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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Of Butterflies and Baskets

This is my new dovetail saw.  I've actually had it for a couple of months, having purchased it for cutting butterfly dovetail keys for the hutch.  I got it out recently because I wanted to try it for cutting the waste out on the center shelf supports on the hutch.

If you're a wood worker, you'll understand when I say this thing is way cool!  The saw is very thin, so you have to be careful because it bends easily, but this also means that it leaves a very thin kerf as well.  It worked really well for the shelf supports, so now I can't wait to try it on the butterfly keys.

I think the keys will be an interesting juxtaposition of styles- the hutch styling is aimed at the British Isles, but butterfly keys are a Japanese joinery technique.  I don't know if it's going to work or not, but it will be rustic, and that's okay.

Now the funny thing is, when Steve saw the saw out, he said, "When did you pick that up?" 

"You were there when I picked it out!" I replied, somewhat indignant at the accusatory tone in his voice.

"Are you sure this isn't a case of a spouse pulling something new out and then saying she's had it awhile?"

I stifled the urge to tell him oh I do that too, but this isn't one of those times. 

"Steven, you were there in the Home Depot tool department when I picked this saw out. It was around fifteen bucks.  You knew about it." 

And I went back to what I was doing, careful not to look at the two cool baskets that I picked up for ten bucks at the second hand store when the boys were here in July that I've been hiding in plain sight so that he'll think I've had them forever.  Which, by the time I get around to using them, will be almost true.

A little sneaky, I admit, but we'll be glad to have them sometime next year when we're casting about for what to store potatoes in.  His beloved potatoes, I might add.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


My mother and older sister are coming for a visit in a couple of weeks, so I am trying to get some of the projects that have been hanging out, waiting in the wings to get started, done before she gets here.

I just managed to get the daybed cover and the backrest cushion done and here they are:

the cushion in front is a cover from Target, of all places....
If you've looked for upholstery fabric, you know how expensive it is, and I wanted a sturdy wool, partly because wool is a very long-lived fiber (second only to silk) and because, let's face- in the chilly Northwest where I live, wool is cozy.  The problem is, wool upholstery fabric is prohibitively expensive.  So I scrounged around online and found some army blankets.  I ordered French, Israeli, and Italian army blankets.  The French blankets, although used, were beautiful- they are a gorgeous shade of dark taupe and almost have the texture of a very heavy wool crepe. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough fabric in them to cover the daybed, so I'll use them for cushion covers.  The Israeli blankets were uglier than homemade sin-  web pictures showed them as gray, but up close they are bizarre shades of purply-gray, and are mottled with all kinds of colors.  Imagine making blankets out of the fuzz you pull out of the dryer vent and you'll have an approximate idea of what I'm talking about.

Steve wanted me to get brand new army blankets for the cover anyway, which I did- I ordered brand new Italian ones because they were available.  Bad mistake.  They'd been treated with what smelled like paradichlorobenzene, which is the active ingredient in mothballs, and boy! Did they stink!  I left them hung in the garage for a few months to air out- they still smelled bad.  I laundered them in my own machinery- another mistake.  Now both my machines and the laundry room smelled like nasty chemicals.  Finally, one Saturday, Steve took all the blankets down to the laundromat and took care of everything, and I was finally able to get started on the covers.  The Italian blankets had a beige stripe running down either side, which I didn't want in the cover, so I wound up piecing the cover together. 

The filling for the backrest cushion is a king-sized and a full-sized down comforter.  This house just doesn't get cold enough to warrant needing them, and I needed to store them somewhere- space in my linen closet is at a premium, so stuffing them into the cover and using them as filler seemed like a good idea.  That way, if ever I need them, I still have them.  And they were just bulky enough to make a fairly firm cushion.

Steve tried it out, including turning on the lamp, and pretending to read a book.  He deemed it a great reading corner. 

I'm just glad that it's done.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Birthday Present Makes Good

My birthday, which is not for another couple of weeks, is always a time for getting something I need, rather than for fun stuff.  The first of my birthdays spent with Steve, and which occurred shortly before we got married, I wanted a set of Felco secateurs, which I got.  They were the astronomical sum of forty dollars, and Steve's friends thought he was getting off mighty easy for only forty dollars.  Last year was my fiftieth, and I tried to want a piece of jewelry to commemorate it.  I even looked at some in the various and sundry catalogs that wind up here, and couldn't get excited about them. You want to know what I wound up with to commemorate my fiftieth birthday?

A manure fork.  I had a compost pile to move, and I needed the fork,  so that's what I got.

This year is not going to be much different, only this year's present is way cooler than a manure fork.  This year I wanted and got an electric chipper/shredder.  It came last week, and Steve put it together for me Saturday and I shredded the dickens out of the bush clippings I had.  The idea is to reduce the size of that stuff so that it will compost more quickly.  Here's a before picture of how much I had to do:

And an after picture of the pile reduced by shredding:

Reviews of the roughly three electric chipper/shredders were all roughly the same, except that I didn't consider the Patriot CSV-2515 because it costs almost nine hundred dollars, but the others that were roughly the same size and price had roughly the same reviews, so I left the decision as to which one up to Steve.  True to form, he picked the cheapest, the 14 amp Eco-Shredder from Amazon.  It worked really well.  They tell you not to force a lot through it at once, but I think that's common sense.  We all want to get chores done quickly, but since you can't cram a lot down a garbage disposal, it makes sense that you can't cram a lot down the shredder.  You also can't feed it wet stuff, which also makes sense.  Basically, you don't want to do anything or put anything in it that will jam it or gum up the works.  I also really like the fact that it's electric, like all the rest of our gardening power tools.

I expect that this shredder and I will be doing gardening chores together for a long time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I'm Done

Thursday, I put a brave face on my employment predicament.  Friday, I worked twelve hours, made four trips to Home Depot, and two trips to Fred Meyers (the local Oregonian equivalent of a Walmart- in essence, if not in reality) in my automobile.  This was after two conversations with my boss in which I made it clear that I wanted to be home for my family time, and that I'd only insured the car for commute miles and that I wouldn't be able to use it for errands. Okay, I said that close to the office and for stuff that wouldn't mess up the car might be okay, but six trips?  Last night I was so angry and upset when I got home I was practically blithering, and Steve said, "Do you want a hug?" with his arms open wide.

"I want out," I replied, and burst into tears.

I'm sorry guys- I quit this morning.  I just couldn't do it anymore.  One lousy week.  One truly awful week.  I feel like I've let you all down.

I do know how to make a rain garden now, and I understand how to make a rain barrel.

And I'll be a lot more careful about my next job interview.

I should mention that I have not received pay for this week's work, and don't expect to- I consider this a probation or interview that didn't work, and volunteered my time for it.  I looked for work yesterday and today, and applied for a job today, so I'm hoping that this shouldn't ruin my unemployment benefits.  I somehow can't think that I'd be faulted, because I think that the boss abuses people.  Poor Virgil hasn't had a day off in two weeks and has pulled a few days into the ones and twos in the morning- he has a two year old and a three-month-old infant at home, whom he's missing growing up.  The worst of it is, I feel for his wife as well- with him gone all the time, that means she's stuck with everything.  You know what my boss said this morning when I pointed this out?

"We all have to make sacrifices."

Since when should a two year old and an infant have to make sacrifices?  I mean, I understand him wanting to get the word out that we all need to be conserving water, but honestly? I think he's got a screw loose...

Anyway, I'm done.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Work Sucks

Okay.  I'm whining now.  Because this is a very young business and the boss is getting involved with what seems to be everything, I am working a lot anymore.  Today marked the seventh day in a row without a day off.  One day this week was eleven hours.  (Sorry to all you working nurses out there who regularly pull twelve hour shifts- I'm just not used to this.)  This Saturday we're doing a rain barrel event at the Beaverton Farmers Market, so tomorrow is all hands on deck to build fifty rain barrels.  

We build the barrels, and make and paint the stands tomorrow.  Saturday we do the event.  Sunday, I finally get a day off.  My boss said, "Sunday, we rest."

But I have so much to catch up on because he's been working me like a dog, that rest I will not get.  Consequently, I've nothing from the homestead to dispatch, so I feel like I'm letting you all down.  I even missed my 'above ground crops' window on Tuesday and Wednesday because I got home so late- I'd wanted to get some seeds for winter crops- mostly more kale, broccoli rape, and lettuce started.  But that didn't happen as planned.

The only thing homesteading related going on in this house is that the Mother Earth News arrived today, so I'm going to go read that now and then go to bed.  Oh- and make a list of all the stuff that has to get done on Sunday.

I didn't work this many hours when I was salaried and I was making a hell of a lot more at that time.  This recession that supposedly ended in June of last year is a real sonofabitch.   I need to remember that what I'm doing is a good thing- rain catchment is a good thing.  Alerting the public to the need for personal responsibility for water needs is a good thing.  Water is going to be tight in the future and the more people that can fend for themselves, the better.  I'm doing a good thing.

It'll will eventually get better, but right now, work sucks.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Red Wing Blackbirds at the Nike Community Garden

Since Friday, I have been working on the rain garden at the Nike Community Garden, which is up and across the street from Nike World Head Quarters in Beaverton.  We're not sure about this, but we think that this might be the first corporate-sponsored community garden in the U.S.  It sits at the edge of a large field, which is across the street from another large field, and the two are otherwise surrounded by industrial type enterprises and businesses.  The fields both have occasional trees in them- several pines and oaks.  Unfortunately, all the pines are showing signs of some type of stress- I can't tell for sure, but it makes me think that perhaps they are suffering from pine beetle attacks.

The Nike Community Garden really is something, though- I love it.  There are regular stands of incredibly high corn and sunflowers, and a major portion of the plots have lovely tomatoes, which is something to see at the end of this crazy cool summer we've had.  A couple of the plots have lovely, rustic wood arbors built over them to hold various things up- the most picturesque I've seen so far had gourds growing all over it.

The biggest boon to me from working here has been the red wing blackbirds.  There are three large sunflowers on short stalks in a plot box fairly near the work site.  Saturday, there were three crows helping themselves to the sunflower seeds.  Today it was a couple of red wing blackbirds.  Red wing blackbirds have a fairly distinctive sound, which for some reason, I really love.

You could still hear them over all the noisy starlings hanging out in the oak tree in front of the garden.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Am Getting Soooo Sore!

I started the new job yesterday, and was at it again today, and will be at it again tomorrow and Monday, possibly Tuesday.  'It' was digging and digging.  Yesterday was moving bark out of the way.  Today we dug a big hole in the ground.  Fortunately, my boss was wielding an excavator, but there was plenty of shovel work left for the three of us with shovels.  I am plumb worn out.

Did I mention that I get to work with a guy named Virgil and a guy names Frances?  I think that part is pretty cool, too.  I mean, it's one thing to work with a guy named Virgil, which is a rare enough name, and another thing to work with a guy named Frances, which is also a rare enough name, but to work with them at the same time is something.  Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Signs Of Autumn: Pumpkins, Hops, and Rain

This week we've been working on getting in the posts for the apple espalier wires.  We were to finish yesterday afternoon, but the weather had something to say about that, so we'll try filling the last hole this afternoon.

My pumpkins were also ready, and since we were expecting rain, which showed up several hours early, I harvested them a the day before yesterday and then yesterday brought them in to prep and cure.  Prepping them for curing involved washing them all in a ten percent bleach solution to make sure anything that might make them rot is dead.  Curing them involves keeping them at eighty degrees F in eighty percent humidity for a week and a half before storing them at sixty degrees F. 

I have them in a clean bath tub in the hall bathroom with the little heater on, but haven't figured out the humidity part.  So- I'll probably leave them the rest of today, put them in the garage at first, and then as the weather gets colder, they'll probably wind up on the north wall of my bedroom which is the colder room in the house in the winter.   After all that, I'll just hope for the best.  I decided not to process them all at once because I'm getting picky about what goes into the freezer which doesn't have a lot of room in it anymore, and because I want to try the dry storage thing- you know, like root cellaring.  I don't have a basement or a decent hill in which to build a cellar, so I'm starting slowly in that department.  We'll just have to see and I'll keep you posted on that.  Pumpkins are supposed to keep for three months if all is right in their world, so that should take me to mid-December.

Also this week, we harvested the first of the hops and dried them.  They smell awesome and I'm already thinking about where in the backyard to move them so that we can really let them grow and get big and covered in cones.  They just smell wonderful.  I'm not sure if you have to be a beer drinker to appreciate them, but I have to admit that smelling them makes me hanker for a pilsner.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Woo Hooooooo!

I got hired today!

The pay is crap, but the job will feed my soul, and that is what is important to me.  I told my new boss that I'd have to talk to Steve about it first to see if I could do it (because the pay is so dismally low), and generally, he said yes!  I am convinced after talking with Jason for nearly two hours that he is an honest and good guy, so I'm throwing in my luck with him.

So what am I doing?  I'm not really sure yet- probably jack of all trades office manager, but what the company does is install rain catchment systems, which is something in which I truly believe.  I've been wanting one for myself for awhile, because water is going to be a huge issue for everybody in the very near future, especially in the west.  Water is the biggest reason why we decided on Oregon, and rain catchment has been in the plans from the get go.  The roof on this house is in pretty good shape but the gutters are a disaster.  However, you can only use water off an asphalt shingle roof for landscaping plants; you can't use it for vegetables and fruits because the asphalt taints the water.  Plus at some point, I want to be able to pipe into the house for toilets, showers and clothes washing, and possibly to sinks or at least to a filtration system, and then maybe all the sinks.  We'll see- I'd need a tank roughly the size of a tractor trailer.  Maybe.  But the first step to doing all this is to replace the roof with a standing seam metal roof, and I'm currently saving for that.  And since there's wear left on this roof, I have a little time.  We want to get more insulation up there at the same time and install a light tube and operable skylight at the same time, so save, save, save is the name of the game.

They also do rain gardens and bio-swales and that sort of thing and I'm going to get my hands dirty this Friday helping to install a rain garden at the Nike Community Garden which is across the street from Nike World Headquarters.  This Friday we'll be prepping for the excavator, and then working through the weekend to get in the garden.

So!  This means I have to hustle the rest of the week to get some stuff done before I get extremely busy.  But I get to help grow a business doing something that I really believe in.  I'm pretty happy about that!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fueling The Lie

Unlike some products, I'm going to be upfront about my purpose: I'm on a rant here, people.

This came as a free sample with this morning's newspaper.  I didn't look at the front so much (more on that in a little bit) but went directly to the list of ingredients.  The third ingredient on the list after Whole Grain Wheat and Crisp Rice was Sugar.  Well no wonder it acts like fuel!  Also on the list of ingredients are Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup, Barley Malt Extract, and Corn Syrup Solids, all of which are various forms of sugar.   The front of the box indicates, however, that the contents are 'lightly sweetened'.    Then way down at the bottom of the list, fourth from the end, in fact, was Trisodium Phosphate.  I used to sell Trisodium Phosphate in the paint department at my first job.  You use it to prep your walls for a new coat of paint because it takes the shine of old paint.   I looked around and while they say that TSP is generally safe added to food, I don't particularly trust the FDA or USDA these days (haven't for awhile, actually) and I think that anything that will take the top coat off your paint is probably not a good substance to ingest.  I could be wrong here, but that's just how I feel.

For the second part of this rant, take a good look at the picture on the front of the box.  Do you see one female athlete in the picture?  Me neither.  Does General Mills genuinely think that women can't be champions?  What about the US Women's Soccer team?  What about every other female athlete in the world who can seriously kick ass?   Would you really want this box of cereal sitting on your table where your sons and daughters could both see it?  What the hell kind of message is that?

Shame on you, General Mills.  This box is going straight into the trash.

Homesteading: Canning Tomato Sauce

While the great debate about the sustainability of canning versus freezing, or any other method of food preservation rages on, I have to admit that I am still going to can tomato sauce, because that is one thing I need to have year 'round.  I appreciate trying to eat what's in season when it's in season, but missing pizza night for lack of sauce just isn't negotiable.  So can sauce it is.  And if you're putting up something for a full year's frequent use, you're homesteading in my book.

Yesterday was a canning day for tomatoes and I thought I'd write about how I do them, because I'm generally lazy and don't want to fuss too much, so maybe this would be of use to you.

Start by sterilizing your jars in the dishwasher on a hot cycle, or wash them in hot, soapy water and rinse them really well, and then pop them into a 250 degree oven for as long as it takes you to process the tomatoes and get your canner boiling, which will probably be around thirty or so minutes.  I mention both ways because I do it both ways.  While the jars are sterilizing, it's a good time to fill your water bath canner and get it heating as well.  Also at this time, get a largish pan of water in the stove heating and get your rings and lids in it.  I always put the rings in first and then the lids so that I can cover everything with a lid first, and then with the rings. It makes getting the lids out first with that stupid little magnetized lid-lifter a whole lot easier.

Big: Burbank Slicing;  Little: High Carotene
This year's tomatoes were ridiculously little. A great many of the High Carotene were the size of cherry tomatoes, and some were even the size of grape tomatoes, and a few were as large as plums, but not a lot.  High Carotene was supposed to be an heirloom, high acid canning tomato.  I won't be doing them again.  Plus, they were really full of great big seeds.

Burbank Slicing, showing almost no seeds and lots of flesh
I planted Burbank Slicing tomatoes for a salad and sandwich tomato, but will probably do them again for canning purposes.  According to the Territorial Seed Co., catalog, this tomato was developed by Luther Burbank around 1915, and was the only variety that he raised for canning.  It also describes the tomato as being a very deep majestic red color and having a traditional bold tomato flavor.  What I can tell you is that it is a very delicious tomato indeed and has very few seeds and seems to be mostly made up of flesh.  So I will be doing Burbank again, in addition to the early types I mentioned in an earlier post.

Eight quarts of tomatoes
After gathering the fruits, I wash them under a slow stream of running water, taking care to rub off all the schmutz, and then de-stem and pop them into the soup pot.  I never bother skinning them because I'm not going to can them whole anyway, so why go to the trouble?  Once the tomatoes are all in the pot, I turn up the heat under them and cook them soft and squishy.  You can add a little water to get them going but don't overdo it.

This handle hurts; get a solid one
Once they're cooked down soft and squishy, they get run through the food mill until only a pomace of skin and seeds is left, which is picked out with a pair of tongs.  (The High Carotenes seriously made up for what seeds the Burbanks didn't have, which is another good reason not to plant them again.)  I put the sauce back on the stove to cook down a little, but not much, because I don't want to waste too much time or gas.  I find that cooking down a pint of sauce at a time on pizza day is faster and uses less gas than trying to reduce it all before canning.  That way, too, if I want the sauce for making soup instead, it's ready to go.

Four quarts of tomato sauce
I get my hot jars out of the oven using a jelly roll pan for a tray and set them where I can get at them.  Using a canning funnel and a ladle which I set in with the boiling lids for a few minutes, I carefully ladle tomato sauce into the pint jars to the bottom line of the threads.  Each half pint then gets a half-teaspoon of canning/pickling salt, and a tablespoon of lemon juice, which helps with the preservation and acidity of the sauce, and keeps it from being too sweet on its own.  Then I dunk a clean paper towel in the boiling water and wipe off the rims of all the jars.   I next carefully pop on the lids and rings, and everything gets screwed down as tight as I can get it, but not too tight- I don't have a lot of hand strength, so I'm not in too much danger of over doing it.  But if you've never destroyed your grip by hyper-extending your thumb trying to break a piece of oak kindling for a barbecue, take it easy.  You need to leave room for the bubbles to escape during processing, which will create the vacuum while the jars are cooling.

Then the jars are lifted into the now boiling water bath canner and are processed at a full, rolling boil for thirty minutes.  Once they're done processing and I take them out of the water bath, they are placed on a towel on a tray (the jelly roll pan again) and are left to cool out of the way of drafts and breezes for twenty-four hours, and then they're labeled and put away.

This method works well for what we need tomatoes for, and that's just a big bunch of sauce for making pizzas, or maybe the occasional pasta sauce.  It also works for making catsup, which is only a little more involved and well worth the effort.  We're still eating last year's catsup which was excellent, although we're nearing the end of it.  So, since I've determined that I'll never buy catsup at the store again, organic or otherwise, I guess I'd better save a batch of tomatoes for making catsup for this year.

It's now only a matter of time and the end of tomato season will be upon us, particularly as it seems we are in for an early fall this year.  If frost threatens and you have a whole bunch of green tomatoes left on the vine, don't harvest them and risk they won't ripen.  Instead, pull up the whole plant and hang it upside down in a shed or the garage. You'll get more to ripen that way, maybe even all of them.

Tomato sauce is a huge staple in my pantry, so getting tomatoes grown and processed for it takes up a pretty good chunk of my time.  I like the fact that I grew them and cooked them and canned the sauce, and I like the fact that I'm reusing the jars and will do it again next year.  It's all hard work, but worth it, I think.

Tomato Love

I love tomatoes.  I love tomato sandwiches made only from homegrown tomatoes, mayonnaise, and a couple of slices of bread.  I especially love the way the tomato plants smell, and I love the way the smell stays on my hands when I've been harvesting them.  Call me weird.  Steve likes the smell of the plants too, so I know I'm not alone here.

I discovered by accident an easy way to get the tomatoes off the vine without tearing up the fruit.   Leaving the stem intact ensures that you haven't torn the skin, which would hasten rotting.  At about a half to three quarters of an inch away from the fruit up the stem is a little knobby elbow.  Do you see it in this picture?  Look at the tomato on the right, which is a clearer picture.

If you press your thumbnail against that knobby little elbow and snap it in the opposite direction of its bend, it will snap right off there.  Think of the direction that you wouldn't want your elbow snapped and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Autumn Priorities

This autumn is shaping up to be a busy one. I just finished making a cover for the day bed in the living room, and still need to make a cover for a backrest for it.  That will also be made from the wool Italian army blankets that I bought for that purpose, but I'm going to stuff it with the two down comforters we have.  It turns out that this house is too well insulated to really need them.  Which is kind of interesting and points out how important insulation really is: when we lived in an uninsulated concrete block and stucco house in north Florida, a down comforter was very necessary in the winter, and I'd sleep under one in a hooded sweatshirt just in order to be warm enough to fall asleep.  I could not get that house warm enough in the winter time, which is part of the reason why I happily left it behind me.  That and the bugs.

Anyway, in addition to the backrest cover, I also need to sew curtains for the sliding glass doors. I also need to get back to working on the hutch and get that done (finally) and then there is another list of things to get built: the breakfast nook benches, the dining nook and benches, and the tables for both, although, if I can find the right sizes, I'll buy those.  If they don't cost a bundle.  After that it's just a couple of light fixtures to replace and I'll finally be done with this house.  Oh- but not before I paint the kitchen door to the garage and its trim- we left that for last.

Then I can get started touching up paint all over the rest of the house where we've nicked it, and replacing the porch light.  Oh wait- I still have to build the drop down bunk beds for the guest room, which is impossibly tinier than all the things I need it to be.  Then I'll be done with this house.  Really.

If I truly believed in that saying 'you're never done', I would probably not even start, but I also happen to know that each project's finish leads to a more pleasant way of life.  I also know from experience that putting it off just means that you have less time to live with the improvement, and it's worth tackling something even if it seems like it will never get finished.  Because eventually, it does.

So, after updating my new garden pocket planner and garden notebook with what I've done so far with the garden this year, I also noted the best days this autumn for planting above ground crops, below ground crops, pruning for growth, etc., from my Old Farmer's Almanac.  And guess what? Tomorrow and Friday are good days to start projects, so today I took care of something that fell by the wayside during my last project: I cleaned the bathrooms. 

If I had the gumption and one more day before Project Day, I'd tackle the guest room, AKA my Room of Shame...

....or at least my Desk of Shame.

As it is, right now I need to hop into my overalls and go move some excess slate (again) in the garage so we have a place to put the Bear bricks when they arrive tomorrow.

The question is, how would I get all this done if I actually had a job?   The other question is, of course, how did I manage to let the guest room get so bad? 

Priorities is how, and the guest room is going to be shameful a little longer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Homesteading Bug

Ah, the homesteading bug.  Last year, when I was able to put up thirty-two half pints of salsa verde and a year's worth of tomato sauce for pizza, Steve 'got it'.  He finally understood what I've been trying to do.  I think he got it a little more when he started brewing his own beer and growing his own hops, although the hops have not turned out to be quite the gateway plant that I was hoping them to be so that I could get him sucked into gardening as well. Maybe I should think about planting a stand of barley somewhere.

But if I had any doubts about the homesteading bug having bitten him, they were thoroughly quelled when we went down to visit his sister in the country off the Oregon coast this past weekend.  I think I mentioned that he's been splitting wood for the wood stove for this winter.  Lately, as we drive by homes that have large stacks of firewood outside, he drools audibly. 

"Ooh, nice!"  That sort of thing.

This last weekend we went to go visit one of his sister's neighbors about a half-mile away from her place, and while I was admiring his garden (there was not one hole in his cabbage and I'd like to know how he did it), Steve was off admiring Gary's stacks and stacks of firewood.

Bless his heart- he's in front of his computer now, looking for an electric chipper/shredder for my birthday.