator, but she was in meetings. We'll go back later the spring to do so. We tried to sit in on a Senate session, but they started late; we waited 45 minutes before we gave up.

We did sit in on the end of the House session, and were treated to the recognition of a fine young Marine who gave his life in Afghanistan last fall.

And then we drove home, stopping at the Cracker Barrel and Starbuck's along the way.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen!

Yesterday Miss Mary, our baby, turned 16. Below, a picture of the birthday cake [three layers of Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate cake with Strawberry filling (and topping)] and a quick video of part of the celebration.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Farm Report

It's warmer today; in the 30s. The horses are out and romping through the pasture. They've been in while wind chills were below -15 (no laughing at our spoiled ponies, please) but now they're kicked out to fend for themselves.

I got some shopping done this morning; sausage and cheese for pizza night, sugar for Mary's birthday cake. Too bad I forgot cocoa. I'll be baking tonight, instead!

She and I worked in the sewing/guest room; we're tossing around calling it the project room. It has so many purposes, it's hard to decide on a name! She finished a skirt she started in October, and I almost finished the one I started then. She started right in on another one; it has pleats which she is arranging to highlight a fancy Oriental dragon. It should be cute. We had a rough start, when the sewing machine just refused to work. After a day of resting it, and trying everything I could think of, we called an experienced sewing friend. We had that puppy figured out lickety-splicket. Whoda thunk that a needle installed backwards would cause so much trouble?

Pizza crust is rising in the bread machine, and our day is humming along to allow us to head to church this evening. Tomorrow is Miss Mary's 16th birthday, and we'll spend it with family, eating spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate strawberry cake. Somehow, I don't think I'll be losing any weight this week!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Visit

My two sisters and I went and visited our mom today. Yes, I know she's gone, but we visited her at the cemetery. Today was her birthday. We were so blessed to have her for so many years, and now we don't. So we went to visit.

Yes, we're well aware that she's not there. We know that where she is is a much better place than where we is. And, yes, I know the grammar isn't right in that last sentence. I know I should be more formal and careful in this kind of post. But our visit was just too doggone...hilarious.

See, going to a cemetery in February in Illinois can be very interesting. The weather can be anything, and usually is. Today there was snow on her grave that reached almost halfway to my knees, and I'm pretty tall. The red roses my dad left there in the fall had frozen into the vase. We took along hot water in Thermoses to thaw them out. They popped right out and we put yellow ones in.

The hilarious part? That was watching my sisters struggle up the little hill to the grave. Visiting a cemetery is supposed to be somber...respectful...quiet. But it's hard to be all of those things when your sister is lying on her back in the snow, struggling to get up from where she's fallen. When the three of you forgot snow boots, and, even though two of you remembered to ask for extra grocery bags at The WalMarts so you could put them on your feet, one didn't, and the oldest stole the middle (without realizing it until we were back in the car ) one's second bag, so Middlesister only had one bag for her two feet. And before anyone starts yapping at me about the grocery bags, please notice that I didn't specify which sister was rolling on her back in the snow like a beetle. Or which sister couldn't get herself out of the snowbank at the end.

I'm just saying.

But here's a picture of the roses.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wow. Just, wow.

My friend Cheryl shared this on Facebook today. I feel very ignorant and uneducated that I never saw it this way before.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Crockpot Yogurt

Put a half gallon of milk into a 2-quart crockpot. It's best to use one with a removable stoneware liner, but I think most of them have that now, anyway.

Heat on low for 2 1/2 hours. Turn off crockpot and let sit for 3 more hours. Although the cover is off in this picture, the crockpot should be covered for the entire 5 1/2 hours. You don't need to stand over your crockpot; I was out shopping one day while it was heating, and just ran in to switch it off after 2 1/2 hours. Then I headed back out and was home before the 3 hour time period was finished.

At the end of this time, take 1-2 cups of warm milk out of the crockpot. Whisk in 1/2 cup yogurt. I use Greek yogurt, because I like the flavors of those cultures.

Remove the liner from the crockpot. Leaving the lid on, wrap the whole thing in a bath towel. Let it sit for 8 hours. I put mine in a cold oven, because we have a cat. She's never gone near food on the counter, but I don't want to take any chances.

At the end of 8 hours, put the yogurt into the refrigerator.

UPDATE; Let sit in frig for about 10 hours.This will give the best flavor and texture. Sadly, I forgot about our yogurt, and it sat in the oven 8 hours, then overnight. It's a little thicker than I'd like, and the whey was beginning to separate. It will probably have a more tangy taste than I like.

I use raw, whole milk, straight from the dairy bulk tank. I have also used pasteurized, homogenized milk straight from the store. Both work equally well. If you're interested in such information, 1/2 cup of this yogurt has 84 calories, 7 grams of carbohydrate, and 5 grams each of fat and protein.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Thinking About Rebellion

Some online friends and I were talking this weekend about what we want to do to rebel. It was a good conversation, which led me to some interesting thoughts.

I've always felt so boring. Never edgy. But then I got to thinking...

I've been rebelling since I was 20-something. When I graduated from college in 1980, women (especially in geology) went on to a Masters', headed off to a career, and maybe got married in their 30s. I got married right after my Bachelors', at 22, and gasp had a child at 23. I settled into momhood. I did not work out of the home (full-time) after my kids were born, (although I earned my teaching certificate at 25) never sent them to day care (I ran a daycare in my home) and Oh, Good Lord (ironic that those who use that phrase don't honor the Lord) got active in my church. When the time was right, we bought a hobby farm and started growing our own food. Then I decided to homeschool. 'Nuff said, there. Now that my kids are older and almost launched, I am resisting the idea of heading off to work. I want to sew and grow food for other people and maybe be a nanny, because I can't get over loving little people.

We've raised a lot of eyebrows over the years, and lost many friends with the decisions we've made, but I wouldn't change a thing. Well, maybe I'd find a way to live closer to some of my really good friends. But not without land, a horse and some chickens in my backyard, and a view.

I do think I'd like to be the grandma that takes her grandchildren off on great adventures. I want to live in Hawaii, England and Tuscany for a year each. Maybe even Seattle, if I can handle the Left Coast for that long.

And, most rebellious of all, I don't want to settle in the South or Southwest when we retire. Too hot, no seasons. I'll hire a farm boy to shovel snow.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday Farm Report

Still can't get that song out of my head....Walkin' in Memphis....

Anyway, Saturday farm report...

Still snow-covered. Still cold. We haven't been as cold as other parts of the country, but it's cold enough, thank you. I learned yesterday that we probably had more like 20" of snow. The snowfall statistics I quoted the other day were not final reports, as I thought they were. The towns around us reported 20+ inches, so I'm sticking with 20. 4" may not seem like much, but, when it falls on bare ground, you sure do notice it!

I've been house-bound, therefore, and have been getting lots of little things done inside that will make life easier, long-term. The guest bedroom/sewing room, in which Matthew and Keri lived this summer/fall, had never really been reclaimed when they left. I've been doing that, little by little, this past week. I have tables set up for sorting things like pictures (I am making albums of my mom and grandmother; we have so many images and documents of them, and I don't want them to deteriorate) projects (some sewing things, some wooden things, all decorative things) and toys (I'd like to keep some toys available for visiting kids, but not in our living room. A small stash in the guest bedroom should work.) I also had, believe it or not, a small semblance of order and organization to this house before last year, and I want to regain it. So that is on my mind as February rolls on.

Today there's some shopping to be done; mundane things like bread and chicken. We'll be making pizza tonight, and, God willing, the three of us will agree on a movie to watch while we eat it. Tomorrow will be church, then office work. One area where organization has been thrown to the wolves is our office, and that will hopefully begin to end tomorrow. I'll lock Mary and John in the office with me, and I won't let them out until it's really usable again. Don't worry about this blog post warning them; they don't read my blog, anyway!

Just something to look forward to;

Friday, February 4, 2011

Walking in Memphis

Just liking this song today.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Facebook Fun

I really hate playing Facebook games; in fact,I won't, at least as far as things like Farmville are concerned. Last night, however, a friend posted this game;

I want all my Facebook friends to comment on this status about how you met me. But... I want you to lie. That's right. Just make stuff up. After you comment, copy this to your status so I can do the same (if you like).

Well, that just woke up my inner creative writer, and I had to respond;

There I was, stranded in the Libyan desert, when, over the hill came a camel riding Bedouin. It came closer and closer, and I broke out in a cold sweat, having realized I was out of ammunition. I looked around for something to throw, and found a scorpion. As I raised my arm to throw it, Jenny got down off of her camel, took off her kaffiya and said, "Are you a confessional Lutheran?"

Then I posted to my Facebook page, and got responses like these;

Something about a camel.... It's rather fuzzy since I think we were both drunk.

Wow - your memory stinks - remember that mission we were never to speak of again around Roswell... %^$#*&HG&*$#JNS*&%(

Met you in the bathroom of the cowboy bar in Jackson stall was out of handed me some.

Phooey, I can't remember... it was either that swanky Hollywood cocktail party or the woman's correctional facility... ah, the curse of living a full and varied life. :)

I met you during the Time Warp dance at a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture show. We both dressed up as Transylvanians.
Note; You know, hard as it may be to believe, I've never seen this film.

I found you on my patio drinking the last of my RED WINE . Then you pretended like we totally knew each other and left with an entire case of Three Buck Chuck. It was really strange.

I have such creative friends. Can you imagine how tired I'd be if I really had lived that life? I'll have to get to work, to be able to live up to their expectations of me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The White Death

So now we've been hit by The Big One. And it really was. The road we live on, a county highway, is down to one lane. One lane that shifts and meanders as the high winds blow snow over it. We haven't seen a plow yet; some private ones, but nothing from the county. Our isn't just drifted over; it is a drift. I'll share some pictures, if you'll indulge me.

Last night, as a drift formed on our deck, Skye begged to go outside. I indulged her, and took a video. I'm placing it here so you can see that she is walking where the big drift on our deck formed. That "rushing water" noise you hear in the background is the wind howling in the line of pines at the back of our property. It was louder and scarier in person.

The next three pictures are of the drift; two taken about an hour apart last night, and one this morning. That black pile is our deck furniture, stacked to the side for the winter.




How much did we get? This flashlight was left standing out on the grill.

It is 10 inches long, as you can see on this ruler. (Which, for whatever looney reason, is 10" long, not the standard 12")

And snow was piled on top of it for 6 more inches.

Now, there is drifting involved on the deck. But John's guess, after walking through it to feed horses, and shoveling some of it, is that 16" isn't an unreasonable estimate. Woodstock, about 9 miles east of us, reported 18.8 inches, and the Rockford newspapers (Rockford is to the west of us) are reporting about 14 inches. That's a lot of snow.

And it's going to melt sometime. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know what that means. But for now, we're just going to enjoy the fun.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The White Death.

We are expecting a storm of Biblical proportions here in the Midwest today. Predictions of up to 24" of snow have been heard; 18" seems to be the most popular number, although that has been downgraded to 10" this morning. But that's because some warmer air pushing up from the south may make the snowfall wetter and heavier. So it won't be less snow, just more compacted.

So far, we have about 2 new inches of snow on the ground. Winds are picking up, and mini-drifts are beginning to form. Horses are snuggled into their stalls, although we may let them out for a couple of hours today. The big snowfall is due this evening and into tomorrow.

It's hilarious. This is, after all, the Midwest. It's January. And people are clearing out the stores' shelves, piling milk and bread into their homes, filling gas tanks, buying new shovels and worrying themselves into a frenzy.

I repeat. It's January. In the Midwest. Snow is going to happen, folks. Most likely the most horrific event of the next few days will be you having to stay home from work and play with your kids.

Might want to pick up some whiskey while you're getting milk and bread.

PS I just re-checked NOAA The current prediction is for 13 to 24 inches. In case you're counting.