Sunday, October 30, 2011

Decorating at Buddy and Kay's House

So, what do you do when your own garden is too full to decorate anymore? You decorate a garden that belongs to someone else. That's exactly what we did. We loaded the back of the truck up with gourds and pumpkins and went down to Buddy and Kay's on Friday afternoon. They have a "rock garden" in their front yard, so we filled in a bunch of area there. Buddy was up working on the barn, but we drafted Kay for a bit of help. She went through both barns looking for old buckets, baskets and any "points of interest". And she did a great job! She even managed to dig up an old dog cart, so Mom and Elizabeth filled a crate and loaded the cart up to look like a little peddler's cart. We also put up a little decoration on the porch that used mini straw bales, pumpkins and gourds. These are just a couple close-up shots of some of the decorations.

After spending a couple of hours hauling gourds, we all had lunch together. Then, Mom and I got Buddy to take the two of us to some of the nearby cemeteries where his family is buried. They've been working on genealogy, so Mom was hoping to find some more relatives. The second cemetery that we went to was filled with relatives. We even saw Buddy's Grandpa's grave and Buddy's great-Grandparents. I think that the one that thrilled me the most was a lady (no relation to Buddy) who was born in January 1899 and died in March 2002. She actually lived in three centuries. She was born during the reign of Queen Victoria and died after Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee. Isn't that amazing!?

Thanks to Buddy, we found out that TSC was selling the latest issue of Cowboys and Indians magazine. Okay, so I've never heard of that before, and we've never read it, but they featured Roy Rogers on the front cover --- in honor of his 100th birthday on November 11. So, Elizabeth and I went with Mom to the last Farmer's Market of the year yesterday, and we stopped in to get the magazine on the way home. We've now had two major frosts, so it looks like the growing season is finally ended. I can't say that I'll be sorry to see the slower pace of Winter arrive.

We're off to a Reformation Day service this afternoon at the Keultjes' church. After that, we're having dinner with them and just spending some time visiting. Hurray! More later.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Garden Pics at the End of the Season

Fall is drawing to a quick close, and these will most likely be the last pictures of the Gnome Garden as it appears with all the pumpkins. I took all of the swan gourds, dipper gourds and some of the bushels into the garage on Friday. They are all spread out on newspaper to dry (hopefully!) over the next few months. One of the baby swans is rotting, so he stayed out to be enjoyed for his last few days. He's almost ready to sing his swan song.

Mom and I have gotten so many mini-gourds that I made a little area full of them --- they're cascading out of buckets in front of the biggest Gnome statue. The bottom of the mini-gourd market seems to have dropped out in the last couple weeks, so Mom and I got a ton of them at the auction yesterday. We're planning on taking them down to Buddy and Kay's tomorrow to decorate their front yard and porch. I think that, including some stuff that we're taking them from around here, we'll have the whole back of the truck full! We were down at their house this past weekend, and got some "grapevine" from up in the woods. That should make a pretty cool Winter garland for the garden fence. We also got a really, really cool rock from up there, too. It's big, and it's cool. Totally flat on the bottom, so it stands up like a little monument.

We've been canning this week, too. Mom found a recipe for "Zucchini Salsa". Sounds different, but it tastes amazing. We've already made three and a half batches. More carrot soup coming up this week, not to mention applesauce and pumpkin. Everybody is really getting the "hibernation" mood. Winter is sure coming. I'm still reading the book that is the life story of the book Gone With the Wind. How interesting. I never knew so much about the publishing industry and the logistics of selling rights to a book and movie. I'm afraid that I've been boring everybody around here by repeating most of the facts as I'm reading. More later.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who says that cats can't read?!

Who says that cats can't speak English?! Oliver can sure understand it, and I guess that he can read it, too. We spent yesterday in a very "literary" way. It was the annual AAUW book sale, so we couldn't miss that. Then, since we were in the vicinity, we stopped by the main County library. We don't get up there very often, and Elizabeth and I needed a book that we only know by sight. That means we have to spend some time browsing. Mom looked through all of the "New Arrival" books and found one for me; Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind": A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood. Big title, but the book isn't that big! It is, literally, the "life story" of a book. Oliver seems to find it quite dull, and it put him to sleep!

I love reading about different authors' styles when it comes to their methods of creating a novel. Margaret Mitchell felt that stories should be started at the end, because then you (the author) knew where your characters needed to end up. Good point. She also believed in writing whatever chapter of the book that was inspiring you at the time. Another good point. She also felt that a novel should not be bogged down by flowery phrases and fancy words. She felt that if you kept your dialogue and description natural and to the point that your book would be more readable and interesting. Great point. I've taken several things to heart and am just about convinced to start putting our story down on paper.

This morning dawned another dark and rainy day, but that didn't stop us from heading out to the produce auction. There was not a lot of stuff there, so we were home in less than an hour and a half. We did get some nice stuff though, and it seems hard to believe that we can still be bringing home zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and cabbage this late in the season. Aren't the colors fabulous?! I got a box of over 100 mini-gourds, all in pastel shades, for just two dollars. Tomorrow is supposed to be a bit sunnier (at least there isn't supposed to be any rain!), so I'm hoping to take a bunch of the swan gourds and others into the garage. It's pretty impossible to hope that they'll dry in this constant precipitation. That means that a bunch of these mini gourds and little pumpkins will fill in those spaces in the Gnome Garden.

By the way, we made those strawberries into strawberry shortcake the other night. Homemade strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream. Let me tell you --- that was heaven on earth. Wow! I sure wish that I'd taken a picture of it, but we ate it before I had the chance. I can't think of many things that we've ever eaten that were as wonderful as that stuff!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Strawberries: Small, Ruby-Colored Gems in Autumn

Somehow, I can't believe that October is already more than halfway over. We're still canning. So much for thinking that we were in the "last few weeks" last month. Mom and I were out at the produce auction again this morning, but there really isn't very much variety left. This was the first week that there were no swan gourds! How sad. It's been dark and rainy all day --- with big, cold raindrops. Prices were really low as there were hardly any people bidding. I got three pecks of the little multi-colored-acorn-shaped gourds for $1.00 a peck. I'm planning on taking all of the swan gourds, and any of the others that we want to try to dry out, into the garage this week. It's just too rainy to keep them from rotting. The coolest thing that we brought home were Autumn Strawberries! They are the prettiest things that you've ever seen and they taste amazing. We're planning on having strawberry shortcake for dinner. Hooray!

Last Thursday, I cut the hops vines down and tied them together to make a sort of garland. We were thinking of hanging them in the kitchen (hops is supposed to be a natural spider repellant), but the cats would probably have eaten them, so we decided to hang them on the fence in the Gnome Garden. Like a good little girl, I wore my gardening gloves all day --- except for two minutes. Guess what!? I reached into the hops garland to adjust it on the fence and some mean, nasty, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad "something" bit me! On the middle knuckle of my middle finger on the left hand. It actually drew blood and hurt, so I thought that I had cut myself as the vines are quite prickly. So, I went inside and washed it with soap and water, put Polysporin on it and a band-aid on top of that. It started swelling by the next afternoon and just kept getting worse. Mom got some plantain for it and I iced it. We did that on and off all weekend, so it's almost back to normal now --- but that's why there have been no blog entries all week. It was most likely a spider that bit me. Mean, nasty thing. I hope it died.

On a lighter note: we've had some time this weekend to play Canasta. That's Elizabeth's favorite game, so we've had a good time with it. We have a really cool set of cards for Canasta Caliente. The pictures are really cool. They kind of look like the old 1950s travel brochures.

In light of this spider bite that I've had, Mom decided to make some salve with the last plantain and comfry. Happily, some of the calendula plants sent up a few more flowers, so we added that in, too! It's in a base of Safflower and Olive oil. A little bit of beeswax, added in at the end, makes it hard enough to be called "salve" versus oil. This picture is when the jars were only half cooled, which is what makes that cool "dark and light" appearance. Once they are all dried then the salve is all light green in color.

Mom's salve is just great, and she makes about three different kinds in the Spring. We didn't get a chance to make any this year, so we made a bunch yesterday to last until next year. She poured it into these little, tiny jelly jars and they all sealed. This stuff works great on bug bites, cuts and even sunburn!

Buddy and Kay came up this afternoon for a visit. We haven't seen them in ages, so I think everybody is kind of ready for winter to set in and supply a bit of a rest. We're hoping to get together again in the next week --- with a pumpkin pie to go along with the visit! One of the annual book sales starts tomorrow, so we're heading up for that in the morning. Elizabeth and I can't remember a time of living in Ohio and not going to this sale. We're hoping for another hardback copy of Gone with the Wind. That seems to be hard to find. We'll see, though! More later.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Some Really Different Clouds Around Here

We've spent all day processing pumpkin. Baking it, boiling it, peeling it, cutting it, cubing it, canning it. More about all this activity tomorrow, but I just wanted to post these two pictures before heading to eat dinner.

We had about twenty minutes with the strangest clouds that we've ever seen over the house. The pictures of them look like they were a poor cloning job in PhotoShop, but these are what they looked like. After about twenty minutes there came a little bit of thunder and lightning. That brought a few minutes of rain, and then the clouds were back to normal.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Beauty of Bittersweet

Everybody is probably getting a little tired of garden pictures, but I can't help it! I'm just having such a great time decorating it. I just go and stand out there for a little while every day enjoying all the colors --- and especially the swans! Well, Mom and I went to the auction again on Friday and picked up several more things. One of them was something that we've really been hoping would show up: Bittersweet! We got enough to make a little swag for the fence, so I put that up yesterday. We also took some of the berries off the vine and have them drying on a piece of newspaper. Apparently, it shouldn't be too hard to cultivate our own plants from seed, so we figured that it wouldn't hurt to give it a try! We also won two boxes of gourds, so there are now two more swan gourds, bushel gourds, dipper gourds, birdhouse gourds and some other "name-unknown-to-me" variety. Combined with the nine "Long Island Cheese" squashes (that are the size of small pumpkins) that Mom and I bought at the Farmers' Market on Saturday . . . we had to send Dad down to the Mill for two more straw bales. I tried everything to "artfully" arrange them, but in the end I just had make a big "island" out of it to spread everything out. All of these gourds are, hopefully, going to dry out. I'm just dying for Elizabeth to be able to paint them!

Okay, so I've done some things outside of the Gnome Garden, too! I mowed the lawn on Thursday and, unless something in the weather changes drastically, it will be the last time of the year. Most of the grass has gone dormant already --- it's just the green weeds in the grass that are still up, I think. Elizabeth and I also hung some felt travel pendants on the line to air out. We picked these up at a garage sale, so we're thinking of using them to decorate our bedroom a bit. Aren't they cool?!

We've been doing a lot more canning lately. Every day this week, in fact. We're also trying to bake pumpkins, so that we don't end up with thirty of them in the house! Mom and I made pumpkin pies on Saturday night with a "Peanut Pumpkin". Wow! They are amazing. It's a really sweet, creamy pumpkin with a fantastic yield. We were really impressed.

The only other major news is that Elizabeth and I finally got our driving permits again. This is only the second one that I've ever had, and it's the first time that I've been in the driver's seat of a car in eight years. I drove a bit the other day without any major catastrophies. I think Mom was more than a little nervous, though!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Swan Layed an Egg --- and it Hatched!

It's an amazing thing when a swan gourd sits on her eggs and they actually hatch! Take a look at all of these adorable "swan-lings" with their Mama.



Okay, okay. The eggs didn't actually hatch, but this is a Mama Swan Gourd with four babies. This was the newest thing at the produce auction today, and I told Mom that we had to come home with them no matter what. There were these long crates filled with Mama Swans and their little babes. Three crates were sold as a lot and then mine were by themselves. They were the last thing that we had to wait on, but Mom bid on them while I was loading the truck --- and, of course, she won! Only $11.00 and the swans were ours. Er, mine. :) So, we came home and I helped Mom get her canning started and then left for a couple hours of sunshine (what is that, by the way??) working in the garden.


The neighbor was nice enough give me about thirty corn stalks from his field, so I made three bunches out of those and put them up at the corners of the fence and under the locust tree. Then, I had to move all of those pumpkins out of the way --- which is no easy job, let me tell you! Mom and I took the truck down to the mill and picked up four straw bales. We're planning on putting a bunch of them around the foundation of the house in the windy corner this Winter, but I wanted a few to use in decorating. So, after all the pumpkins were moved I was able to put the bales in place. All of the pumpkins are stacked on top of them (or should I say "arranged"). The Mother Swan and her babies have a special little nest area at the base of the bales, and they're surrounded by squash and gourds.

We also got two Bushel gourds at the auction. One is a perfectly round shape, so I'm hoping that it will dry out --- making it possible for Elizabeth to paint it as a globe! Wouldn't that be cool?! We're in a stretch of some sunny days right now, so it's been really good for all of the pumpkins and gourds. Kind of gives them a good chance to dry out. More later.

Monday, October 3, 2011

All this decorating . . . and it's edible, too!

Rain, rain, rain. That's what we've had for almost two weeks straight. Supposedly, we're getting four sunny days --- starting tomorrow. Here's hoping. I so need to hang some laundry outside!

We had my last orthopedic visit this morning, so once that was over with we ate lunch at Subway. Then we decided to make the run of all the local produce markets. They all buy the large lots at the produce auction, so we were hoping for some pumpkins that we don't get on the small side. Boy, did we hit the jackpot! Wow. We came home with nine pumpkins that weigh between 15lb. and 23lb.! Dad just finished unloading them to the area by my garden. Mom and I are hoping to pick up some full-sized straw bales from the Mill tomorrow, so then I'll be able to put out some more decorations.

Elizabeth and I braved the wind and drizzle on Saturday and decorated with the little straw bales, so here are some new pictures. I still have the corn stalks to put up, but it's been raining too much to do any garden decorating. I got a new little concrete-type mushroom at the Ohio Mart up at Stan Hywet on Thursday. It's the cutest little thing. They had a beehive that was made out of the same stuff, so I'm thinking of getting that next year once the garden is expanded.

Saturday marked the first fire in the wood stove. It's been burning steadily ever since. This is Elizabeth sitting next to the first fire. You have to start with three small fires over the period of about five or six hours to warm the stove up --- that keeps the stones from cracking. Saturday was also our Gramma's birthday. She and Kelly stopped by in the morning to pick up all of the veggies that they had bought at the auction, so we gave her a mini birthday cake to eat in the hotel that evening. :) Mom and I went out and picked a half bushel of apples for them, but it was so cold and rainy that we could hardly believe what we were doing. Only because we love Gramma, that's for sure! Well, looks like we've got some more canning up, but everything will kind of depend on the weather. More later.