Monday, July 31, 2017

Back In the Wild Outdoors of Stone's Throw

I posted a picture of my bees festooning on the 365 Project tonight, and I took the picture while holding the frame of bees in one hand and my iPhone in the other. About five minutes after I took it the spouse came out to check on me and took the pic at right. This is my current bee garb. Even first thing in the morning it's 90 degrees out there (at least at MY first thing in the morning), and there is no way I am shoving my hot-flashing menopausal frame into that big white marshmallow suit! I did get a bee down my dress and up my leg today, but I calmly moved them along and I managed to get through inspection and feeding on all six hives without getting stung! Even as lightly as I was dressed I still had issues with the heat, but I made it.

In between the errands and the administrivia that made up today, I also managed to squeeze in 20 minutes out by the pond. I added 33 new fish today--three medium/small koi and the rest were little comet goldfish, 19¢-35¢ each--and after I put them in I just sat on the upper edge in the shade by one of the waterfalls and just watched the fish and the frogs. It was so peaceful and wonderful--even though it was over 100ยบ out there. While I was at the pet store (I went for dog food and got dog food and the fish) I saw they had turtles with a 5-6" diameter shell, and I was really tempted. But the big fish will already eat the little fish, the frogs eat the fish and the fish eat the frogs (at least I suppose they all eat each other based on size) so the last thing I need to do is introduce something else to eat the fish AND the frogs. But turtles are so cool...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Contentment--Even In Texas in July

Sunrise this morning
And a long, good day comes to an end. Everything is in readiness for the spouse who is due to roll in in the next 20-30 minutes. All I have left on my list for the day is to post. So in hommage to the return of the spouse, I post on contentment.

Contentment fills me in the morning when I water the garden and watch the frogs in the pond. It follows me into the cool, dark of the house when I am done, and accompanies me while I have breakfast and practice the piano. In the evening, it sings to me with the voice of the windchimes in the night breeze. And in the dark and quiet of the humid Texas nights, it dews my skin and relaxes me into sleep.

No, Texas in July and August is nowhere I planned to or wanted to be. But now that I'm here (again--we were here last summer too), I'm getting back into the rhythm of outside in the early morning and late evening, and inside the rest of the day. As I still don't have A/C in the glass studio I also have to work early and quickly on glass. I don't see A/C in the studio ever being effective enough to really cool it down low enough to work in there in the summer even if I had it--it's hard enough keeping the house cool with the big A/C units; never mind the mini splits. But orders are picking up--two more came in over the weekend and there is another in the works. Guess a good project for the hot summer afternoons is to get off my ass and finish my website. I've been "working on it" for over a year (almost two years!) and I need to fish. I've cut enough bait.

The orders will make Todd happy. He's been a bit worried that we were petering out--and it's my fault because I haven't been marketing or engaging our client base in any way for the past year. I had other priorities. I still do, but in order to afford those priorities, I need to make business a priority too. Art for art's sake and beauty is nice, but it doesn't pay the mortgage.

I end my post tonight with a deep breath in, and a deep breath out. The spouse should be home any minute!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

My Last Night Alone

I started today with a long ranting post about the evils of technology and how all you had to do was touch one thing and the whole house of dominos would come crashing down (iOS upgrade, OS upgrade, adding cable to our internet service, oy). But life is too short. It'll all work out because it will, and I just need to move on.

Instead, the big focus of the day is on my spouse who is currently in Colorado, wending his way back to us with pets in tow. Actually he has wood and woodworking tools (and lots of fiber stuff) in tow, and the pets are in the car with him. Jessie and I cleaned and prepared today for the Great Arrival, and we will finish up in the morning when it's still cool out. It was 105 degrees today and according to the weather service it felt like 106. That's just not civilized.

Speaking of the spouse, he just called to let me know they had arrived at the motel in Colorado. He sounded... frazzled is a polite way to put it. After an experience normally only found in the sixth circle of hell or above--aka getting all the pets transferred from the car to the motel--they are all locked in the room for the night. Pavlova spent most of the day crying in her carrier--and the last few hours yowling--so I am guessing Dave's nerves are shot. The pets are lucky they weren't shot. One more day on the road, and they will all be back in the bosom of the family. That's me.

Now it's also time for me to tuck in. Tomorrow night can't come soon enough for me--safe travels spouse!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Leaving Montana

I debated whether to blog or knit as I chat with Spectrum tech support, and blogging won. Jessie and I had just started watching Chicken Run (for the 900 millionth time), and the network went out. A reboot of the modem didn't work so now I do the chat on-line thing using my phone as a hotspot. And now, for no explicable reason, it's on! The chickens are organizing again!

Today I communed with my garden for three hours as I watered every single plant. It was soooo satisfying! On the top of the country, the day was far less peaceful. Dave--with much help from my Uncle Ed and Aunt Susan--packed up everything that needs to come from Montana back to Austin. They unloaded the trailer full of my parents' belongings that were stored in the lake property and moved down to the Polson house, and then Ed and Susan went to the lumber mill with the minivan and the trailer, and Daylen (the mill owner) cut down my slabs and the other lumber I needed for my bed project and had it all loaded into the trailer. The whipped cream on the top of my sundae came when I got a call from the freight company that they were delivering my last two pieces of woodworking equipment to the house just in time for it to be loaded into the trailer.

12 ft blue pine slabs for bed before they were cut down to 8 ft
Now it's all loaded and Dave and the animals are all resting (I hope) to be ready for the road tomorrow. Dave thinks it will be an easier drive than it was for him in the Mini Cooper on the way up (the Honda is nice to drive and has satellite radio). I am just hoping with all my heart that he and all the animals arrive here all safe 47 hours from now.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

You Can Never Go Home

My Nemesis
In this case, I can't go back to Montana this summer. My medical stability is apparently in the crapper and it isn't wise to either fly (potentially more blood clots flying around my body, and untreated high blood pressure that could lead to stroke or heart attack) or be off in Polson with limited access to medical care should my infection not clear up or become worse now that I've pulled my stent out. Yup. I was a pioneer woman and I did what I had to do. Enough said. Except maybe, OUCH!!! So my flight is cancelled again--this time permanently. And now the fun begins...

My husband, father of my child, love of my life, and provider extraordinaire has demanded to do something so far out of his wheelhouse that it's not even in the same dimension. And he's attacking it with gusto, bold bravado, and a confident swagger. Tomorrow--with help from my uncle and aunt--he is going to pack up all my stuff, Jessie's stuff, his stuff, our joint stuff (unloading and reloading the trailer with wood and equipment); put away the mini cooper; and shut the house up till we come back for the Great Wedding in September. Then Saturday morning at the earliest crack of dawn he is going to take to the open roads pulling a trailer with a minivan whose passengers are three dogs, two cats, 10 lbs of huckleberries, and (I hope) 20 lbs of cherries. He will brave the gas stations, rest stops, fast food joints, and La Quinta with nothing but his quick wits and his wallet to succor him.

I am reminded of the words he wrote for our wedding invitation 22 years ago: "The dangers fearsome, the odds incalculable, the rewards overwhelming, our love unbounded, we hope for your company as our adventure begins." The adventure this time begins Saturday, and it'll be all his. I have mapped his route, made his hotel reservation, lined up packing assistance, and made lists of things to pack. That's all I can do.

Now I take a breath and mourn the last, lost half of my summer in Montana. Last year we didn't get to go at all, and this year felt short at only two months (we got spoiled with up to four months there when we were homeschooling). That two months just turned into one, and if it weren't for Ed (my uncle) and Susan's wedding in September there, it would have broken my heart not to go back now.

But I am going to do my damnedest to have my health issues wrangled and under control so there is no question about me going to the wedding. First step: find a primary care physician tomorrow, get in, get a physical, and get on BP meds. Second step: lose the weight. I am at high risk for Type 2 diabetes and not doing my joints any favors by making them work so hard. Finally (oh Cynthia, isn't this fun?!?) I need to have a sleep study done to see if my snoring and occasional apnea are contributing to the rest of my issues. I may end up eating my words of this morning and having to wear one of those sleep thingies too.

It's been a mad ride since we got back to Austin, and now (for me at least) it has stilled. I'll spread my mother's ashes in Montana in September. I'll clean and winterize the house there, ship back anything that might be missed in tomorrow's packing then too. Until then, it's time to dig back in at Stone's Throw and resume life and projects here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Prickly Pear PINK

Cynthia is right: A good hobby can fix anything. I don't need to pick up a new hobby, I just need to re-pick-up an old one. Enter natural dyeing! Inspired by the prickly pear fruit I picked up this afternoon from the ground underneath our cacti, I just read "harvesting color" by Rebecca Burgess. Okay, I read the main text and only skimmed the recipes that interested me right now. Out of all the natural dye books I have--and trust me I have more than a few--this was the only one that used prickly pear fruit. Interestingly, the recipe calls for fermenting the fruit for a week or so and then soaking the fiber in the fermented mash for another week to ten days. Okay I can do all that, but the color she got is nothing I would spend 2-3 weeks on. She says you can get a pinkish tan. The photo at left is from the book listing on Amazon. It looks more yellow/gold to me, and is still not what I was hoping for.

Of course one can't discount the wonders found on the Internet so I also looked up dyeing with prickly pear fruit there and the first hit was an incredible scientific paper "Eco-friendly and protective natural dye from red prickly pear (Opuntia Lasiacantha Pfeiffer) plant" from the Journal of Saudi Chemical Society.

Though waaaay over my head in detail, I was able to understand the summary of the results just fine. They tested for different mordants, ph, temperature, salinity, several kinds of color-fastness, time in dye bath, pre and post mordanting. And they didn't say, "Well, it looks a little darker if you do this." No, they used a Perkin-Elmer Lambda 3B UV/Vis Spectrophotometer and the Kubelka-Munk equation to measure color strength. I love these guys.

The article--though eye-glazingly technical--was beautifully organized into short summary paragraphs that told me which mordant, pre and post, what ph, temperature, time, and amount of salt to use--with exact percentages!!!--to get the color I want. I am all touchy feely too, but being directed to sprinkle in "a handful" of this or a "scant dash" of that makes my skin itch. The only downside to the scientific approach is that they used a centrifuge to extract the Betalain pigment from the fruit. But, hey, Dave has been muttering about a centrifuge for cooking for awhile. Maybe we can share!

Also out in the wonderful interweb is a lovely blog called Small Things written by Ginny Sheller. She has a post about trying the prickly pear dye recipe from "harvesting color", and her results are MUCH more what I was hoping for. Of course I don't know anything she might have done differently from the basic instructions in the book, but it at least gives me hope for a more attractive color. I'll wait to try out the serious-science recipe with more ripe fruit later in the fall. For now I'll just sling it all together in a bucket and watch it rot, er, ferment.

Tomorrow I venture back into the yard and pick the remaining ripe fruit to take back to Polson with me on the plane. I have just enough time to do a fermented batch before we head back to Austin. Note to self: Wave the fruit over a gas flame to burn off all the micro spines before packing.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Can I Kill Someone Yet?

I am not meant to be this suddenly and stunningly inactive. I cannot imagine what it has been like for Cynthia over the past 10 months since the initial demise of Elmo (her replacement knee). It is only the second full day home from the hospital for me, and I am already jousting with boredom and maniacally plotting the very visceral demise of our (former) contractor. (Why the hell can't people follow through on what they commit to doing?!? It's a simple, little equation!!) And the exclamation points from my fingers fly like spittle from my lips. And I can. not. get. COMFORTABLE!!!! Argh!

A big problem with the current picture is that I'm not supposed to be here. My brain is just now shifting to what-to-do-while-I'm-here mode as opposed to what-I-am-doing-in-Polson mode--and I am having to drag it kicking and screaming to here because it's just too damn hot for it to want to come! The body is not back to full form yet either so it's not like I can go out and wrestle a bear anyway. Oh, wait, that's what I would be doing in Polson. Here I guess I'm going to work on the final details in the apartment so we can rent it out at last this fall (Jessie is going to clean for me), and I'm going to pick cactus fruit! We have a ton ripening, and I am interested in it for both its natural pink dye and making preserves from it. Maybe I'll take some back to Polson with me. Or I'll just refrigerate it here...

I did do the hive inspection with John this morning starting at 8:00 (and it was coolish out! Only 81!) though my role was relegated to observing over his shoulder as he knew where the hives had left off the week before and I also wasn't up to the task physically. It pangs to say that last bit. Later in the morning I fired two small kiln loads, thus checking off all the items on my list for the day. I couldn't even nap--too restless and sleep-saturated.

There are a few things I can do over the next two days that won't be too taxing but will make the house more pleasant to come home to in a few weeks--for one thing I can crack the whip over the child and make her my cleaning slave... No, that's unfair. She already volunteered to clean the house for me and I am going to ask her to vacuum the wood floors on the main level and help me change the bed. I can easily sit and sort through papers to file or throw. And I can get all the garbage out of the house! Calming, deep breaths. Time to settle down for the night and rein in the dragon. To all a good night, and sweet dreams of contractor evisceration!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Back To Regular Life Tomorrow

If it weren't for the fact that I'm in Austin not Polson and recovering from minor abdominal surgery, I would say it's just another day as I sit down to post at 9:30 pm. But, meh, abdominal thing.

I gracefully took today easy and either sat or slept all day. All functions seem to be back to normal, and except for some deep discomfort (the gnomes need to quit hammering on my right kidney!), we are moving past The Incident. Tomorrow I am meeting with my bee guy at 8:00 am to inspect the hives in the cool and without suits. There's no way I could bear a bee suit right now. Hey! I just looked down and my hands are no longer swollen! Between fluid retention and an IV catheter in one hand, they were looking pretty Stay Puft Marshmallow Man till just now. Another sign I am on the mend. After the bee inspection I'll probably nap--no need to go overboard on the regular life thing. I'll do a firing on three pieces I have due from last week in the afternoon.

So nothing exciting to post about. Convalescence just seems to drag on in slow motion. If I were more comfortable, I'd just sit back and enjoy it. Instead, I eat Belgian chocolate pudding with whipped cream and wait for it to end.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Back Home In Austin

They let me go! I was sure they were going to find a reason to make me stay another day, but they let me go! Of course it's not like I did anything with my newly-won freedom. I came home and slept a lot. And peed (I know, back to the TMI, but there's only so much sleep you can get when you have to get up every 1-2 hours to hobble-race to the bathroom).

Unlike Cynthia, I left the hospital without interacting with and learning a fascinating story with one single person who wasn't a caregiver... except maybe Ryan. Ryan was a young, bouncy man who would breeze into my room at meal times (without knocking) calling out "Room Service!" I shrieked and jumped startling us both when he came in with yesterday's lunch because he woke me from a sound sleep, and then I never saw him again. So no story there.

As they began processing my discharge this morning the doctor asked me what pain reliever worked for me and I said Dilaudid had and before I had a chance to follow up she asked if I would like to take Dilaudid IV home. Uh no. Hell the hell no. I might have looked so horrified that she thought I was totally against pain meds so she only gave me five Hydrocodone. I hope it's enough, but it probably will be. I've only had to take one so far.

Now I sit watching the Total Recall remake and munching on treat food, enjoying a few moments totally free of discomfort. Who knows, I might even feel up to knitting tomorrow!

Winding Down the Time In the Hospital

Though I haven't been posting every day, I am going to give my self a pass as I have been catch-up posting. If a kidney stone doesn't get you a free pass for something I don't know what would. Anyway Day three in a hospital is likely to be a boring day so this will be short post!

Because I wasn't having too much pain, I passed on the Dilaudid and spent most of the day dozing. Everything went fine until about 4:00 when I awoke trembling, upset, in pain, having trouble breathing, and starting to cry. What woke me was the tech coming in to check my vitals, and things got hopping when they hit my blood pressure: 177/116. They figured I was having a panic attack and gave me both Dilaudid and .5 mg of Ativan. After awhile I relaxed, and stopped crying. The rest of the night they didn't much disturb me and I slept as solidly as I could.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Day 2 Of Minor Medical Drama

Day two in Cedar Park Regional Hospital. Because I am absolutely fanatical on doing things linearly, I am going to post yesterday's notes about the surgery and the rest of the day now before moving onto today's notes in another post! I'm still a bit woozy from all the meds they have me on, but I think I can make it through.

So I understood from last night in the ER that I was supposed to see the surgeon first thing in the morning and have surgery shortly thereafter. 8 o'clock came, 9 o'clock came, and when I hadn't seen my surgeon by 9:15 I finally asked to see the floor doctor. She came in and said, "I don't know when you're having surgery, I didn't see it on the schedule." So then there was a flurry of phone calls and Dr. Maloney, the urologist and my surgeon, informed the floor doctor that he would be by to see me at four and that he was planning the surgery for around six. By this time I hadn't had anything to eat or drink since noon the previous day besides ice chips. I wasn't really hungry, but I was so dehydrated.

I spent the morning dozing, and then the tempo really picked up.  Doc M rearranged some things and they came in to whisk me off to surgery at 12:10. It all went very fast and was very exciting after that. I met Dr. Maloney and the anesthesiologist, and Dr. Maloney explained that what he planned to do was put a stent in my kidney and try to remove the stone. If he couldn't remove the stone then they were going to have to go in later and blast it. Then they hooked me up to a mask--they also indicated that they were probably going to have to intubate me, joy--and then I was out!

When I came back to myself I was surprised to find myself NOT crying hysterically. I just lay there with kind of a drowsy smile on my face feeling great. What a change! Then Dr. Maloney came in and had a post-op talk with me (why do they all do this right after you've had surgery and you're still all doped up? There's no way in hell you're going to remember anything they say!). Surprisingly I hung onto two things from my conversation from our conversation: 1) he did not find the stone. He founds tons of blood clots from kidney, but no stone--I apparently passed it in the ER. Wow, no wonder I was practically hysterical and foaming at the mouth in the ER if I passed a 7 mm stone. And 2) rural western women are supposed to be tough. He put the stent through the ureter into the kidney and he said it had to stay there a week. However he didn't think I'd find a urologist in Polson so he attached a fine filament to the end of the stent, ran it through the bladder and out the urethra. The he taped the end to my belly so I could remove the stent myself in a week. Pioneer women.

Then they whisked me back to my room for dinner--mistake: too soon after anesthesia. Otherwise, the evening passed well and I gradually gave up the fantasy that I was going to be able to fly home the next day. There are much worse things than staying at Stone's Throw.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Hello From the Emergency Room!

Note: I am finally posting this entry the day after I started so you know I'm still alive.

If you had told me a half an hour ago that I would be able to blog while here, I would have laughed in your face in between moans and whimpers of agony. But let's start at the beginning.

I was in the studio unloading the kiln and getting my shipment ready when I started to have an ache like a twisted muscle in my lower right back. It got gradually worse until I was in significant discomfort by the time I got my shipment out for UPS. I wondered how I had wrenched my back so badly and went to lie down for awhile.

But I couldn't get comfortable. No matter how I was lying or sitting, the pain just kept getting worse. I found myself whimpering and gasping. I went to the Internet to see what I might have because, hey, the Internet! I became convinced I had appendicitis.

Then I did something appallingly stupid: I drove myself to Urgent Care. By the time I got there I could barely walk in the door I was in so much pain. I was shaking, crying, sweating, and nauseated. I managed to drag myself to the check-in desk and gasped out that I thought I had ruptured my appendix. The rest was a bit of a blur. They got me into a wheelchair handed me a bag in case I had to heave, and they called EMS to take me straight to the ER.

I had my first ride in an ambulance in 20 years--no sirens--and they immediately hooked me up to an IV and started pain and anti-nausea meds. By the time we got to the hospital I was feeling a lot better. Oh I still had constant pain, but I could talk through it and I wasn't shaking anymore. That lasted about 15 minutes and I was back to an incoherent gibbering, writhing mess. I could barely hold it together for the EKG.

They had given me fentanyl in the ambulance and I remember it from Mom's hip procedures as being a pretty strong opiate. In the hospital they gave me iv ibuprofen (Toradol) and it was WONDERFUL. It took a little while to take effect, but when it did kick in, pain went from a 10 to a 2. I met my ER doc in my calm, mellow, state and was able to hop out of bed and onto the CT platform with no problems. They did a CT scan because the ER Doc said my symptoms were classics for kidney stones. He was concerned that I also had a UTI (we skirt TMI, but it's quite important for the rest of the story).

Unfortunately my pain only stayed a 2 for a little while longer and I was back to crying, shaking, and moaning. Enter a new pain med: Dilaudid. That pretty much worked, holding me together through the doc bringing the news that I did, indeed, have a raging UTI, and I also had a 7mm kidney stone. Anything up to 5mm they will let you pass on your own (with lots of pain meds). Bigger than 5 they blast it with ultrasound waves to break it up--unless you have the perfect kidney storm and have a UTI too. In that case they are worried about you going septic really fast and dying so they keep you overnight in the hospital and they perform the symphony of surgery and insert a stent into your kidney that has to live there for a week or so. But that's tomorrow's story. For tonight, I am moving upstairs into the hospital and waiting to have surgery first thing tomorrow morning.

In case you think I shared all the details, know that I did not. There is a lot more to the story, but even I have to draw the line somewhere!

Thursday, July 20, 2017


It's so quiet here. And there are millions of frogs. The frogs aren't in the house, they're in the pond which is in the botanical garden so I don't hear them making their little froggy noises. J and I are back in Austin for a few days. The housesitter has been taking great care of the house, and Deven and Zaga have been on top of the gardens, pond and bees. Everything is doing just great. I don't need to be here.

It's disorienting to be here in the middle of summer. Summer is for Montana. I love it here normally, but right now I don't feel at home. There are no dogs, there are no cats, there is no spouse. But J and I will get things done, I'll make some shirts for Dave, and make progress on knitting my sweater coat--I may even bring my Firefly (small electric spinning wheel) back to Polson with me. It has a cigarette lighter adapter so I can spin in the car... Hey, It's going to be a long drive back in August.

Jessie got her braces off today and she looks 2-3 years older to me. I look at her now and I can see her in college. We have had some real quality time together over the past two days. We have talked a lot, and we watched Tangled together tonight. Great mother-daughter time. Tomorrow I think we'll go get pedicures (that child needs to learn to cut her own toenails).

Now it's late and I have to get up early to make shirts. Time to go to bed.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Notes On Apple Jelly With Rose Petals

The thing about reading a recipe written by a master with many years of experience and trial and error behind her is that it's written mostly for her and her level of expertise. Oh there may be a couple of notes added for the newbie, but it's hard to remember what it was like to start out and not know anything about a subject and to remember all the little details that would make replication easier. Of course replication of the result, spoonfeeding, may not have been the goal of the author of Mes Confitures at all. Maybe the reader is expected to pay her dues too and to have to figure some things out by experimentation. Whether that was the goal or just the outcome, right now (having just finished ladling the jelly into the jars over the rose petals) I am all kerfluffled!

Little green apples from my vet clinic
My conundrums began last night when I sat down to prepare my little green apples. The book is organized by season with the fruits that should be ready for harvest grouped accordingly. However there are a lot of apple recipes in the "spring" section, and apples don't ripen until fall. The recipes do call for green apples, but only one of them (the basic green apple jelly which you make to serve as pectin stock for other jams and jellies whose fruits are too low in pectin to set on their own) calls specifically for very green, unripe apples from the beginning of July. Now you might think that order of the recipes would play a part, and if the author mentioned very green and from the start of July once, it would apply to all successive recipes calling for green apples. But the green apple pectin jelly recipe comes 82 pages later than the recipe I used for the green apple and rose petal jelly. So did she mean any variety of ripe green apple or any green--as in unripe--apple? The book is translated from French, and I begin to wish I had the original. I punted and used my little green unripe apples which I expect to be higher in pectin and lower in flavor than ripe apples would be.

My green apple goop
The next question came when I was cutting up the apples. The instructions say to remove the stems and leave the peels, but they don't say anything about the seeds. Should I also remove the seeds before cooking the apples? Will the seeds add bitterness? Are they desirable? Okay? No clue. I removed most of the seeds (as many as I could by hand without cutting into the apples).

From conundrum I moved to overzealous and a probable mistake. The recipe directs one to bring the apples to a boil in 6 1/3 c. of water and then let them simmer for half an hour on low heat. When I looked at them after half an hour on low I realized that low on my Mom's electric stove doesn't keep that much mass at a simmer--there were no bubbles. So I turned it up and cooked the apples another 10-15 minutes at a true simmer. Next I was supposed to pour the mixture into a chinois and to gently press against the apples with my skimmer. I was agitated by that time and I pressed the hell out of them. I was trying to get juice out of them when I bet the actual goal was just to get some apple-flavored water. After I mashed up everything in the chinois, I put the resulting juice through a cheesecloth (as instructed) but there was so much gummy, pectiny pulp that it just sat there and not much juice went through. Giving up for the night, I put it all in the fridge--the cheesecloth in a strainer with the pulpy mess in it suspended over a bowl to catch the juice--as I was supposed to let the sediment settle overnight anyway. Then I went to bed fretting.

Macerating the rose petals
This morning I arose to find a large mass of goo, and 2 1/2 c. of juice instead of the 4 1/4 called for. Oh dear. Deciding at this point that it's all a learning experience, I dumped the goop out of the cheesecloth (it came out in a pretty solid mass) and poured cold water through the cheesecloth into the juice until I had 4 1/4 c. of liquid.

Next I went outside to harvest the roses. There were plenty of floribunda and old-fashioned (likely Bourbon) peach colored roses that I initially mistook for a standard Peace rose, and the old-fashioned roses have lots of little tiny petals that might not be so pretty in jelly. But they were what I had, their color was good, and there were enough of them, so I snipped off the heads and brought them inside to denude them of their petals.

Bringing the jelly to a boil
The rest of the process went pretty much as it seemed to be supposed to. I brought the majority of the rose petals to a simmer and then macerated them for an hour. After the hour was up I strained them through a cheese cloth with no mishap (though I might have--again--been overzealous in my desire to extract as much liquid as possible as I couldn't refrain from squeezing the cheesecloth. I squeezed gently, but nonetheless.

Rose petals saved to put in
the jars with the jelly
Then I cooked the juice up (again) with sugar and lemon juice (squeezed fresh) until it boiled and (seemed to) set. How to tell when juice "sets" becoming proto-jelly and ready to put up in jars is a mystery still. However I started the day with an overabundance of pectin so I figured it wouldn't be a problem and just (mostly) followed the directions for time. While I was waiting for the juice to boil up I put some rose petals in the bottoms of my sterilized jelly jars and measured out the rose water to add to the jelly at the end.

Upside down jars of jelly
waiting to set
I figured I wasn't going to get more than six small jars of jelly so I only sterilized six, so of course I got six and a half. The last half jar necessitated a quick microwave sterilization and a run to the garden for one more rose. Had I not filled the other jars so full (the book says to fill the jars all the way to the top so I tried that too, but it's messy so I stopped) I probably would have ended up with seven finished jars of jelly.

Now the jars are resting upside down with the rose petals floated to the bottom. When they have cooled a bit more and started to set up, I will gently shake them to distribute the rose petals through the jelly, and I'll set them right side up. Let's hope they cool fast enough that I can flip them before I leave to catch my plane! I will NOT be making the plain green apple jelly for pectin today. One jelly a day is enough.

*Note as I get ready to leave for the plane: The jelly did not set up adequately. Guess I should have fretted more about that part of the process and less about others!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Apple Jelly With Rose Petals

What a day! From the schedule that I made yesterday I managed to get my cutting list to the lumber mill for the bed (I also picked out another slab for a matching desk--I am considering a dining room table, but that can wait till next year!), Dave helped me unload the trailer, and Jessie went out to the lake with me and helped me load it up again. This afternoon I stopped by our vet's office and picked green apples from their tree in back, and tonight I'm starting a batch of apple and rose petal jelly. I'll pick the rose petals from my mother's peace roses first thing tomorrow when they're still cool with dew. Besides the apple and rose petal jelly, tomorrow I'll make a batch of the green apple jelly to use as pectin in other preserve recipes this summer. These recipes are both from the book Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber.

The animal shelter was closed today so I couldn't talk to them about the rabbit pens, but tomorrow morning I'll move the pens out into the rock garden in the backyard and give the shelter a call. This way I'll be able to set up the fleece station pretty quickly. I won't have time to use it before I get back, but it'll be ready and waiting for me next week. The second hand store that benefits the animal shelter was also closed today, and I don't know if I'm going to have time to take a load of stuff to them before leaving for the airport tomorrow. I think I'll be conservative and just say no.

What I will do tomorrow is cut out four shirts for Dave that I will take to Austin to sew, and I'll finish my two jellies. I'll also pack, though we're only going for four days and it's not like I don't have toiletries and clothes there. The important thing to remember is the car keys for the Leaf!

Lists and Plans

The swatch after being blocked, and the yarn.
The weekend endeth. It endeth well. In a flurry of energy, I bounded out of bed at 10:48 this morning and went to breakfast with the spouse. Really, I was energetic and enthusiastic even though it was so early. Okay so I didn't get much of a jump on the day, and I took a nap in the late afternoon, but I really did think about all my current projects today. Mostly I straightened and set up work areas.

I got the sewing area ready for the next great round of Dave's Hawaiian shirts. I planned the layout for the garage staging area of give away and throw away items from the lake storage. I organized my spinning, knitting, and computing area...

I have noticed when I save posting till after 11:00 at night, I am winding down and mentally cataloguing the day. It's good for me as it sets up the next day, but it doesn't make for an interesting post. As I am getting ready to go back to Austin the day after tomorrow and I have a ton of things I want to get done and a few things I need to get done before I go, it's hard to think anyway other than in linear, logical, orderly lists.

Tomorrow I need to get up early so I can call the vet to ask if I can pick some green apples from the backyard of the clinic. My jelly and jam making supplies have all arrived, though the copper pan arrived a bit crushed--I was able to bend it back out but I'm not sure I want to pay that much for a damaged pot. I let the restaurant supply company know about the damage right away... and have heard nothing back since. I'll go ahead and make a batch of green (unripe) apple jelly in the next couple of days so I'll have it as an ingredient for the next round of confitures I'll be making when I get back.

Dave is beginning to look a bit ragged in his 14 year-old Hawaiian shirts so I want to get a few new ones cut in the next couple of days so I can take them back to Austin with me and sew one or two up. I didn't bring a machine here this summer as I just planned to cut them all out and bring them back to sew this fall, but I think I'll have time to whip up one or two while I'm home. I hope. Unless everything there has gone to hell in a hand basket.

Now that the design for the bed is done I am ready to order the wood from Dupuis. I'd like to get that cut list in to them tomorrow--along with the list for the Doug fir for the workbench. I bit the bullet and bought three pieces of woodworking equipment and will be setting up the last studio area in Austin when we get home this fall. There is one last room underneath the master bedroom that is only accessible from outside and which seems to have been the workshop space for the first owner. There is a cement floor, lighting, and even an AC unit in the wall. I currently have it filled with all of the things I would have stored in the garage or a tool shed, but the garage is a glass studio, and we don't have a tool shed. We do, however, have a closet under the stairs to the apartment which will make an excellent place to store all the art fair display supplies, tables, tents, etc. I can hang yard tools and hoses and such by the potting bench area under the back deck--unless the new rain barrels take up all the space there. I'll have to co-ordinate the layout with Jay when I am back next week.

The yarn I spun, plied, and washed was dry today so I balled it up and knit a few swatches to make gauge for the sweater coat I am going to knit from my Tour de Fleece yarn. It's much prettier than I expected it to be. I don't like barber-pole striping in yarn, like you get when you twist two different colors of yarn together. However it looks better when it's knit as it looks more heathery and not stripy. Now I just need to figure out if I'm going to have enough. The pattern calls for a certain weight of mohair yarn instead of a yardage. Mohair weighs like dandelion fluff so I have no idea what a commensurate weight in wool would be. Surprisingly, I ended up making my gauge with the same size needles the pattern called for. I can only assume that had I used cobweb-like mohair (even the three strands knitted together that it calls for), I would've had to go down several needle sizes.

When I come back from Austin I'm going to bring some sheet glass in my suitcase (in tile-sized pieces) so I can use them as the base for the glow-in-the-dark tiles I want to test. I have a lot of frit--and even a few jars of morceaux--here, but I don't have any clear sheet at all.

I'm going to see if the local animal shelter would like the rabbit play yard and super hutch. If they don't, I'll try to sell them. When they're moved out from under the deck I'll have room to set up my fleece skirting and prep station so I can do the big fleece for my master spinning class that I brought from Austin.

And that's enough to fill my brain for tonight. Good night!

Saturday, July 15, 2017


It doesn't feel like Saturday. We took Kyla to the airport in Missoula to head back to Atlanta today and I had my usual joyful experience with TSA accompanying her to the gate. Two discussions with the TSA supervisor, a VERY thorough groin pat down front and back followed by a comprehensive residue test both on my hands (front and back) and on the the gloves of the agent who patted me down (also both front and back). But my cavities weren't searched, and I did not lose my calm so I guess I can count it as a win.

I did spin today--I plied 582 yds and then wound it on a swift. After I took it off the swift I checked the twist (to make sure it was balanced) and it was; it hung in a perfect loop, not twisting back on itself at all. So I soaked it in hot water for a couple of minutes and then took it out and thwacked it a bit to set the twist. Tomorrow, when it's dry, I'll weigh it (to see how many yds/oz I get so I can make sure I have enough for the coat I'm going to knit), and then I'll knit a swatch for gauge for the coat. I am very eager to start knitting again. I am still bummed that I can't find the lavender cotton sweater I was knitting earlier this spring.

Spinning (and Dave's excellent pesto chicken for dinner along with Steve Adler's company) were the only good parts of the day. I already gird my loins for the contractor issues in Austin next week, and the DSL here (which was just upgraded to 25 Mgbs) tested out at 1.7 Mgbs download speed tonight. I checked because we kept timing out on Deadwood again. We finally gave up on watching.

It's too early to go to bed so I'll either read, work on the bed cutting list, or practice piano when I'm done posting. Or maybe I'll go clean the kitchen. Here's hoping tomorrow is a less blah day.

Tour de Fleece and Life

As of tonight I have spun just over 1.2 lbs of fleece into yarn singles which I will eventually ply together into a two-ply art yarn for a coat. Of course I have about another three lbs of fleece to spin first. I had hoped to have it all spun and done during the Tour de Fleece, but life has intervened and I am behind. However I cannot lament my tardiness as I spent the time I was not spinning being a good mother, a good neighbor, a good wife, and a good hostess. I didn't manage good housekeeper, but nobody's perfect!

Tomorrow Jessie's friend Kyla goes home to Atlanta, and next Tuesday Jessie and I head back to Austin. She gets her braces off, and I gird my loins to deal with contractors. Maybe I'll give myself a treat and have my legs waxed--nothing like ripping all the hair on your legs out by the roots to take your mind off of contractors! I am a little irked with my main contractors right now since they didn't finish the pond and get it filled and the water cleared in time for me to put all the koi from the holding tank on my back deck into it. I ended up leaving them in the holding tank, charging Devon with keeping the water filled and clean, and asking Zaga to feed them. I planned to release them into the pond next week when I am home. Unfortunately, earlier this week some animal discovered the all-you-can-fish buffet and removed most of the water and all but four of the fish from the tank. Whatever it was very nicely left heads from some and headless bodies from others for Zaga to clean up. I was very sad to hear that the three fish I brought from Atlanta--my big white one and the two big orange ones--were among the casualties. Had the contractors finished the pond when they were supposed to, I would've been able to put the fish in it and they would have been safe. If wishes were horses...

Now it's late at night again, and after being gone all day, I need some snuggling time with the spouse.

Friday, July 14, 2017


We are home from mining for sapphires in Philipsburg today, and for the first time we left stones to be heat treated and faceted. Now I am thinking I might be regretting having one of my stones heat treated. It was already pretty dark--though more aqua than royal blue--and it might have been nice to just have it natural. The heat process typically clarifies the stone and saturates the color, but there is something to be said for natural...

Anyway it was amazing how many good sized unfractured sapphires we found today. Jessie, Kyla and I all had rough stones in the 2-2/12 carat size with no fractures. Kyla's biggest stone had a beautiful iron spot in it that will go yellow with heat. I think it's going to be gorgeous cut and will be about 1/2 to 3/4 carat. My big pink one has a large fracture that doesn't go all the way through so the appraisers thought it was worth doing. I said it was okay to cut it with a bit of an inclusion. The stones below are all mine from one small bag of gravel and include my large dark one and my big pink one. I left one more round one a little smaller than the one on the upper left to be done too. Now we just have to wait seven weeks until they're done!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Day Of Pain

Today was torture--and not just because I spent over two hours dealing with CenturyLink screwing up our Internet service. We are left tonight with service so slow there is no way we could watch anything, and the 25Mbs service won't be turned on until Friday. *sigh* I just don't have the heart to call again to tell them they didn't set our service back to what it was--they dropped it even lower.

As if dealing with a telephone/Internet company wasn't bad enough (46 minutes on *one* call!), I also spent an hour and a half at the dentist getting one new crown put on and being fitted for another one. This time the dentist did not manage to numb me all the way--even after three hefty shots of novocaine--and it hurst much more tonight than it did after the first one was fitted.

Icing on the cake is that I still do the zombie shuffle when I walk as my ankles and knees are still in major pain from yesterday--everyone else is recovered. Sure, I'm hte oldest, but I need to get back into shape! For the rest of the night--which admittedly isn't very much--I'm going to chill and read my book. I wish we had a big deep soaking tub here--or a hot tub--but I'll just have to settle for a hot shower. Naw, that doesn't sound appealing at all.

Tomorrow off to Philipsburg to mine for sapphires!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Glacier National Park 2017

Wild Goose Island
The river below is right next to
the road we started on
I am reminded that I am no longer a spring chicken, I am more like an old stew hen. I hopped handily enough out of bed at 5:15 this morning and hustled everyone into the mini van for our trip to Glacier. Then I drove with spry alacrity up to the park, arriving at West Glacier just before 8:00 am. At that point Dave took over driving and I took over photographing EVERYTHING with the new camera.

Looking back down the road we drove up
My sexy spouse
 With all the stops (and we didn't make one at Logan Pass this year) it took us until 10:40 to get to Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. It's right next to Many Glacier on the northeast side of the park. It was drizzling lightly when we arrived, and we were all hungry so instead of hitting the trail right away, we waited 20 minutes until the cafe opened for lunch and then we ate. With one thing and another, it was about noon before we hit the trail. Hindsight is 20/20, but if we had started hiking right away we probably would've seen the moose by Fishercap Lake or the enormous sow grizzly and her two cubs further up the trail. But you never know when the wildlife will be out and about. I'd like to do that hike again--next time earlier in the morning (maybe after staying the night at Swiftcurrent).

Bullhead Lake--the end of our hike
Field of beargrass
The last time we hiked the Swiftcurrent area Jessie was only 8 or 9 and we hiked a more strenuous trail up to Iceberg Lake. I could no more have done that hike today than I could've flown. The hike we took was very easy and mostly level, but at the end of 3/1/2 miles Dave and I reached Bullhead Lake and decided to call it good enough. We were on the Swiftcurrent Pass hike, and we knew we weren't going to do the steep part at the end leading up to the pass, but I thought we'd make it to the end of the Bullhead lake at the bottom of the mountain. However the girls turned back before we even got there and said they'd wait for us at Redrock Falls. Dave and I went on, but then it started raining again and the descending hikers reported no animal sightings further on so we turned around and headed back out.

Ground squirrel
The cows of Glacier
In spite of the lack of wildlife bigger than squirrels (except for the multiple small herds of cows at the entrance to and even inside the park at the Many Glacier entrance) it was an incredible hike. I have never seen so many different wildflowers blooming all at once--and the beargrass blooms were just dense everywhere and taller than Jessie. Last winter was a big snow year, and the spring was very rainy so the growth is explosively lush. And it's not like we didn't see large animals all day. We were fortunate enough to take in the casual browsing show put on by a young male mountain goat up by Logan Pass. I even saw another goat settled in on the side of a cliff above the road as we were on our way back down the road at the end of the day.

Jessie's pic of the fire from '15
The burned area now
It was our first visit to the Park since the devastating fire on the east side two years ago. Jessie was on a boat right off shore of where the fire started and ended up being out on the lake for two hours watching it grow from a plume of smoke to an explosive conflagration. The boat she was on was held there in case they needed to use it to evacuate hikers trapped by the blaze.

Where Siyeh Studio was born
Today the burned trees still stood stark and bare--many peculiarly burned leaving blackened bark with shocking white trunks showing through. And beneath all of them bloomed a riot of wildflowers and lush meadow grasses. As sad as it was that there was a fire, it was really overdue. That area was full of beetle-killed pine trees just waiting for a careless match. Nature reboots just like everything else, and fire is one of her major ways to do it.

Even when the sky is sullen, there's no
more beautiful place to be
The requisite mountain goat shot
We're home at last, and I managed--barely--to hobble into the house and down the stairs groaning all the way. My ankles hurt. My shins hurt. My calves hurt. My hips and my gluteus maximus hurt. The skin on my inner thighs hurts the most as I wore one of my currently-usual dresses on the hike and chafed that tender skin most egregiously.

Logan Peak
Heaven's Peak
Next time I'll wear some spandex workout shorts under my dress for hiking. Or I guess I could just dress like everyone else in their frufty Gore-Tex with their rain gear and their fancy hiking boots and their walking poles. I definitely got some funny looks in my Keens and a blue dress with a camera slung around my neck--especially in the rain by Bullhead Lake after most of the casual hikers had turned back. Whatever. My mother used to do all her serious hiking in thongs--excuse me: flip flops. I keep forgetting that Jessie told me "thongs" means something else now other than footgear. Again, whatever.
Bird on a dead tree

Birdwoman Falls
Now I sit with a pre-shower Negroni, posting and curating the day's photos to pick the best one for the 365 project and the runners up for here. It's going to be a tough choice--Glacier National Park is my favorite place on earth for a reason: there is nowhere with more breathtaking views.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Blues

Adverbs are my favorite descriptor, but adjectives come in very handy when describing days. There are long days, hard days, dark days, great days, sunny days--the list is is inexhaustible. Today was a difficult day. I took the trailer to the lake and filled it with the first big load of my parents'--mostly my Dad's--things. I did pick up a some of Mom's fabric and the kitchen utensils from the lake cabin that Ed and Susan don't want, but it felt like most of the load was everything from Dad's life. There were two boxes of ski maintenance equipment including old irons for waxing the bottom of the skis and files for sharpening the edges. There were boxes of maps, notes, entomology books, and tax returns going back to 1983 (okay, I picked those up in my last load, but they fill out the feeling of the rest of the things I loaded so I added them in). Everything I loaded today was stuff they had stored, not things from their daily lives. And almost all of it will go to the second hand store benefitting the animal shelter or to the dump. There are a few things worth selling, and fewer still that I will keep. I am left feeling like I am wiping all trace of him away.

It will be an early night tonight as we're leaving the house at 6:00 am for Glacier tomorrow morning so I'm not going to go on. I'm feeling melancholy and sad, and I think I'll just go to bed.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Death Of an Appliance

I decided to finish the Frosted Mini Wheats for breakfast this morning and end my binge on sugary cereal. However when I pulled the carton of milk out of the fridge, it didn't slosh, it sludged. Uh oh. I knew we'd been having a problem with the freezer--the ice cream bars weren't (bars) and the ice cream wasn't (iced). But apparently the whole unit is giving up the ghost. I could have called a repairman, but I think--though I am not sure--that this fridge might have been the fridge we had when I was a teenager. Maybe not, but it is an OLD unit. So instead of repairing it, we decided to replace it. I went online, and then the ruralness of our situation became apparent and Dave and I drove to the Home Depot in Kalispell and picked one out.

I had to face the hard reality that we are truly in the boonies here when I tried to order one online and have it delivered and I got the message, "We're sorry. Appliance delivery isn't offered to your area. Your nearest store may be able to offer other arrangements." So I couldn't get free delivery--or any delivery at all for an on-line purchase--but we were able to go into the store, pick from 3-4 models in the basic style we wanted that they had in stock, and schedule delivery for Thursday. We could have picked from a wider selection had we been willing to wait, but what they had was more than good enough. And for $48 they will deliver, unpack, set-up and install (water line) the new one and haul away the old one. I call that a steal of a deal.

On the way home we stopped at the Tamarack Brewing Company in Lakeside for lunch. They have some of the best food and best beer on the lake. It's too bad that Lakeside is right outside of Kalispell and so clear on the other end of the lake from us (about a 45 minute drive). Wish they were in Polson. They also had a gorgeous firepit outside made by Big Sky Backyards. I looked them up and fell in love with the the one below. Someday it might adorn the garden at Stone's Throw.

As we are mostly sans fridge, we will be eating out for a few days. Or Dave could shop daily for fresh food and we could pretend we're Europeans who grocery shop everyday and who neither store much nor have big refrigerators. I will, however, see if the neighbors can keep our ice cream for us till Thursday. And I can't wait to have ice and water in the door again!!!!! The old Kenmore certainly didn't have it (its ice maker hasn't even worked for the past few years) nor does the Thermidor fridge at Stone's Throw have ice or water in the door. Come to think of it, we didn't even have ice in the door in Atlanta--just water. We haven't had a fridge with ice and water in the door since Jessie was one and we lived in Austin the first time! Oh I am going to enjoy this.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Not Much Ado About Nothing

After our big day out yesterday, we utterly failed to do anything much today. The girls didn't even want to go out to the lake they were so tired! They spent the entire afternoon watching Breaking Bad--and that's after sleeping the entire morning. I wasn't much better. I got up and fed the cats, but then I went right back to bed for a few hours. Now after doing mostly nothing all day myself (I sat on the periphery of the girls BB binge watch), I am writing a quick post, getting the dogs settled for the might, turning off the sprinkler, and going to bed. Tomorrow I am going to insist we go out to the lake. It was 96 here today (consider that we have one little air conditioning unit for one room in the house and nowhere to put another one) and we are just not set up to handle those temps. I need to spend the afternoon in a nice glacier-fed lake staying cool.

Summer and the Bison Range

Two does in the creek
my best shot of the day
Today may be the first day I have really felt like it was summer vacation--odd timing as it was also only the second day I have set an alarm since we have been here. We got up and out the door by 7:30 this morning to drive through the National Bison Range. It's only about a half hour away from the house and we arrived so early the visitor center wasn't even open yet. Even so there were three other vehicles spaced out a bit on the road in front of us.

Tiny mountain chipmunk
Antelope on the ridge
Wildlife sightings were decent, not great, but the 300 mm lenses on the new camera let me get some great close-in shots. Jessie, however, got the best shot of the day (again) (with my camera as hers is in Austin) of a young bull bison swiping his nostril with his tongue. We saw antelope, deer, bison, and chipmunks. We didn't see bighorn sheep or bears, which we have in the past.

Herd of cow and calf bison
Jessie's tongue-in-nose-bison
I want to make one more drive through this summer but at the end of the day. The latest you can start through is 7:00, and as late as it stays light, that would leave plenty of opportunity for great photos as the animals move around at the end of the day. I also would like to make that drive in the Mini Cooper with the top down. Dave is a bit nervous about that idea as he thinks the bison might mistake the Mini for another bison and either try to mate with it or fight it. I want to take the Mini as I can get good 360 degree photos without having to get out of the car (which makes Dave very nervous).

Another picturesque doe
Saw lots of buck deer with large racks
The reason the day felt like vacation was that--even though I did much the same as I have been doing--I didn't feel like I should be doing something else instead of napping or watching woodworking videos. I just went with the flow wherever it carried me. I need to cherish thee moments because come fall and Austin, I'll be in the thick of it again.

Bull bison lying in his dust wallow
Old trestle bridge for the railroad
Tonight will be an extension of the sloth with dinner at Dairy Queen in Ronan, followed by the new Spider Man movie. Tomorrow I'll probably take the railer out to the lake and empty my parents things out the metal building so it'll be ready for my uncle when he arrives in a few weeks. I still didn't spin today, nor did I practice tomorrow. At this point it's going to be hard to conquer Rachmaninoff and finish all the fiber I'm spinning for the Tour de Fleece, but I can't be too concerned. The inbox will always be full.

The pink glow of sunset on the snowy peaks in the east as the moon rises over the Mission Mountains