Thursday, August 27, 2009

4 down......

I've completed 2 more gowns for a total of 4 and that only leaves me 1 more to do! I will leave the 5th and last gown until everything else is done though since it's the least of my worries. The white gown has a tucked front and the skirt is pleated, it reminds me of a tuxedo so that's what we call it, the "tuxedo gown". I will finish up the last bits on the chemises by next week and hopefully the sacque (the bonnet is already done) and that's it!!! I'll be done with the baby's layette with time to spare! I need to order some diapers, I had quite a few newborn sized fitteds but I loaned them out and they never came back. I need another wool soaker or two and some diaper pins...... but I am truly almost ready. Your 9th baby might as well be your first; by the time you have that many most of your clothing is worn out and has to be replaced anyway. I made some diaper rash cream last week with comfrey, plantain, chickweed and shepherd's purse. We also use it for wounds etc. and I want to make a batch of unscented soap to use on the baby, I'd like it to be done before I go to the hospital so that I can give him his bath. I don't want him leaving my sight the entire time. We are printing out our "refusal of care" forms worded the way we want them instead of the standard form that implies that you're negligent for refusing. We basically refuse everything: eye drops, vitamin K, hib shot, PKU test, all of it.

We picked up 15 dozen ears of corn yesterday and will get 15 dozen more on Saturday. We are drying it all like we did last year, I want a total of 60 dozen by the time it's all said and done. Katie did all the corn yesterday, the younger ones husked it and she did all the blanching, cutting, and stirring it every 15 minutes in the oven. It's easier for me to sit and sew than it is to bustle around the kitchen these days ("bustle" seems kind of comical considering how slow I am these days :-)) We missed "sewing hour" yesterday but Katie did get another baby cap sewn this week, it's like the other only in a bigger size.

We also brought home 40 zucchinis. I really like zucchini but you can only eat it so many days in a row so we looked for other recipes and found Zucchini Pickles, I hope that we like them! I will add zucchini to our relish and I suppose if I can't find enough ways to use it then the animals can have it.

I noticed that the cicadas started singing a few weeks ago, a sure sign that Summer is waning along with the goldenrod in bloom. Public school started this week although we won't until after Labor day. Usually I'm all excited and so ready to be doing school again, this year however, I'm not ready! It came too soon, the garden is rather late this year and the baby's coming and I need more time! We'll be gathering apples before long to press into cider and making sugar beet syrup as well. Will there be enough hours in the day? To every season there is its own work and unique pleasures. Here's to you enjoying and appreciating yours and us to enjoying and appreciating every moment of ours!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Projects projects everywhere....

We have a "Sewing Hour" after lunch where the girls and I work on our projects. Today I was working on the baby's wool winter bonnet, Tabitha was stitching on her tea towels, and Rebekah was practicing her techniques on some designs that I drew (the little girls went to town with Dad). Katie whipped up this adorable little cap for her project. It is a double layered flannel newborn cap, isn't it too cute for words? It has a 3 piece body like some from the Wisconsin Historical Society collection. She finished it with twill tape ties, I can't wait to see how it looks on the baby!

In our family the girls are required to be competent with hand sewing before they are allowed to use the machine, I'm a big fan of samplers! I like the quiet time spent with just the girls and I while they work on such important skills. The boys work on some project with Dad or Aleks while we sew, today it was building movable turkey roosts.

We picked this bed up about 8 years ago from somebodies garbage, Aleks has been using it but because it's a 3/4 bed no standard mattress fits it. I needed to get Abby out of our bed and used to sleeping with Elisabethe so we decided to make a straw tick to fit the frame. The bed is square nailed and dates from the 1860-1880 range, I think. It was originally red, then black, then yellow and most recently green. ;-) Anyhow, Katie sewed most of the tick together and then we filled it and made it up so you could see it (yes, it's outside in the picture but it's too dim in the bedroom to see). I thought it would be a hard adjustment for Abby but she loves it! Elisabethe took it much harder, she is used to sleeping with Katie and she was a little tearful about leaving Katie to sleep alone. Isn't that sweet? ;-)

This white gown is the latest completed baby article. I'm sorry that it's so hard to see details but white on white is tricky. There are 4 vertical rows of 100% cotton lace on the bodice as well as some lace on the sleeves.

I received my milk paint order yesterday but before tackling the cradle we decided to paint this shelf first. It wasn't a priceless antique so if we really messed it up it wouldn't matter. We painted it 2 coats of Federal Blue and I really like how it turned out. Milk paint is supposed to look faintly streaky, that's the nature of it and it feels very chalky to the touch. There were zero fumes and I helped to paint it even. I love milk paint!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A time to every purpose

This has been a busy and productive week for us thus far so I thought I'd blog about the highlights. The green beans and sugar peas are still in full swing, we dehydrate/can some every 2 days and will continue for a few more weeks. I'm expecting our corn to be ready any day now and so then we'll have 30-40 dozen ears to process, but in the meantime we haven't been idle. ;-)

When my sister Dawn brought out the cradle she also brought along loads of comb honey. A man that they know does bee removal and some of the honey he takes out of buildings he gives to them. As you can see, it was not the most aesthetically pleasing honey I've ever seen, so we strained out the liquid honey and got well over one gallon. With the remaining comb we rendered out the wax by repeated boilings and strainings. The house smelled so wonderful during the process!

The final rendered product all ready for candle making or salves. Quite a contrast to the "before" picture, isn't it?
These are Aleks' first Jacob's Cattle beans that he harvested. They are an heirloom dried bean good for baking and soups. They were easy to grow and prolific to boot! He has several other heirloom varieties that aren't quite mature enough as of yet but should be ready soon. After he has all the seed stock that he'll need for next year, we get to eat the rest. The thought of homemade bread with soups and chowders to accompany it almost makes me wish for cooler weather. ;-)

We have been making peach jam quite a bit this week. I made it the same way as the other jams we made: with very little sugar and no added pectin. We added cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and it was delicious (we ate some this morning on cornbread)!

And, on the sewing front: I found this piping cord and I just love its tiny size for baby gowns, the scale is perfect! I used it on...........

My first completed baby gown! I have several white Pima ones almost finished but I was running short on white thread after my chemise marathon so I decided to make up a printed gown.

This gown has a total length of 21" which seems to me to be a more practical length for a gown that will see a lot of use. I believe it was Sarah Jane that mentioned that longer gowns tend to trail about and become very dirty. The skirt is a very full 60" to more easily facilitate diaper changes and the sleeves are plenty wide so little arms will slide in easily. I'm really enthralled with it, I hung it on the jelly cupboard so I could look at it often. :D

Friday, August 7, 2009

So, what do *you* think?

My Mom and Dad sent me out this cradle to use for our new little one. They weren't really sure of the age or even if it was the natural wood or if it was painted. We decided to use a little stripper in an inconspicuous spot to see just what we were dealing with and if it was the "original finish" we would leave it as is, but if it wasn't, we would refinish it. That seemed the safest course as we were concerned about multiple layers of lead based paint. As it turned out, it was multiple layers of paint, 3 to be exact. Brown then black then green. Really bright green! Below is the cradle partially stripped, you can see the green running down the side.

So, we stripped it all the way and sanded it, but the best we could get it is pictured below. We wanted a more accurate date for it so we asked an antiques dealer that we know and an antiques restorer for an age estimate. They place the date in the 1840-1850 range, we also found out that it was definitely homemade, hand planed, square nailed and the original color was green. Since the paint is milk paint that explains why we couldn't get it all out. The restorer said that we now have basically 2 choices: leave it as is, add a light stain and seal it. You will always be able to see the green this way. Or, choice #2, paint it again as it originally was. The original color of milk paint can be viewed here, it is the one called Tavern Green. Or I suppose we could paint it some other color.

Almost nobody likes the idea of repainting it, it runs contrary to our 21st century sensibilities that prefer natural looking wood. However, even though I wouldn't want a whole house full of painted furniture, I do like it for some pieces. When this cradle was built it wasn't fashioned from oak or cherry or another "beautiful" wood, it was made from utilitarian poplar which isn't really considered pretty. It was designed to be painted and brighten the home where it was used, as painted furniture is very, very common from this era.
So, the question is: what do you think I should do? Please tell me truthfully, I really want to know! If everybody thinks painting it would be hideous, then I'll probably bow to your wisdom and not repaint it. I'm starting to doubt myself here. ;-) I'm inclined to paint it mostly so it will look as it was intended to look but I'm afraid that I'll wish I hadn't once it's done. Oh, the indecision!!! Opinions please. ;-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

State of the Farm Address

Rebekah had her 9th birthday on Monday and of all the things that she wanted, a pet was first on her list. Now, I'm not much for "pets", animals that pay their own way and earn their keep? Sure! But not getting an animal just for the sake of having it. We used to have ducks and though I haven't missed them since they've been gone, the children did. So, I heard a lot about how ducks would keep the fly population down and other enticing statistics. ;-) There *are* tons of flies here; the man who keeps his heifers here in the big barn rarely cleans it and it is a gigantic fly incubator. Anyhow, we got her 2 Black Swedish and 1 Blue Swedish duckling. She was thrilled with them!
The garden is really producing well, we're racing to keep up with it. As you know, I'm a big advocate of dehydrating foods but I do can some as well. I look on the canned stuff as "convenience" food since it's quick to prepare/heat up but I like to use it sparingly as it is nutritionally depleted. I think jars of canned produce do look pretty though!
And! The big news is that Tansy calved yesterday!!! She had a heifer calf which is Aleks' as part of his graduation gift from us. She is named Senna. The birth went just as I wished it would: outside in the fresh grass, with no problems. Tansy cleaned her up and she went to nursing.
We've worked on numerous dairy farms and were pretty sure that we didn't want the conventional dairy model as it relates to birth. On some of the farms the laboring cow is put in a headlock and gives birth there on the concrete. When the calves hooves are showing they tie chains to them and yank the baby out. The calf is them beaten on the chest and cussed at until it breathes, taken away from its Mother and thus begins the life of a dairy cow. :-( On a different farm every birth was attended and the calf literally did not touch the ground before it was taken away, on still another farm the cow gave birth in with all the other cows, usually right in the manure. You would find the calves completely coated in manure, unable to stand with only the tip of their noses showing. Makes you want a glass of milk right now, doesn't it?

The little children weren't there for the birth which I was glad for, but they did watch her eat the afterbirth. Most farmers don't allow this but we do. The placenta is loaded with oxytocin which will slow down any excessive bleeding and it's full of calcium which helps prevent Milk Fever. I actually wasn't worried about Milk Fever as cows who don't eat grain (i.e. grazing cows) rarely get it. After we put the Mama and baby in the barn for the night we gave her warm molasses water and a quantity of comfrey leaves. Together they give an iron boost and an immune system boost. Life seems abundantly good right now! ;-)

Monday, August 3, 2009

We welcome thee

We attended worship services a week ago in Salem, Ohio at the Wilbur Friends Meeting House. We had a very blessed day and enjoyed both the Sabbath School and the service itself. As you know~ or maybe not~ Conservative Quakers employ what is called "waiting worship". As you take your seat in the meeting house you begin to pray and meditate, when someone feels led to share some words or a prayer then they stand and do so. Consequently there can be long stretches of silence. It paints quite a qontrast to the "programmed" worship generally found in churches. Still, we enjoyed ourselves. The littlest children did very well sitting through the 2 hours of combined services, I was very thankful! We don't "play" in church and since we've been home churching I was afraid that they might not do very well in a new situation.
The meeting house itself is a gorgeous old brick structure that was rebuilt in the 1870's. The huge white shutters are opened to emit the light which is pretty distorted by the original wavy glass of the windows. In the cloak room are several original bookcases with bound volumes of Quaker writings and treatises that seem to be as old as the cases they're housed in. A gal over on the Sewing Academy had recommended a book called American Grit which are the compiled letters of Anna Briggs Bentley. Mrs. Bentley was a Friend (Friend is the preferred term, "Quaker" is derogatory) who settled in eastern Ohio in the early 19th century. Her home meeting was the Salem Monthly Meeting. We visited Hope Cemetary after services where she and many of her family are buried. In many ways things haven't changed all that much in the 200 intervening years, some Friends today still use "thee" and "thou" and the calenders in the Meeting House really do refer to the months and days as "First Month" and "Fourth Day" etc. ;-)
Maybe Anna would still feel at home there, I know we did.