Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Mov'n slow and deep thoughts on kitchen renovations.....

 I was wondering why I was moving so slow so I checked the last blog post, 8 days ago and realized why! 

The geese are flocking and flying, the garden is slowing down, the mouse traps are checked daily as furry wee ones seek shelter inside the basement, the first leaf fluttered down as I let the chickens out.  I realize outside time is going to become limited.   When the kitchen faucet got the big replacement, cobwebs were shaken off my renovation brain cells........and so it begins.  

Usually I tackle these projects the week before Christmas, but wait, all the equipment can be set up outside now!  Jeeze, that only took 40 years to figure out.  I have not had the fortitude to start another project in the kitchen since I ripped this place apart in 2009.  That renovation just about killed me.  So now I have lived with the kitchen I built for 11 years and made a lot of mental notes on what needed to happen to make kitchen duties a bit easier.  Disclaimer, I have no skills and everything I do is of my own deluded vision of the final outcome with help from YouTube.  It's solving a problem, a puzzle.  How to make things fit on a swiftly tilting floor.  So this kitchen will never be featured in Architectural Digest or even Cute Country Mansions.  It's my learning school and makes me wildly happy to work here.

#1 find the tools.  
I have my tools and He has his tools.  Why because we work very differently.  I like to be organized.  He, well, not so much.  Last week I pruned the front beds and found two nice screwdrivers stuck in the ground.  Just stuck in the ground for no apparent reason.  I looked around and realized he had adjusted a window cover.  Project done, he walked away, tools left behind.  My brain exploded right in the azalea bed.  But then He helped out with the chicken coop and borrowed my precious tools and the nightmarish hunt began.  With many texts back and forth asking for hints as to wear my air nailer might be or certain drill bits I covet, I looked up to find his car barreling in the driveway at 2 pm in the afternoon.  He read the desperation in my text messages and came home to help with this scavenger hunt.  How hard is it to put a tool back on a labeled shelf I whined? Impossible, I muttered under my breath for He who shall remain nameless.  Finally finding most of what I needed, he barreled back down the driveway. The chickens and I cheered.  Plugging in MY circular saw, blue ear guards in place, I started to cut my first board, WooHoo!  *&@!!!!   He had changed out the blade to a masonry blade when he put the grill garage together. I made up new curse words as I hunted for the wrench and old blade somewhere in his back shed amidst his Christmas decoration palooza and I was not saying FaLalalala!  By Friday night not much was accomplished other than finding tools and two trips to Home Depot.  One for wood and trim and one to replace missing drill bits. There are not enough swear words in the English language for my Friday but by 9 pm I was toast, no I was fucking toast
Saturday up at the crack of dawn and ready to jump in.  Ran out to let the chickens out and found this.... 
You want these?

You get these........

Nuts!@ forgot to close the trap I use for groundhogs.  Chickens out and Miller relocation services kick into action.  Back by 7 am and thought I'd make breakfast to start the day off on a good vibe. 
Pancakes and coffee, yes please.  Kirby got pancakes, the chickens got pancakes, we all got pancakes and everybody was happy! 

Surely this had to be a better day!  And then I heard the four worst words ...... HOW CAN I HELP?  
Please go mow the lawn, go sailing, go to the store, just go...... and he did!  

By 10 am the sawdust was flying.  First problem, two levels to this floor! 

build up the floor and figure it out.... and so the day waged on.  
By Saturday night I had only advanced to this stage and was still working on puzzles.
Things were just not flush or fitting. 

I think I had done 1,000 squats, my knees were in shell shock and I had butt cramps.  I broke two drill bits screwing into a rock maple counter top and was tired.  I had cannibalized old booth shelves, the old post holding the counter top and other pieces of wood from long forgotten projects.  Every body should have an old woodpile from recycled projects.  I took two aspirin, showered and poured myself into bed.  

Sunday Morning
rinse and repeat....

#7 this year...... back to meet your brother in a secret location far far away! 

Sunday...... who's body is this?  Two more aspirin, no pancakes and lots of hot coffee after relocation services were complete.  Felt like I had been on a week long bender.  The aspirin kicked in, the kneed pads were slapped on and I was back at it by 9 am.  Around 2 pm I needed hydration and wanted watermelon.  I ran out to the front flower bed and looked at my last remaining watermelon.  The last two I had picked too early but this one needed to be ripe as we only had one more hot day before temperatures were predicted to plummet.  I whipped out my utility knife and cut this guy off, 25 pounds!   

It was lunch time!!  After mowing the lawn, guess who brought home grocery store sushi? 
So good...... and he was back on the plus side :) 

after an hour strap of sitting it was hard to strap on the knee pads and jump back in....
the hardest part of this project is making things look seamless. 

joining new work to existing cabinets was almost my Waterloo.  I ended up hand cutting almost everything with my fine toothed handsaw.  

By 9 pm I was giddy as I slapped the last coat of paint on the trim. 

Monday morning I mopped the floors, stacked the tools in the corner for the next project and thought I'd be in the yard by noon.  Nope....... I moved stuff around, filled the shelves, decided to permanently plug in the Kitchen Aid Mixer and that dropped me down a hole I really did not want to go down.  To get to an existing plug I had to move the fridge.  I dreaded this as I expected to find a dead mouse or a nest of beavers but alas I wanted that mixer plugged in.   I pulled out the fridge, huffing and puffing and no good place to get a grip I gently rocked it back and forth.... not too bad.  OMG am I winning the mouse war? 

Plug in the mixer, push the behemoth back into place and it will not fit.  Pull fridge back out.  
ARGH!  fridge plug is a 90 degree plug and mixer plug is not.  Unplug, wash down sides of fridge, floor and counter, slide back in.  
OH NO that means slide out the stove to access the other plug.  My stove has never been level, it has driven me nuts for 11 years but that insanity was easier than pulling out the stove because I have to wrangle it over a few tiles on the floor.  Well why stop now?  Plug fit perfect, no mice or even mouse poop and the floor got washed.  I decided to elevate the stove to just above counter height.  Another genius move for people with strong minds and weak backs.  I lifted and jimmied that stove for over an hour.  Finally moved back into place.  

I was soaked and breathing hard but that gushing feeling of success when I stood back and looked at a level stove and working mixer.  Just Wow and sure ticks all my boxes!!  

Today is painting and staining the last of the trim work. Pick up a couple glass jars for the new shelf. 
 This place is a work in progress and not sure it will ever be over.  This project has spurred me on to a list of projects I would love to have finished before the snow flies.  

Notes on my functional kitchen: 
I hate digging for stuff.  I have lived with cabinets where stuff is pushed to the netherlands of blackness, never to be found until you move or die.  When I ripped this place apart I built most of the cabinets.  
I wanted open shelving for just my small appliances and other stuff.  I built them out of 2x4's and sunk the money into trim work and good air nailer. 

Oh and table was picked off somebodies curb, it used to be pink. 
The chairs were throw outs too and I rewove the seats and gave them a good scrubbing.  The bench is old barn wood.  I traded a couple mugs and pot for the labor.  The pot rack is copper tubing and plumbing fixtures. 

I trimmed out the floor of the cabinets from the end cuts off the dinning room floor I replaced.

Try to explain this to a contractor.  I have tried over the years with little success.  Most want to do what they always do for the same kitchen one block away.  I did not need to pay anybody to complete my dream of a working kitchen and I am really OK with nobody in the house until this Covid thing is flying south with the geese.  So I will muddle my way through and keep watching youtube and yes, you can just leave me my illusions....... 

still lots to do but for now I have to get these tomatoes in the freezer! 

Next project to commence as soon as I am vertical again....... 3-5 days!  

Monday, September 21, 2020

2020: A Bad Country Western Song........


Staring out over a frosty roof, I slide into my boots and think; it's way too early for this.  This frost has taken my sleepy old dog to a puppy dancing at the back door.  The chickens are slow to tumble out of the coop on a chilly morning.  After a quick morning chore list of dog and chickens.  The warm cup of coffee feels good on cold stiff hands.  I sit, bathed in morning sunlight, reviewing the last couple of weeks and realize my life has turned into a very bad country western song, so goes 2020. 


OH and gardens should have been safe until November 1st, because the omnipotent USDA powers changed our growing zone to 6 instead of 5 but even if we were 5 it would have been October 16th.  First Frost is a month early.   

2020 the year everything we hung our hat on or held near and dear just flew out the open window.  Latest rundown on happenings in this large half acre.  I have started drinking with my chickens and it brings me great peace. 

I believe a pack of chickens in Congress might do the country a world of good.  Time out Senator Paul, go sit with the chickens and have a glass of bourbon.  

In other news over the last few weeks..... the basement is full and I am calling this done.

Those 60 mugs got shipped off to Alaska!  The order came in on Aug. 19th, the mugs were done and packed on Sept 8th and they got shipped out Sept 15th.  It took a week to figure out how to get 60 mugs to AK.  I thought I'd cracked the shipping nut and called Air Alaska Cargo.  Yup, 70 pounds of mugs would run $68 to fly standby or $110 for an all at once delivery in days.  I was giddy!  And then the phone person said:  Are you a "known shipper?"  What is that?  I can send you the form.  I opened my email and read all the documents necessary to become a known shipper.  Fine ..... and then the last paragraph.  Please call this number and have an inspector come to your business for an inspection.  Have identification papers at hand..... and the catch: At Your Expense and the second catch: expect 6 weeks to be approved.  I called Alaska Air and said; Hey, I'm in a pole barn otherwise known as the Gargio (garage/studio) with a blind dog and a pack of thug chickens I just need to get these mugs to Alaska. I am 65 years old and not a terrorist, I swear on my chickens head.   Yes, I have a website......  Well ma'ma you know after 9/11 TSA instituted these rules and everyone must comply.  Great are you gonna wand me in my studio too?  No wonder there's a bullet and gun shortage in this country!  Ironic I was talking to this guy on Sept. 11th.   My head went into overdrive on how much we are driven by fear in this country and I will just leave it at that.  Called my lovely coffee people in AK and they said; No problem we will just send our shipping company. This cost them over $350 and they were not outraged.  I was not paying for this and I was outraged.  And as I have never worked with a shipping company I got the Cliffs notes on filling out a bill of lading, getting a pro sticker and packing for container shipping on the high seas of the Pacific Ocean.  And then Span Alaska said; Do you have a loading dock and can our semi fit into your loading dock... and then I blew coffee out my nose.  I can drop these off to your terminal.  I grabbed my 5 copies of BOL, loaded the mugs, loaded the Kirby and google mapped where I was going.  About 40 minutes away I pulled into a dirt parking lot with not a tree in site.  
Inviting right?

Not a human in sight, 3 giant buildings and more loading docks than I could count.  I drove around and finally found a guy with a backpack and rolling suitcase walking across the terminal tundra.  Hey, do you know where the office is?  Nope, but try that building over there.  I parked the van and tried 3 doors.... talk about; Let's Make a Deal!  Finally I parked by a dumpster and found an open door.  Tiny little dark hall and I walked into the mens bathroom complete with circular urinals..... kill me.  Up a set of concrete steps, across a metal bridge down three metal steps and back up more concrete steps to a filthy sliding glass window and buzzing fluorescent light.  A woman in an orange vest, standing at a copier waved and then walked away.  HEY, is this the portal to shipping Hell!  A younger gal slid the window open and shoved her hand through.  I placed two BOL's in her hand and the window slid shut.  HEY, I need your pro sticker and a signed copy back!  She looked through the dirty window and got a roll of stickers and started stickering everything, handed a copy back and said pull to the dock.  Which dock would that be?  Pull around to the ramp and wait there! Wow she had a voice.  OK ..... found the ramp and waited and waited and waited.  I thought fine, I'll carry my three boxes up the ramp and set them on dock.  As I walked the first box up the ramp I hear: STOP RIGHT THERE AND DROP THE BOX, WE ARE A UNION SHOP!  Well what the hell does that mean?  Means you cannot do anything except wait for one guy on his coffee break to get on his tow motor and come retrieve your 3 boxes from the back of your van and then they put more stickers on the boxes.  BUT!  When I opened the back door and the woman saw Kirby she transformed into a lovely chatty person right before my eyes.  She said out loud and reaching for Kirby; I JUST LOVE DOGS......  and the shipping nut was cracked!  She radioed for the tow motor guy to get his ass out to the shipping dock and I waved goodbye to the mugs and hope they make their journey to AK in one piece!  I drove home feeling like the weight of the 60 mugs had been lifted off my shoulders!  

I cleaned the studio of bubblewrap, packing tape, boxes and packing mess to get ready to start a new cycle. 

Then the week just kind took a downward spiral....... Wednesday started the last push of canning season.  Hunt for jars, no jars or lids to be had in northeastern Ohio or western PA.  So just make due with what you have.!  The cupboards got cleaned as I hunted every shelf and closet looking for jars.  Old jars from the basement were washed and traded for new jars currently used for storage.   

Ended Wednesday evening dating all my really old jars.  Some jars well over 100 years old were retired to holding dry goods and jelly beans.  Figure if I make a 100 I hope somebody sticks me on shelf and fills me with jellybeans so I can make people smile.  One of many life goals...... 

Then my kitchen faucet finally sprayed it's last dish.  It was wobbly and leaked like a bad fire hose.  I ordered a new one online.  

and then had to install it....... take note, it's not me this time :) 

until he dropped the flashlight into the crack between the pipes.  Guy fix...... just leave it, the battery will go dead at some point.  Then I found myself saying; are you nuts?  This is not my idea of under cabinet lighting.  Do we need a welcome light for furry creatures coming from the basement.  I ran out to the studio and grabbed my glazing tongs to retrieve the flashlight.  Thought I had it only to bring a mouse trap with petrified mouse.  From under the sink I yelled;  GET A BAG NOW!  placed mouse and trap in a bag and handed it out.  Nothing, just my arm with a dead mouse waving in the air.  I peered out from the cabinet and glared at him ........ you have shoes on, you take it outside!  Back to fishing for the flashlight.  Got it! 

Friday I found out I have a nasty patch of skin cancer and had it hacked off my face.  Sent in for tests and of course they didn't get it all and going back in for more..... silver lining to this story.  It's mandatory to wear a mask in public and second it's almost Halloween and I am going as the Bride of Frankenstein.  

Took Kirby outside to rough house and enjoy the cool weather.  During one of his spin-derella espisodes he blew out a front ankle.  Now I had three legged dog and was drinking bourbon with my chickens.  

Then RBG passed away 

Yesterday, thinking things couldn't get much worse; a yellow jacket crawled up my boot and wedged it's stinger wielding body between my covid tight pants and shin.  ZING!  Son of a cherry bomb my leg is on fire.  Smashed the yellow jacket on the driveway and put ice on the sting.  This morning it's red and itchy.  

So bring on October and Halloween while I call Garth Brooks.  


Monday, September 7, 2020

Happy Labor Day!


A bit of a soggy Labor Day here but I'm Ok with a few indoor sports today.  Kirby is hiding due to last nights fireworks and this mornings thunder and lightening.  Poor guy, it's gonna take a couple days.  We are in the final push of a less than stellar garden year.  Again I have learned so much and again made copious notes to do things differently next year.  As with everything this year..... DIFFERENT is the word of 2020. 

Even though I bitched and complained about heat, drought, bugs, four legged invaders and a good garden beat down.  The garden gives back.  The chickens seem pretty un-phased too.  Maybe there is a lesson in this year, just roll with it or maybe it's; Adapt or Die and besides why stress when you can eat tomatoes and eggplant (until 2025)  This is a year of punting and not many field goals but a whole lot of Charlie Brown.

So we adapted here in Paine Falls.  We forgot about the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other brassicas; surrendered to the worm chompers.  The chickens were happy to get plants filled with caterpillars and eat the greens too.  Bean beetles abounded and as they turned the leaves to lace, I walked away.  I just could not spend two hours a day picking bean beetles in 90 degree heat.  My underwear can only ride so high!   But I do have beans, lots of beans and I am letting them dry on the stalks and will harvest dry beans.  I love dry beans!   I cut back the eaten, beat'n chard and new leaves look great!  The deer loved the beet tops but I did get the bottoms.  The chickens ate so many green garden cast offs this year, they made me feel a bit better about the garden.  Can we talk about tomatoes, eggplant, hot peppers and onions?  Bumper crops! Grilled eggplant is stacked in the freezer, grilled ancho peppers are skinned and sitting in freezer bags.  I have put up smokey salsa, pasta sauce, stewed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tomato soup.  They just keep coming!  The low hangers were chomped and eaten by a dastardly ground hog or two or three.  But I haven't missed the ones they ate and I don't seem to tire of standing at the sink and looking at this. 

or this 

and the smell!  I think Butch has walked in the house every night in the last couple weeks and said; WOW smells great in here.  Except for one blasted day! 

Peach Day 2020
I can peaches just about every year.  This year I thought oh well, no peaches due to a very late Spring freeze.  I lost my entire crop.  I called local orchards and even drove back roads after pottery deliveries searching for peaches.  Finally just dealt with; NO PEACHES 2020.   After everything else this year I kind took it in stride.  And then I ran out to my favorite farmer and he had a basket of peaches for $20.  I grabbed them!  He asked me what I was going to do with a big basket of peaches?  Stuffing them in jars I laughed, it's canning season!  He asked me if I'd be interested in seconds for $11.00 a basket, why yes I would!  So I bought another basket that were actually in pretty good shape.  

Dragged out the jars and canning stuff and couldn't wait to start stuffing jars with summer gold.  And then the house vibrated and the dust fell from the rafters and smell drifted through the window.  ASPHALT!  This is the day the city decided to pave the street!  Robbed!  Not one peachy smell drifted up my nasal cavity.  Instead my eyes watered from asphalt fumes on a hot September day.  As a memory drifted into my head of my darling 3 year old daughter, sitting in her carseat as we waited in a long line of traffic one hot summer day.  MOM!  SMELL?!   It's asphalt honey..... MOM! IT'S NOT OUR FAULT IS ASSPHALT!   And so 2020 goes.......

Canning day peach butter cake is pretty good too! 

As I look back over my last couple weeks, it's been busy.  
Orders have been filled and delivered.  

We now have grill garage?  This would have been the last thing I thought we needed but Butch thought he needed to build one while I wasn't looking.  One more thing for Kirby to run into...... I have padding on everything! 

Miller re-location services are in full swing with the masked bandits.  I have trapped 2 forty pound plus size raccoons and one smaller one.  One, so mad, it tore the shingles off the side of house by the time Kirby found him at 5:30 am.  I honestly don't know how he fit in the trap.  I think this is the one who also used my front porch as a port-a-potty! So at 5:45 am I load the van and drive an hour away with a jet fueled rocket in a thin metal cage, down a deserted road. Turning my lights off as I back into an abandoned driveway with wild overgrowth abounding and a deer looking on from the distance.  Under cover of butt crack dark side of dawn, I open the back doors of the van, grab the trap with one adrenalin jacked, ball of teeth and snarl, gingerly slide the trap under the van. Then I lay on my stomach in the back of van and with gloved hands, open the trap.  And the raccoon is supposed jet propel itself out to freedom.  This has happened once out of three.  Trying to get them to turn around is a feat in itself!  By 7 am I am home to a hot cup of coffee and feeling a little safer in my world.  Well until this morning.  At 5:30 am it is still dark here in Paine Falls but I am up and decide to open the hatch on the coop and put the feeder out; the girls can pile out at will.  I opened the door to the run with feeder in hand and another damn raccoon snarls and hisses as I open the door.  He is up in the corner, not on the floor and I never saw him.  Just before I was wearing a living, breathing, snarling coonskin hat, I ejected myself from the run.  I didn't even have time to put the feeder down!  I grabbed a foil (fencing sword or garden stake) and tried my best fencing moves.  ON Guard!  OH Bad idea!  He ran higher and jammed himself in the rafters of the new run.  2020 lesson, roll with it.  Put your foil down, open all the doors and go make coffee, 45 minutes later he was gone.  I guess I have another relocation run to make..... argh!   

My neighbor. old dead-eye managed to shot one ground hog with pumped up pellet gun, which is next to impossible as the pellets usually just bounce off their tough hides.  I thought the giant groundhog was sunning himself.  Laying on his back in the neighbors backyard, peacefully resting in the freshly mown grass, eyes staring skyward.   Then the smell hit me between the eyes.  I walked over and he didn't move.  YES!!!   I need to send over a batch of cookies!  

The gutters got cleaned and rain water diverters installed as we had a flood in the basement during a recent downpour.  Nothing like mud and slit coating those new shiny, full canning jars.  So lots of stuff got a sudsy double wash this year and new shelf liner put down again.  The basement got a good hose down too.  Firing strips tacked up in front of the jars so they don't move off the shelf, incase this happens again but it shouldn't as I hard pruned the magnolia and Japanese maple off the house and gutters. 

Bought myself a new fangled water purifier and the water tastes way better!  Really tired of lugging 5 gallon jugs around.  And we recently learned 5 gallon bottled water was the new toilet paper.  Not a bottle to be found anywhere in three counties.  Kind of put the fear into me and bought this thing. 

We watched movies on the patio!  Chicago and Pirates of the Caribbean. 
And we ate popcorn and drank moscow mules! 

Dropped a bag of frozen tomatoes on my foot and got my aerobic 
exercise in for the day jumping around! 
Back to canning! 

I like green better than drought brown......

and the girls are laying 4 eggs a day!!! 

I have a few more jars to fill and orders to deliver this week.  A bit more updating to the website and then I can start throwing again.  
I have a few glazes to mix up before the snow flies, which could be any day. 
 and just remember........