Friday, September 30, 2011

One More Cup of Coffee for the Road. . .

So the song goes.  Mr. Dylan keeps me company in my head while the carpet cleaner  screams in my ears.  Cleaning the little red pickup, Donk is his name, is on the list of Things I Get To Do Today

It was obvious that the floor mats needed to be vacuumed.  The floor itself, yes, that, too.  And the seats.  Then clean the windows and I’d be finished.  But while vacuuming the seats, and I have to admit I noticed two or three on the floor as well, I became aware of some light brown spots.  So now the task is not so simple, not so quick. 

A-lick-and-a- promise approach makes for a bitter, cranky feeling in my gut.  If you are doing a task that you do not enjoy, even the slightest little bit, I have always maintained that doing the task better will produce, if not a “like” for the job, at least a much higher degree of satisfaction during the process and upon completion of the task.  After a very short mental discussion about how to proceed, I rustled up a pan of water, some rags and the cleaning solution.  Two minutes later, I hauled out also the carpet cleaner and adjusted it to the “tools/upholstery” setting at highest sucking power.

I shifted into compound low—just-anybody-try-to-stop-me-now mode—and headed for Donk.  He shivered a bit after seeing the pan of cold water but saw my mood and offered no resistance.  Soap, water, scrub, suck, rinse, suck, rinse, suck!  The seats looked remarkably better in short order.

The floor was next—those areas I had hardly notice earlier—it was their turn.  The little brown areas just disappeared.  Now that was cool.  But wait!  The water being sucked up by the howling equipment was a rich, coffee brown.  Carpet looked clean.  Water coming out was brown.  Better go over the area again. And again.  And again 5 times.  Another 5 times.  Lost count at this point.  Just how many cups of coffee has slipped from the drivers’ (correct playing of apostrophe, since my daughter had used Donk in college, and many, many of her friends had driven this sweet, hardworking little pickup) hands and ended up on the floor.  They were all in the dehydrated state between the carpet and the floor boards.  And I’m sucking them up, cup by cup.

The rich coffee finally became weak in its color, and I knew there was no more “juice” available in the dregs that remained.

And now as I'm heading out on an errand, sitting on a towel to keep my pants relatively dry on the still-damp seat and very carefully balancing a drink in my hand, I feel sweet satisfaction.  “One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Putting Up for Winter

My girls love their greens.  First thing out in the morning, they head straight to the green-grass area.  Never need to mow the grass or pull dandelions in their portion of the lawn.  They're all over that job.  And their yokes are orange!  Did I mention that my girls are chickens?  Those orange yokes in their eggs come from the dark greens they gobble up.  But by the end of summer their lawn is trimmed neatly nearly to the ground, and when the cool fall and cold winter slow its recovery even further, the insistent rains and constant chicken feet make a brown, sticky mat with only a suggestion of grass, certainly not enough to satisfy five greens-addicted hens.

Keeping chickens is old-fashioned and, therefore, very popular in our town.  Anything retro, mid-century or from back in the day is sure to catch the ear and the attention.   Putting up for winter is also coming back into vogue.  "Putting up" means canning, freezing or drying or otherwise preserving fruits and vegetables for use later, more specifically for winter when, a mid-century ago, fresh produce was hard or impossible to come by if your garden was under snow or just mud.

So, caught on the wave of a popular retro activity, I'm putting up for winter for my girls.  The freezer is nearly full, and I'm only half done.  May have to buy another freezer and don't know where there would be space for it. But hold on, I've gotten a bit ahead of myself here.  It's the strawberries' fault, really it is.

What do you put around strawberries for mulch?  You know--the stuff that keeps the moisture in the ground and keeps the berries clean?  Well, straw, of course.  Since the chickens use straw in their coop for a floor covering that is entertaining to scratch in and usually productive with a few kernels of grain that missed the thrashing equipment,  there was plenty around for mulching not only the strawberries but all the garden beds.

And being a smarty-pants gardener, imagine my surprise when shocks of green sprang up in the strawberries.  And in the tomatoes, the kale, the cucumbers, the squash, the basil, the parsley, the peas and the blueberries.  Small consolation for me was that I knew the stuff wasn't really a weed.  It wasn't harming anything so I let it grow.  And grow.  And grow.

Strawberries are in there somewhere.
My chickens like to show off and so do I so several times during the summer I had pulled a tuft of the grass, grabbed the  scissors, chopped it into little pieces and watched with satisfaction as the girls made it disappear almost before it touched the ground.  Folks coming to see the chickens in action were amazed.

I might be slow, but I'm not dumb, and eventually all the pieces would come together as an idea in my brain.  Finally they did.  Did a test run first.  The blender made a green hairball of the wheat grass like a cross between the Jolly Green Giant and Garfield's worst nightmare.  Better give it some more thought.  The girls like to eat bite-sized pieces of things they think are food though a little on the big side is no problem.  One of the hens once ate a slug the size of my thumb though it took her three or four serious swallows; and she stood, head down, breathing deeply for 15 or 20 seconds while the other hens looked on admiringly.  You could hear her thinking: I can't believe I ate the whole thing.

So really tough wheat grass into 1/2" long pieces?  Paper cutter to the rescue!  Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop is one of the things I get to do today.

Chopping it onto a flexible mat makes it easier to bag.
Bag it up.  Pop it into the freezer.  When all is harvested and processed, I hope to have put up enough to last through the brownest parts of winter.

Great way to use old plastic bags

By the way, wheat grass freezes perfectly.  The girls disappeared the test-frozen greens, thawed easily before it hit the ground on a recent hot afternoon, and didn't even need to pause for a few deep breaths.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Diapers for my table saw

At first I didn't know whether to call it a diaper or a skirt, but then as I pondered the purpose of the garment, I said diaper, definitely diaper.  Skirts are never used to catch waste products, diapers definitely are.  Having settled the name issue first, I went on to design this nappy contraption in my head while sawdust was flying all over the garage which means all over the weightlifting and fitness equipment, all over the extra food supplies,  all over the camping equipment, all over everything.  And that's the trouble with my newest, latest and greatest plarking projects ("plark" is focused play, as in 3/4 play and 1/4 work without any of the negative thoughts associated with work).  One of the side effects of this particular form of plarking is sawdust.

When you use a table saw, you get lots of sawdust.  I love working with wood, and I never knew that until about two years ago.   Since then, in addition to piles of sawdust, I've created a chicken tractor,  a chicken coop, chicken roosts and ramps--anything and everything to do with chickens--nest boxes, boxes for treats, a food buffet to feed the hens but not the rats.  And gates.  I've made lots of gates to keep the chickens and the yard and the garden separate.

But then last spring this amazing book called Vertical Gardening by Derek Fell (Rodale Press) fell into my hands, and I began building things for the garden.  A vertical garden involves a structure that will support the plants as they grow up, freeing the soil space for the stem and roots of the plants and therefore making really good use of the garden space one has.  So I built seven of these structures for my garden beds and spent all of a rainy Mother's Day in the garage with the table saw creating the cross members and support pieces.  In other words--making lots more sawdust!

And today I was making a huge ring of sawdust on the garage floor while the finer particles were drifting on to absolutely everything else as I fine tuned the metamorphous of my vertical garden structure into a protected area and greenhouse for winter and a seedling nursery for spring.  And that's when I had had enough!  Enough of the sawdust stuck to the bottom of my shoes and tracked onto areas of the floor not already thick with the fragrant fibers, enough of the fairy ring of sawdust creeping wider and wider onto the yet-bare floor.  This was one of the Things I get to do today!

With the design in my head and not even taking off my gloves, I found some discarded garden blanket and measured the waist  and "crotch" distance of the Rockwell/Delta 10" contractor's table saw.  Armed with this information, I quickly cut the fabric, found snap tape for holding it together in the front, found cord for the drawstring waist and the drawstring tuck-under-the-buns at the bottom.  Shortly thereafter this Rockwell/Delta table saw sat proudly outfitted in its own fresh, clean dust-diaper.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vacuuming the gutters!

Whoever heard of such a thing?  This I have to share.  I'm so excited about a recent discovery that the leaf blower found in Aunt Alice's garage after she died 15 years ago and immediately claimed by me, will not only blow the constantly-falling curly black locust leaves off the patio every day from Spring to Winter, but with a slight change in parts (more about that in another post) will also vacuum the blown hedgerow of buttery golden "petals" into a tidy bag which can then be emptied into the garden bed to help make fat, healthy vegetables next summer.

So after a month or so of no rain and now Fall's gentle cooling shifting the possibility of precipitation, I added "check the gutters" to the carefully written page of Things I get to do today.  After readying the ladder and the blower-now-vacuum with its catcher bag, I had the great satisfaction of sucking up the leaves that filled the gutter to over the brim.  What is it that is so fun about making a pile of something just disappear completely?  My heart nearly skipped a beat with the delight of it all.  Just slur-r-r-r-r-r-p and it's gone!