Sewing for Dummies

I love to sew.

I don’t get to do it too often, but as of late, I have been sneaking into my craft room and stitching when I can. I love to sew, and yet it is the one craft that can drive me slap out of my own mind.

My latest project is a copycat of a tubular scarf/hat/balaclava/head wrap thing that I bought from Academy for an embarrassing amount of money, considering that it is 2 thin pieces of material. I thought that recreating it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

I was wrong.

I thought that sewing a dual sided tube wouldn’t propose much of a problem.

I was wrong.

I thought that what I paid for it at the store was way too much.

Actually, I have to say, it was the deal of a lifetime, considering the mental abuse I just caused myself.

There is an optical illusion…I forget its exact name, but it is an impossible creation. It looks similar to the infinity sign in shape, but its essentially a long, twisting tube that has no end nor beginning. Well, they SAID it was an impossible creation. I’m here to tell you that I made that thing out of fabric tonight. There was no logic, rhyme, nor reason to the various shapes that I turned out this evening. What was supposed to be a simple tube-like scarf turned into a pillow, then a giant headband that could have fit an elephant, and then the shape-thing that actually defied any current laws of physics. I’m pretty sure I just disproved several laws of physics, in fact. My seam ripper burst into flames after I tore out enough stitches to sew an entire closet full of garments.

Finally, I laid down the fabric, turned off my sewing machine, iced down the seam ripper, and slowly backed out of the craft room.

It’s one of those kind of days.

Evolution of a home

Sometimes, pictures are the best way to tell a story. I would like to share with you the progression of our farm house from when we moved in, back in 2008, to the current day. First, a story of our home.

This house wasn’t built on site. It was purchased from Kilgore College in the early 90s and moved to the current location. I heard that it cost around $32,000 for the house and the moving costs.  From the little information we have gathered (that is, looking at a date stamp on the underside of a toilet tank lid), the house is from 1952.  Of course, it could be older than that, but it sounds pretty good to me.  Overall, the construction seems to be pretty good. Most of the walls are solid tongue-in-groove pine, which is great because I hate sheetrock. Unfortunately, the exterior was an absolute nightmare and there was no way for it to hold paint properly. The edges of the house had aluminum caps, which was where moisture would seep in and cause paint to fail, and thus peel. The roof was asphalt shingles and in bad condition. There wasn’t a scrap of insulation to be found. The A/C unit was on its very last legs…honestly, I can’t even say it had legs at all. In other words, it was just a worn out old house in need of repair, just like any other old house. I like to to think it was waiting for us.

I have loved this house, I have hated this house. I have cried over it, cussed it more than I should admit, cursed it, beat it, yelled at it, and wanted to put a match to it (don’t worry, State Farm, I would NOT do that!).  Still, never have I not appreciated it. It’s our home, we have worked hard to get it where it is today, and I am proud to show it to you. Click on any photo to enlarge it.

It’s been a crazy 5+ years. Here’s to many more.

August 2008:

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January 2009:

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June 2009:

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February 2010:

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January 2011:

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February 2011 (sick of the cold house):

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July 2011:IMG_5249

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April 2012:

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October 2013:

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I don’t think that I need to tell you that it looks different, yet again, only 3 months later.  The painting/staining is still underway and it looks much better today.  I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane with us!

The Cat Who Came for Dinner

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I’m not usually a ‘cat person’.

I typically like cats that are dog-like, or at least, just don’t act like in the snobby and stuck up way that a cat usually does. I like cats with distinctive personalities and not the kind of cats that solicit a good rub down then claw and bite you mid-way through when they have had their fill. Or cats that give off the impression that they don’t need you, don’t really want you there, and would, quite frankly, probably be much happier should you drop dead in front of them.

I have had such a cat. Actually, I have had a few cats that I can remember. First was Tinker, when I was just a wee pup of 3 years old. Tinker turned out to actually be a neighbor’s cat, but she was my first official pet, even if I couldn’t claim her as my own. The next was my solid black tom, Blackie, and his adopted ‘brother’, Tiger. Blackie sadly ran off to a neighbor’s house after one of my brother’s ‘friends’ chucked pinecones at him one too many times. Tiger was with us for many years until he decided to car surf (don’t ask) one day down the road and we never saw him again. The next was a cat that I have written about before, Garfield. You can read about Garfield in my posts, Super Fantastic Cat Alarm 5000, Super Fantastic Cat Alarm 2, and finally in his last blog, It Ain’t Always Easy. That was the last time we had a cat that I really loved.

I told myself we would never own another cat. Ever.

Every cat that I loved either packed up and left of its own accord or met their end with an automobile in some way. Cats, for whatever reason, are attracted to cars in the same way that moths and June bugs are attracted to your porch light. I also don’t like the idea of an outdoor cat, because they usually will kill birds, lizards, toads, and all of the creepy crawlies that I enjoy having around.

God, as usual, had other plans.

One day, as we were quietly doing math problems in our homeschool room, in the midst of division problems, the kids scream out, “CAT! IT’S A CAAAAAAAT!” After recovering from my minor heart attack brought on by the piercing screams of 2 children during a moment of silence, I look out the window to see the slinky tail of a cat sauntering (because that’s what cats do…they don’t walk, they saunter) past our barn. I make the kids stay inside and I run outside to try and find said cat. Of course, it’s nowhere to be found. They can do that, you know. Disappear magically without the slightest trace.

About a week later, we were in the barn when suddenly a cat came flying out from nowhere…right by my legs. I’m doing a weird, leaping dance while making strange, unintelligible choking noises with 3 small dogs chasing a stray cat who is running through my legs and a big 100 pound goober dog who is frantically trying to escape the situation unsuccessfully as his claws skate perilously on concrete while doing sideways donuts around the whole of the fracas. Of course the cat made it out. You knew that, though. As Jason says, anyone with any sense at all will yield to a cat.

A couple of days later, one night I happened to see the cat in the barn snacking on dog food. I call Jason out and as he slammed close one door I closed the other. The cat was trapped. We snuck in. The cat was in a corner, under a workbench and he was not a happy camper. He was meowing in the most pathetic manner you could imagine. Well, as I’m on one side of the barn, Jason makes his way to the other, which in turn is herding the cat STRAIGHT TOWARDS ME. I don’t turn my back on animals I don’t know, and I don’t want to reach for the door because I am terrified that this cat will use me as a human pole vault to escape. Jason is calling, “Here, kitty kiiiiitty!” in his nicest voice and I’m getting slowly cornered as the cat creeps closer and closer.  All I can see is the cat attached to my face, I get rabies, and lose my vision.

In one singular motion, cat leaps (flies) through the air and is now above my head on the supporting 2×4 on the wall of the barn. Only a cat can make a 6 foot leap, scale a post, and walk across a 2″ surface without so much as a single false step.  Now is my turn to escape. I run back to Jason in the safety zone. I don’t think he notices how breathless and pale I am.

J: Well, what now?

Me: I don’t know. What do you think?

J: Well, I mean, we don’t need a stray cat out here. Should we….

Me: Get rid of it?

J: (frowns and shrugs)

Me: I mean, I don’t want to…you know…he’s such a pretty cat. But we can’t have a feral cat around the kids and the chickens.

J: (nods)

Me: (sighs and looks at cat)

(cat is staring at us accusingly through slitted eyes still balancing on his perch)

Me: Crap. Well, we can’t kill the damned thing, I mean, we just can’t. Let’s just wait and see. Let’s let him out.

A week after that, we lost a chicken to a raccoon. Jason set up a live trap using a can of cat food. The next morning, my oldest comes running in the house. “WE CAUGHT A CAAAAAT!” Maybe I should have used a can of coon food. Apparently, if you set a trap using cat food, I guess you’re gonna catch a cat. Well, there you go. There’s a lesson for you.

Let me pause the story to tell you about cats. After working in a veterinary clinic for a few years, there was one animal that I feared the most. Not a snake, huge hissing monitor lizard, angry dog, or a pissed off parrot with a beak like a set of Vise-Grips. It was the cat that struck up the most fear. Not only does a cat have a very impressive and deadly set of nice pointed teeth, but it also has 4 sets of equally sharp claws. Cats have the muscle tone of a bodybuilder and they can rotate their heads and body  something akin to Linda Blair mixed with an owl and a Cirque du Soleil contortionist. You don’t want to tangle with a pissed off cat. You want proof?

This woman was trying to keep this stray cat away from her dog which it had just attacked. Note the body language of the cat. It is completely puffed up, including tail, ears are all the way back, in an extremely defensive posture. Do not EVER approach an animal with these signs unless you want to end up with some time in the ER.

This video gives me flashbacks of two cat attacks I have personally witnessed, and one I didn’t. The first was when I was attacked myself. As I was walking past a friend’s bed, her cat who was the spawn of the devil himself, leapt from the bed and latched all of its teeth into my elbow. It was shocking, it hurt, and I was in disbelief. I am sure that the cat was extremely territorial and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. At any rate, it wasn’t an animal that had any business around children.

The second time was when I was a grooming assistant at a pet store. My co-worker was about to bathe this cat, and I had my back turned. Suddenly, she said my name in a strange and terrified voice. I wheeled around, and the cat was attached to her arm, teeth fully sunk into her flesh, and all 4 sets of claws were also engaged. Wide-eyed, all I knew to do was pop the cat on the head to get it to release. It did, and my co-worker promptly fainted.

Last story I have was about Jason’s aunt. She was going to clean out a storage shed at a new house they had just bought. When she walked in, a feral cat leapt onto her face, attacking her viciously.  I can’t remember if the cat was rabid or not, but I’m sure she at least had to get the vaccines.

So, bearing all that in mind, back to my cat story.

Well….

Well, dear readers, here it is that I have to stop my cat story.

Because, you see, I was writing this nice long blog, all about my love for our new cat. I was writing this on a lovely Saturday afternoon.  Our cat (whom I named Churchill, and ‘Church’ for short) was contentedly sunning himself on our front porch all day long. That night, I locked him up in the barn and the next day, he was gone.

I guess my words held more truth than even I believed.

Cats really can disappear magically without a trace.

Goodbye, Church.  One day, maybe we’ll meet again.

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Baby, it’s cold outside!

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I think potty break time is over, don’t you?  Looked out the side door to see this motley crew staring at me with their most pathetic little looks. Don’t worry, it worked. They were back in the house hogging up space in front of the heater right after I snapped these photos. How could anyone say no to those mugs?

Haven’t we all had that kind of day?

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Lucy taking a break this past fall from doing…well, whatever it is that little dogs do.

Year 5 at the Farm, or, We’re Still Here!

This October marked our 5th anniversary here at the farm. Every year, I try to improve my farm living skills and take away a lesson or two. Here is what I have to say for Year 5:

1. Self-sufficiency, as defined, is far too romanticized and a poor choice for the new ‘Back to the Land’ movement. Point being, you DON’T have to do it all! (hang with me here) – As defined by Wikipedia: “Self-sufficiency (also called self-containment) is the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction, for survival; it is therefore a type of personal or collective autonomy.”

Obviously, most of us are never, ever going to be truly self-sufficient. Let me first say that I completely agree with learning how to do things for yourself. How could it be a bad thing to know how to garden, bake your own break, mill your own grain, can food, bake, raise animals for the products they can provide us, etc.?  It’s not!  However, true self-sufficiency means that we would be doing all of these things without the help of others and also, we’d have to have the ability to make ALL of our own products, from food to clothing.

Now, when you first move onto some land, you get these kinds of ideas: I’M GOING TO GROW MY OWN FOOD! ALL OF IT! I’M GONNA GROW MY OWN VEGGIES, MEAT, DAIRY, ETC., ETC., ETC.! LET’S DO AQUAPONICS! LET’S DO HYDROPONICS! LET’S DO ANYTHING-PONICS! LET’S GROW ALL OUR OWN FOOD FOR OUR ANIMALS! LET’S GROW OUR OWN COTTON, GET A SPINNING WHEEL AND A LOOM, AND MAKE OUR OWN CLOTHING! I’M GONNA GET SOME ANGORA RABBITS AND USE THE FUR TO MAKE HATS AND MITTENS! i COULD MILL MY OWN LOGS! LET’S MAKE OUR OWN BIO-FUEL, AND, AND, AND, AND, and so on and so forth until you are doing so much that you don’t have a single spare moment in your day because you’re feeding, weeding, building, maintaining, and repairing things around the farm. Now, let’s address the part about being autonomous.

You do NOT have to do everything for yourself.  Example:  I refuse to grow yellow squash. Ain’t gonna do it, ain’t gonna pick squash bugs off the squash plants, not going to worry what I’m going to do with 200 pounds of yellow squash that my plants produced. What’s a farm girl to do? I buy my squash (very cheaply, may I add) from a little man down the road in a reasonable quantity. I do not have to deal with the squash bugs, the watering, the Tryingtosneaksquashintoeverymeal Problem. For two dollars, I do not have to deal with these things. By doing so, I am helping out a local farmer AND myself, because there is that much more time that I have to NOT be worrying about Yellow Squash Syndrome. While I do know HOW to grow and cultivate yellow squash, after a year of growing it I will not be doing that again. I think it’s knowing exactly HOW to do something, and not necessarily DOING it that is important. Of course, you do have to actually do something to truly know HOW to do it, but you don’t have to keep on DOING it, you see? I know HOW to knit and crochet because I have done it in the past, but I don’t DO it very often. I can ride a bike, but I don’t DO it.

The last problem I have with the ‘self-sufficiency’ by definition is that it leaves other people out of the picture. Unless you are living alone in a cabin in some remote part of the country, you need a good Farm Person Network. As I said above, I pay a retired man for my squash every year. My money helps him to offset his costs and hopefully give him a bit of farm income. In return, I get to spend some of my time doing other things. By other things, I mean not growing crookneck squash. By buying milk locally, I don’t have to buy, feed, and maintain a cow. By buying veggies I don’t really care to grow from a farmer’s market or buying locally produced meats, I am helping others.

There is a mental image that is projected from so many of the back-to-the-land magazines and books that seems to tell you that you should be doing everything they write an article about. Stop and take a deep breath. Don’t forget the worth of networking! You will find some of the most amazing people doing some fabulous things by networking in your farm community. If you don’t grow or raise a certain something, chances are someone in your local area does. Don’t get into the mindset that you must produce everything on your own farm. It’s okay to NOT be self-sufficient!

2. It’s okay to take a break from farming. After the drought of 2011, I was disgusted with gardening. I had watched many of my crops wither and die and frankly, it was more than depressing. If you have read my blog, you will also know that I have been flooded, pestered to death by pests, and rampaged by rabbits. Things like this wear on you. Every year, I record my gardening efforts in a garden journal. THIS year, I think I wrote in it maybe two times. I haven’t planted a true winter garden and it’s already November. I told my husband to lock me up if I mentioned raising broiler chickens and turkeys ever again. When it got really hot this summer (July-September), I refused to do any garden work.

I needed this break from my farming life. I don’t need every second of the day penciled in with farm chores. Because my garden had been planned out pretty well, it didn’t seem to mind that it was ignored for 2 whole months other than a very occasional weeding every few weeks.  I don’t miss broiler chickens. I don’t feel guilty that I’m not whipping up a fresh batch of bread a few times a week.

Now that I’ve had some time to sit back, think, and streamline my farm ‘plan’, life is a lot better. I no longer am near tears when I look out into the front yard at all the work I haven’t done. Sometimes, you need to sit back, rethink the wheel for a bit, and make decisions to make your life less stressful. Letting some things go (even cool farm things!) is perfectly fine. Now that I’ve had a mental holiday, I find that I am ready more than ever to do little projects and experiments around the house.

But not too many.

3. The most precious thing I raise on the farm is my family.  It’s easy to get so caught up in all the busyness of your farm life that you forget what is most important.  At the end of the day, it’s your family that matters the most.

And now on to 2014!!!