Friday, October 30, 2009

Low-Tech Off the Grid Water Supply

When this old house was built back in 1908 there was a very high-tech-at-the-time water system. It consisted of the gutters draining into a cistern which then fed a holding tank in the basement which could be pumped to the old cast iron tub for bathing. Such a luxury! Later on down the line a more modern well and pump was installed along with all the indoor plumbing accessories. Problem is, that modern-day pump needs electricity to run. If the power goes out, so does your water. Most people out in the country solve that problem with a backup generator. But again, that needs to run off some sort of fuel. Fuel which you have to store somewhere. If you don't have one of the built-in models you have to lug the generator to where you need it and reroute a bunch of electrical stuff and then you have to hope the generator actually starts when you need it. There are a whole lot of ifs involved. So I decided I needed a backup for my backup.

The old cistern is still here. It's just a big hole in the ground lined with brick in the back yard. The pipes are no longer functioning and it has pretty much just sat here doing nothing for at least the past sixty years or so. Seems silly to waste a valuable resource doesn't it?

I'm happy to report the cistern is now back "online" and fully operational. The guys simply rerouted the gutter to drain into the cistern and installed a shallow well hand pump. I plan to use this as my water source for gardening. In the event of a power failure I'll have another source of water for the animals. If I wanted to I could even filter the water and drink it myself. And all I have to do is pump the handle a few times. Hmph! So, um, who was it that said technology makes our lives easier?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nanny Knits a Nest

Thing is. She doesn't even like cats. Well, it's not so much that she doesn't like them as much as she's afraid of them. She's always afraid they'll jump up on her. It's a justified fear considering she's usually knitting. Cats are fascinated by knitting. Nanny has been knitting for 50 years and knits so fast it makes the yarn bounce. That is a cat's dream toy if there ever was one.

I think she knit her this bed to try to keep her in one spot. Far, far away from her. It needs another run through the washer to complete the felting process, but Ethel doesn't want to give it up. I think she likes it.

For those interested you can purchase the pattern at Sheep Street, just ask for the felted pet bed pattern.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Close Your Barn Door

While Nanny and I have been hard at it baking bread and attending quilt shows, the men folk have been working away on the barn. I'm pleased to announce the arrival of barn doors! Hallelujah!

The guy's even built them all fancy-like with dutch doors and everything.

They've also finished putting on the battens.

And re-hung the huge old doors on the other side with new hinges.

Now we can keep all the little critters, and wandering elephants for that matter, out of there. 'Cause you know those elephants can be a real nuisance here in Indiana.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Quilt Show Favorites

I took a break from our crazy busy schedule this week to attend the Indianapolis Quilt Guild quilt show. I thought I would share a few favorites with you. The first one is a quilt by the ladies at the Quilt's Plus booth. I already own this quilt kit. I bought it about 30 seconds after they started offering it for sale. It's next in line on my to do list. I have the perfect spot in my front hall for it to hang.

Next up is a Civil War Diary quilt in the Ruth's Legacy booth. Someday before I die I want to make one of these. Ruth's actually offers the pre-printed paper piecing patterns if you're interested.

I was very, very careful to document the show entrant's names in order to give them credit. And wouldn't you know it the show winner's photo didn't turn out. I'm actively seeking her info and I will post it here once I get it. In the mean time I know you can purchase the pattern and a starter kit for this quilt at Quilt's Plus if you're crazy enough to try it.

I loved everything about this one with the houses. My photo doesn't even come close to doing it justice. It was made by Jan Johnson and quilted by Cyndia Gerner.
And then this one also caught my eye. The colors were just gorgeous. It was made and hand quilted by Judy Sheets. She did a beautiful, beautiful job on this.

There were hundreds of beautiful quilts on display and I can't possibly show them all. The ladies in the Indianapolis Guild are very, very talented. I'll close with one of my favorites of the antique log cabin display. It will always be a toss up for me, I can't decide if the log cabin or the simple nine patch is my all-time favorite block. What is your favorite?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nanny's White Bread

First thing we did once they arrived was to put Nanny to work baking bread. This isn't the first time I've tried getting the recipe from her. When someone has done something for 50 plus years it becomes an involuntary movement. It's difficult to slow them down enough to understand what they're doing. So this time I decided to document it with photos for further analysis.

She says the first thing you HAVE to do is put on your apron and tie your hair up in a scarf, a handkerchief or a pair of panties, whatever you have handy. I opted for a scarf. People think I'm weird enough with chickens living on my back porch. Can you imagine if they stopped by and I had panties on my head?

Then I noticed she put about a cup of warm water in a bowl. Just warm enough as if you were going to feed a baby. To that she added a spoon full of sugar and a package of yeast.

After that she pulled out a giant bowl and poured in a 5lb bag of flour and a hand full of salt. This is where things get hairy for me. I'm one of those people who like real measurements. So I made her measure it in a real, bonafide measuring spoon and it turned out to be about a teaspoon. She also threw in two hand fulls of sugar (about two teaspoons.)
Then she whacked up a half a stick of butter and tossed it in with the yeast mixture.
She started mushing all that up in her hands and started adding water to it. Somewhere around 5 cups of water. Just enough for it to be doughy but not too gooey. There's a fine balance.
Then she pressed start on the bread machine. Er, well that's what I would do. She proceeded to kneed it by hand just like a machine. She's definitely done this before.
You might need to add more flour. The dough texture needs to be like satin.

After that she wrapped the whole bowl up in a blanket and set it aside to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. She punched it down then let it rise again for an hour.

After the second rise she tore out small sections of dough and rolled them into balls. Three balls to a pan. I asked her why she made them into balls instead of one long loaf. She said because that's just the way it's always been done. Okey, dokey then.

One more rise in the buttered pan for about an hour. She made two loaves in a loaf style to satisfy my curiosity.

Turns out she does it because it makes the loaf taller after being baked in the over at 350 for about 45 minutes.

And there you have it. Fifty years of bread baking experience in a nutshell.

I'd highly recommend you serve this toasted with jam. Mmmm. Mmmmm. Good.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Really, It's all About the Food

So, technically, they meet once a month to discuss blacksmithing and work on projects. Only there's not much smithing going on. Oh, sure, there's usually one guy working. Mike here is making a potato masher.

But all the action is around the campfires. Giant boiling vats of beans...

and that middle pot below is full of brown sugar and cinnamon where Cookie (his name's not really Cookie, but that's what I like to call him) is going to put the apples he's cutting up. Yep, you read that right. A giant pot of boiling brown sugar, cinnamon and apples baked over a campfire. O. M. G.

Then he cut up a bunch of onions and hash browns to fill those skillets. Shortly thereafter I asked him to marry me. His wife wasn't to keen on that idea. The Engineer, however, thought we could work something out. ;)

I don't know why food tastes so much better over a fire, but it just does. Now I want one of these built in my kitchen. It would be perfect for my Eternal Soup. Remind me and we'll talk more about that later.

So anyway, they can try to tell me it's about blacksmithing and male bonding and all that jazz, but what it's really about is the food. No question about it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The In-laws are Coming, The In-laws are Coming!

Run! Panic! Hide!

We've had a rash of visitors lately. Not sure why we're so popular all of a sudden but it's been fun. The Golden Girls love being in the spotlight. Now the In-laws will be here Monday for what they think will be a nice leisurely visit. Mwah, ha, ha, ha. Don't ever visit a work-in-progress homestead for more than a day if you know anything at all about anything, 'cause you WILL be put to work. I can hear the hammers banging and smell the bread baking already. Yep, next week I'll have a woman here who has baked homemade bread all her life. If you think I'll let her get away without full disclosure of her bread baking secrets you're crazy. Who knows, I may even video tape it for future reference.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shabby Chic

The hens have really let themselves go around here. Look at her, she only has one tail feather.

The Fat Bottom Girls are molting like nobody's business. It looks like a chicken or two exploded inside the coop. Egg production is a quarter of what it was. I'm going to have to go crack the whip and get 'em back in shape. I may need to call Bob and Jillian in on this deal.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Old One-Eyed Calico Jack: "You, Scallywag, bring me the blimey wire cutters. "

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two's Company

Blanche: "Was it something I said?"

"It's because I'm fat, isn't it?"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

And They Lived Happily Ever After

Sometimes when you love something you have to set it free. I love Sir Sparky D'Uccle so very, very much. I love everything about him from his cute fuzzy cheeks down to his feathered feet that make swooshing noises when he walks like he's wearing corduroy pants.

His wife, Lady Millie D'Uccle is every bit as sweet as he is. She never wants to leave his side and is very demure and lady-like.

Her maidservant, Twiggy, is just a wee little thing. So, so precious.

My girl Pearl is a goofball. She kind of wattles like a duck when she runs.

And Minnie won the Mother Hen of the Year award this year, taking the best care of her babies.

Her baby girl is almost all grown up and will need a name soon.

I love them all dearly. But Old Jack's side of the coop is getting crowded. Jack doesn't like Sparky. Even though I love them and would be willing to stash them in my closet, the right thing to do would be to find them a new home. A new home where Sparky can be the man of the house. As you can imagine, I couldn't let them go to just anybody.

No. Somehow, someway, I would need to find The Best Chicken Momma Ever. Only she would be allowed to take my precious Sparky. It seemed like an impossible task. I mean how does one exactly go looking for The Best Chicken Momma Ever? But luckily The Best Chicken Momma Ever just happens to read my blog! She took notice when I mentioned I would need to start looking for a new home for them. She had her Momma send me an e-mail and ask if I might consider her as a candidate for Sparky's new Momma and attached the following photo.

And then waited anxiously for a response.

And then I said "Of course! Of course!" I recognize The Best Chicken Momma Ever when I see her! So Sparky and all his ladies are going to move to Wisconsin to live in their fancy new coop near a cabin in the woods where I just know they will live happily, ever, after.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Can't Do It

I told myself I was really going to pare down and let some of the extra roosters around here go before winter. But I can't do it.

I'm too in love with JB (Jack's Boy). I mean just look at him. He is so incredibly handsome. His golden feathers glisten in the sunlight. It would be like getting rid of the golden goose.

JB's got to stay. We just may need to build an addition onto the coop. Or maybe he could live on the back porch? Or I could stash him in my closet...

Monday, October 5, 2009


The De-Rabbitized Zone. I loved Beatrix Potter growing up. The stories. The cute little drawings of fuzzy bunnies. That was before I started gardening. I no longer like bunnies. Nope. Now it's war.

Over the weekend the Engineer fashioned a rabbit proof garden gate.

Then installed a rabbit proof fence.

The placement of which was determined by the old gas acetylene generator. If you haven't been hanging out here since the beginning and haven't heard the fascinating story behind the generator you really should go check it out.

The generator sat on a concrete slab that isn't going anywhere fast. It and gads of bricks are embedded in the ground most likely because of the explosion. What explosion you ask? See, I told you. You really should read that story. Anyway, it made setting the corner post a bit challenging and not even remotely square.

But I think it will hold the fence up and keep our DRZ secure. All that is left to do is cut the corner posts down and install a chicken hatch so the chickens can come in and work their excavating magic on the area.

In the mean time Sparky looks longingly at the grass and bugs. "If only I could get to the other side."

Soon, little buddy, soon.