Back Forty, coffee pot posts, critters, More gardening, Permaculture

Sunday morning coffee pot post

The garden is beginning to rot. So much rain! I weeded out a lot of ageratum and tomato plants that were done late Friday afternoon, and harvested basil for freezing in an ice cube tray yesterday. I found a few little potatoes in the planter. This yield was a bit disappointing but it was free, other than the bags of potting soil and compost I used. I will plant some more in it and see what happens.

So much of life now is a matter of wait and see what happens. I have always been a bit of a control freak, a trait that I have worked very hard to change for the last twenty years. Much of my art has changed as I have let go this and that “rule” or convention. My gardening is unconventional by most standards but controlled when you compare it to enthusiastic permaculturist standards.

Permaculture requires observation and reaction to the space and natural forces working within that space. My approach to the groundhog problem was to plant things that the groundhogs don’t like, such as alliums and smelly plants like peppermint and feverfew around the edges. They didn’t care for the ageratum either. Either it worked pretty well or somebody else took care of the problem. We’ve always had rabbits, but they don’t do that much damage.

I don’t think the high temperature got above 70 yesterday. That was how far the temps plunged with this last line of storms. It is still cool today so I am going to my UNCG garden plots and clean out the rest of the one that I am giving up. I will take some newspapers and a bag of good soil/compost to get the plot where I pulled out the cucumbers ready for fall planting. I hope that there will be some butterbeans ready to pick.

It doesn’t need to be said that everyone who is paying attention to the news is horrified right now. I haven’t taken a complete news break but I have avoided the hole. It helps to remember what I can and cannot control.

It is SO NICE to turn off the AC and hang out on the front porch with the cats again. I think that I will do that for a while first while I finish my coffee pot.

Why is my cat eating cobwebs? Seriously. I guess I will need to clean out here a bit too before Mr. Brilliant gets a spider bite in his mouth.

Bagstories, coffee pot posts, crocheting, Reading

Sunday morning coffee pot post

Weather has always been fascinating to me. As the daughter of a farmer in a pre-Internet time and no-cable TV house, I was expected to watch the weather forecast on one of our three TV stations and report to him in the evening when he came in, since a farmer’s work generally lasts sunrise to sunset and the news only came on at 6 and 11.

Sometimes I wish that I had studied meteorology in college, but I would have had so much science catch up to do. The only science I had in high school was biology, since one of the coaches “taught” my chemistry class (we never once went into the lab and he never lectured about chemistry), and I was always an arts and lit student. I learned a little bit in a college freshman earth science class.

Anyway, crocheting this weather scarf is making me more aware of the comparative weather of our year. The photo above is of the first two months in 2018, when we started with a polar vortex week. Other than that, our weather is really wild during the winter/early spring. It often changes 30-40 degrees in a single day. I’m sure that these big swings will be more extreme as our climate continues to change and the Arctic ice and permafrost melts.

March and April are just as wild, with many more color changes from day to day. Then suddenly, May was different. During the entire month of May, the high temperatures stayed between 76-90 F, often within 5 degrees for days at a time. The summer of 2018 was surprising. We did not have a single day with a high over 95. Now, I guarantee you that the humidity made most of those days feel well over 100 degrees.

The basic Tunisian crochet class ended yesterday. Actually it was intended to be a one-day class but it was Hilary’s first time teaching and she had a couple of students who didn’t have any or much experience in regular crochet, which she didn’t expect. She was kind to extend the class to two more Saturday afternoons, and it was leisurely paced with plenty of chat. I walked away feeling part of a tribe and Amanda’s hugs were wonderful.

They are doing a “Sophie’s Universe” crochet-along (a crazy fabulous free pattern, google it) on Saturday mornings at Gate City Yarns and I am going to join it weekend after next. This is what I need, a small comfortable group I can create with on a regular basis. I miss having a studio mate, even though I didn’t want to collaborate and basically just wanted a quiet companion to share energy and space.

The lettuce and calendula and arnica seeds are coming up! I planted leeks, onions, chive, monarda, and coreopsis a few days ago. I still have them inside the house since the temps are supposed to plunge to about 20 degrees mid-week. The rains have stopped from time to time to give us a short break before beginning again. As they are supposed to do today. It is definitely affecting my mood.

Current book: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. I am really disappointed with this one because I looked forward to reading it for so long. It’s been a real slog to get this far (about 70%) and I’m glad I didn’t buy it. I don’t like the main character. She is whiny and it is hugely depressing. I am from that rural farming poverty stricken conservative world, and I should be able to relate to it, but I don’t because I have had a mind of my own since childhood. I think that a lot of it could have been edited down and it would have been a better book. However, I want to see how she ends it and I am not skipping to it because that is cheating in my reading world.

Anyway, I am wrapping this up and getting back to the loom. I’ve got three more feet to weave on the twill gamp curtain panels. Oh! Almost forgot – I crocheted a bag with those long thrums from this project. I cut off about 8-9 feet of warp and couldn’t bear to see it go to waste. Result is below.

This week is spring break for UNCG and Susanne and Sandy and I are headed to Topsail Beach next weekend for a book workshop with Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller, so more good things are coming.

Oh, and this blog turned 14 this week. How about that?

coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, Solar energy

Saturday morning coffee pot post

I don’t think that there will be photos in this post. I’m just going to sip coffee and write about random stuff for a little while.

My birthday is tomorrow and I will be 58. Maybe it is because my job requires me to plan one year ahead but I’ve been thinking that I am 58 for several months now. I guess this year I will be thinking that I am 59. Retirement has been on both Sandy and my minds for quite some time. He is probably going to retire this year. I will see if I can retire at 62 so that we can do some retirement stuff together before he gets too much older. I will probably work part time or get temp jobs. We are lucky that I “should” be able to do this because I will have a pension and insurance from being a state employee. We’ll see as the time gets closer.

It baffles me that I am this old. Maybe everyone feels this way. I never had children and for years I was the youngest one in any group I hung out in (still am in some groups). I don’t generally feel the social constraints that I might feel if I was a parent or grandparent. But as I’ve said before, I have never felt that I really belonged here anyway. I feel at home with my artist friends but I seldom get to see them. They are either too busy with work or family or they live far away. Or I cocoon myself away to protect myself from hurt and bolster my energy and don’t make the effort I should to be a good friend. Introvert behavior in an extrovert world.

Low spirits this week with nightmares, an anniversary of a tragic event, and a political world emergency. My blood work came back and my cholesterol levels are the highest ever. I have to get my butt in gear or very likely have to give in to taking statins. At least for a little while. I’m going to try an Ayurvedic supplement called triphala in the next three months and pay attention to my diet again. Pescetarianism suits me pretty well, and I am a tofu/tempeh fan.

I also unfollowed and left a couple of liberal prepper groups on Facebook. I find them useful sources of information, but there is a lot of serious negativity and some wayout alarmist posts as well. I am sufficiently alarmed at humanity’s prospects already and don’t really need to uptick the anxiety.

The solar panels do make me feel like I am doing what I can in our little corner of the world. I refinanced them with my local credit union this week, along with an unexpected expense (new water heater). This is more expensive per month than what I had but it will force me to pay it off quicker and I feel more in control. The other financing was way too complicated – it turned out that the 0% for 18 months only applied to 2/3 of the loan. I was irritated about this misunderstanding and emailed the company about it. The owner of the company called me and sent me a check for 3% of the loan for the trouble I’ve gone to in setting up the first financing (a protracted, complicated pain in the ass) and refinancing. That was pretty damn impressive, and so I am again very happy with them. Duke Energy says they will be sending me a rebate check for 14% of the loan in the next few weeks, then I should get a 30% tax credit.

This weekend is a rainy one. I have not started any seeds yet! Today I am weaving and this afternoon will go to Gate City Yarns for the Tunisian crochet class and learn a couple more kinds of stitches.

Okay, back to weaving! Maybe I will post with photos tomorrow if I get around to taking any.

coffee pot posts, Uncategorized

Solar Energy Rocks!

Solar panels at the back of the house.Okay, I am giving my new setup with the Kindle and Bluetooth keyboard another try this weekend. The last time I tried I lost a long post at the very end of writing it. It is very very very slow. Maybe that’s appropriate? Teaching me patience? Anyway, if you are reading this, it worked!

We finally accomplished two major life goals this month. We paid off the mortgage on the house, and the solar panels are finally in energy production! I monitor the production every day in an app and so far on a sunny day they produce about 12.7 kHw per day and growing as the days grow longer. We could have placed them for more efficiency but historic district rules stated that they have to be as invisible as possible, so they had to go in two rows at the back of the house. The electrician said that it made little difference anyway.

The company is NC Solar Now and if you are in North Carolina and decide to use them please give me name, Laurie O’Neill, as a reference. I will get a referral fee that I will put back into the payments on the system.

This is not an off grid system. I wish that we could afford that, but I’m not even sure they would allow it where we are if we could. The power we produce feeds back into the grid and we are credited for the amount on our bill. We still have to pay Duke Energy a meter fee, and I imagine that the GOP in power will figure out more ways to squeeze more money from us for Duke shareholders. Still, this system should provide almost all the energy we need. I will be writing and updating about it all year.

As the days grow longer and hotter, we should generate more energy so hopefully it will balance out. Our furnace and water heater runs on natural gas.

I have always been very frugal about energy use and this is making both of us more conscientious about ways we can go further.

Now that I’ve managed to do a life update, I’m heading back to the loom.

coffee pot posts, Quilting, Slow cloth, Upcycling

Saturday morning coffee pot post

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Photo from last Sunday

It’s almost noon. There is still snow on the ground, whittled away by a steady light rain over the last 24 hours. Everything is soggy and muddy because there is nowhere for the water to go.

I ended up with two mandatory snow days, for which I can either take vacation time, make up within 90 days, or take unpaid leave. I grouch about this policy, but I realize that a lot of people don’t have these choices. Sandy worked from home both days, and I have the type of job that could easily be done from home, but that’s not an option any more. My guess is that the Republicans who came up with this suspected that us hourly employees would be faking it. There was a time when I didn’t get any sick time, one week of vacation a year, and no holidays. I’ve also been on salary or had a job where I was expected to work 50 hours a week. Now I get lots of leave in different forms, often in lieu of a decent salary raise, but with me, I love having the freedom of being able to have time off. I know a job with good benefits when I see one, having spent most of my working life without one.

The quince chutney ended up okay. It is very tart. I went off the recipe that I found, as usual, and added dried apples, cherries, raisins, orange zest, and orange juice. The quince flavor ended up being overwhelmed by the vinegar. I froze some and I’ll add some more sugar to try to tap down that tartness.

I had forgotten why I stopped cooking quinces and only bringing them in for the lovely smell. They are harder than a winter squash to peel and dice. They cook up very soft but have a bit of a gritty texture. After peeling and chopping three of them, my hands and arms were aching so I gave the rest away.

It sure was nice to work only three days, less really, since I went in late twice. I wrapped up one project and made good headway over the worst part of another. The department newsletter should come out next week and then I will have a long winter break until Jan. 2.

Monday I will be home for at least most of the day because the electricians are coming to do the repairs and prep work for our solar panel installation. We won’t be off-grid (I wish!) but on net-metering where our solar energy production runs the meter backwards and if we need more than we produce it will switch over to Duke Energy. At least I think that is how it will work. One of the good things about this is that we needed to upgrade the wiring in the attic badly. That work is being rolled into the financing and the rebate and tax credit totals we will get next year. That money is going straight back into the loan and I plan to pay it off before the interest rate kicks in (in 18 months).

The mortgage will be paid off in about two months!

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The Singer sewing machine…hoo boy. I was NOT PLEASED when I started it up again and had the same tension problems after having it cleaned and serviced. I refer to the manual now instead of winging it, because part of it was user error. I didn’t wind the bobbin correctly or get it in the case correctly. Once I corrected that, I thought that would do the trick, but no. The thread kept slipping off the tension spring, and I was threading it correctly. After I started sewing it would slip off again and I would have to re-thread to get it right. Finally, somehow I managed to get the thread crossed as it goes into the lever that moves the needle up and down. I was sick of rethreading that needle so I decided to try it anyway. To my great joy, that mistake is keeping the thread on the tension spring and I was able to sew the rest of the strips together! Now let’s see if it continues to work. I’m going to finish putting all the pieces of the t-shirt quilt together this weekend, and I have already started doing hand-sewing, cuddled up with it on the sofa watching Mr. Robot and the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

I am determined to finish this thing, get it out of my studio, and start weaving and bookbinding again.

As you can probably tell, I am in a much better mood that I have been in the past year. Let’s hope that lasts also!