Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dropping Out And Dropping Back In...

When I last posted I had no intention of dropping out, not posting again for 3-1/2 months. But for some reason, once a couple weeks passed with no post made, I just couldn't convince myself that anything I was considering posting was blog-worthy.

I follow a number of blogs, and even though I'm still a greenhorn at this, I tend to expect myself to be as good at it as my favorite bloggers. I re-read what I'm about to post - and then I hesitate - and then I walk away thinking, "Okay, I'll rework this tomorrow and spice it up a bit." Well, tomorrow never comes, or if I do rework an item, I often convince myself it's still too boring anyway. Insecure about my writing? Not normally, but apparently the whole permanence/posterity aspect of the web has made me just that.

I wish I could blame it on my childhood. Or better yet, on my brother. That used to work when we were kids. It can't work now, though - after all, he's one of my few readers. So it rests on my shoulders to either drop out altogether or drop back in on a more regular basis.

I think I'll drop back in. And to make it a little easier on myself, I'll stop expecting my posts to compare favorably to those I follow. I think I'll mostly post about our adventures of transitioning from city life toward a completely different life at Le Rustique. I'll leave the deep philosophy - the gorgeous photos - and the laugh-out-loud humor to my favorite bloggers - and maybe over time with lots more practice, I'll just get a little better at all those things.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is it really September already?

I'm not sure where the time has gone since my last post, but I need to adopt some serious time management skills. We're having new windows and siding installed at the house at Le Rustique right now, so I'm finding it hard to do anything but take hundreds of photos each day - and a few ibuprofen. Seriously, I never thought what it would sound like to have five guys pounding on three different sides of your house at once - starting at 6:45 a.m.. Thank God they didn't bring seven guys so they could hit all four sides at once. But here's proof that we needed the new windows:
Mud daubers and red hornets had set up entire housing projects in these old aluminum sliding windows - state of the art back in 1965 when the house was built, but not very practical now. Thank goodness for American-made loE, energy-efficient wood sliding windows. Already the rooms stay cooler and quieter!

To get away from the constant hammering, I took a walk down to our pond to see what Big Daddy accomplished last weekend when I was too allergy-stricken to wander far. (Still am, but anti-histamines are starting to keep up.)
Those cedar posts you see in the water used to have six strands of barbed wire plus a full course of sheep fence attached. Big Daddy has the arthritic hands to prove how hard he worked, as well as the muddy boots, socks and work pants to prove how deep he had to go to take it all down, but I missed that photo op.  Suffice it to say, he worked his ass off, and I appreciate his efforts.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Work-In-Progress - 2011, 0803...

Many of my artist blogging friends post a WOYWW (What's On Your Workdesk Wednesday) in order to keep up with what others are creating. Some have told me they like doing this because it pushes them to make progress with their art each week, and it provides them with a historical record of their artistic growth.

So I thought I would take a cue from them. I certainly don't consider myself an artist, but I do take pleasure in using what skills I have to create something now and then. I like the idea of reminding myself that, in spite of often having too many creative irons in the fire at any given time and not always finishing them, I do usually still move from Point A to Point B on these projects - probably not fast enough for a weekly update, but how about a periodic one?

This week I'm working on recovering back cushions for the old couch in the basement at Le Rustique. One of Big Daddy's partners gave us a four-cushion couch, a couple love seats and a round oak table with four chairs when we closed on the farm. The furniture is in great shape, but the upholstery is dated and doesn't fit in with our Cowboys & Indians decor in the rest of the house.

I found a great slip cover for the couch, but the back cushions are better suited to being used pillow-style on top of the slip cover. Easy solution - recover the soft, pillow-y cushions with this fabric.

But to stop there would be too easy, right? In order to finish the cushions properly, I want covered piping all around the edges. And that's where things get a little complicated - and time consuming, of course. Although you can't tell from my photograph (I need lessons using flash in my work space!), the background on this fabric is kind of a brick red with more blue than yellow undertones. Now try finding piping or bias tape in that shade - impossible. I did, however, find a gorgeous faux suede remnant in a complementary red (although once again the flash photos don't tell a true story, as the fabrics really are close enough to the same color), so I'm all set to make my own piping - ten yards of it.

Using the parallelogram tubing method of making bias strips (a fancy way of saying 'shortcut'), here's how it goes:
Calculate the size square you need, lay it out and cut it in half diagonally.

Reposition the pieces with the right sides of the hypotenuses (hypotenii?) together, pin and sew a narrow seam, thus forming a parallelogram - which you then mark with parallel lines the desired width of your bias strips.

Offsetting the lines by one strip, pin right sides together to form a tube, and stitch it closed.

Start cutting single thickness along the marked lines, and voila - continuous bias strip.

The fabric in front is just a leftover strip that goes in my "Scraps & Embellishments  -  Red" box of goodies.
And now I'm ready to make the piping.

And because I'm never content to have just one thing on my plate at any given time, here is my other work-in-progress for this week.

Repurpose an old, beat up short bench, footstool thing gleaned from some garage sale somewhere along the way. I have a remnant of silk decorator fabric that is barely enough to cover the bench. As you'll no doubt notice, I was able to center the motif side-to-side, but I didn't have enough to position the arrow exactly where I wanted it. But, hey, when someone needs a place to plunk their backside to pull on a pair of boots, do you think they'll care? I chose not to remove the old fabric (twice recovered, probably in the twenties and again in the fifties) since I didn't want any more padding, and I sure didn't want to have to clean up old batting fibers. I also had to fill the cushion's original screw holes with wood putty so they could grab and hold the new screws. And now - a very nearly finished work-in-progress (just waiting for the spray paint to fully dry in this incessant humidity).

Both of these projects are destined for Le Rustique. And no, they don't go in the same room together, (not even the same floor of the house), but thanks for asking. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Help! I'm Melting...

Will someone please come tell me a bedtime story about snow fairies, ice queens, polar bear dens, blizzards and penguins? Maybe it would take my mind off this "oppressive heat" - which is what our weather people have resorted to calling this steam/sauna effect that smacks you in the face as soon as you open the door.

This is what LazyDog thinks of the Dog Days of August:

And this is what we're having for dessert tonight so we can pretend there's an upside:
Blueberry Granita

Friday, July 22, 2011

God Bless Mother Nature...

Ten days is a long time to leave a country property unattended, especially in central Missouri in mid-July. And especially this year where it really is the heat and not the humidity so much. But sometimes life dictates doing just that. Big Daddy and I were fearful that all our little efforts to actually grow something out at Le Rustique would have burned up in ten days with temperatures hovering around 100-degrees and no water.

But God Bless Mother Nature. When we arrived yesterday, I immediately saw life in my little herb garden in the front of the house.

And you can tell from this shot that even the edges of the leaves were in good shape.

Sure, the cilantro had bolted, but it always does that fairly early in the season. At least it's still growing.

I was most worried about the persimmon trees that I cultivated from recovered seeds and planted in a half-barrel on the south side of the house just before the first snowfall this past winter. If I lost them now, I'd be starting over from scratch in a few months. After checking on the welfare of the herbs in the front of the house, and finding them alive and well, I went out back to check the rain gauge. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it measured 1-1/2 inches! Where and when that came along is a mystery, because all the weather reports had been hot and hotter, dry and drier. So I braved the trek around to the side of the house, and voila!

There are nineteen of these baby trees. Four of them hadn't even been born yet when I left ten days ago. I'm so excited - and thankful. And so is Big Daddy. His tomatoes and peppers must have gotten some good runoff from the barn, because they're doing just fine as well. The deer stayed out of his garden, too.

Yes, God Bless Mother Nature!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Family Follies 2011...

We just got back from the Family Follies, a reunion of Big Daddy's mother, siblings and their next two generations. This tradition began in 1993 when we hosted it in our old Victorian city house. How we managed to sleep nineteen people here that weekend is still a mystery to me. I don't think we could manage it now, but thankfully we don't have to. Now we rent multiple condos at a resort area. The number of attendees has changed over the years, just like they have in most families from death, divorce, military deployment, other absences and the addition of another generation. This year we were twenty-five strong.

The highlight is the Family Follies, traditionally held on the last night of the reunion. This is ham-bone performance at its finest, and it provides this extroverted, party-hearty family an outlet for their creativity - with an audience, no less. All four generations participate wholeheartedly, some in multiple numbers. My favorite performances are usually the non-lip-synched songs with altered lyrics to pay tribute to or even spoof some family member or "famous event" that colors the family memories. The comedy routines, including AuntS's spot-on stand-up are often hilarious. Sometime during the evening at least one routine will reference growing up in the Fifties with seven people in a two-bedroom house that had one bathroom and a wonky septic system. Those whose childhood that describes laugh uproariously. That they can laugh and joke about it probably explains why they're all still so close.

My camera shutter failed on the very first picture I tried to take, so I can't show you the kayak races, the beach volleyball tournament, the morning 5K's on hilly terrain around the lake, the pinochle and smear games, the huge dinners (including the Mexican Fiesta hosted by the cousins who will no doubt carry on the reunion tradition long after the matriarch and original siblings are gone). But thanks to UncleL, I can show you this:

This is FaveDIL, BumperK, #1Daughter, BumperT and #1Son performing their spoof of tribute to Big Daddy, "I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt."

You see, the minute he wears out a good shirt, he cuts off the sleeves and makes himself a work shirt. He has so many that he didn't even miss these when I took them off his rack the previous week. I guess you had to be there to get the humor in this.

The Family Follies four-day extravaganza was fun, but it was a terrible time to have to leave Le Rustique to the mercy of Mother Nature. We're getting ready to head out there this afternoon, and I'm so afraid that everything that was alive when we left there ten days ago will be burned up from lack of rain. I know my basil and coriander will have bolted, and if the deer left us any tomatoes and beans, they are probably suffering, too. Maybe by next year we'll have some sort of gravity drip irrigation from a rain barrel - if there is such a thing. Wish me luck.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Old Cowboys Never Die...

Many years ago while living in Wyoming, I worked in the commercial loan department of a local bank. One of my responsibilities was working with the ranchers who had lines of credit to cover the daily operations of their ranches. I was tasked with verifying that they had all their brands registered with the state, and that all the livestock cited as loan collateral were properly branded. I filed with the state the bank's liens and releases on the livestock and made sure that no advances against the line of credit would exceed the loan's terms.

Since I was not part of the bank's loan board which gave a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on a rancher's request for credit, and I only worked with those who had already secured their loan, it was easy for me to establish good working relationships. All the while I had that job, I met a lot of cowboys - which most of the ranchers I dealt with proudly considered themselves. My absolutely very favorite one was a weathered old cowboy named VS. His knees were severely bowed from a lifetime of working from the back of a horse, and his hands were the color of tanned hide with knotty knuckles that had strung a lot of barbed wire in all kinds of weather. And he was such a gentleman.

His family were European immigrants, most of whom worked in the coal mines near the base of the Big Horn Mountains long before mechanical advancements would make their jobs safer and easier. Not wanting that particular life of back-breaking work for himself, VS got a job as a cowboy - equally back-breaking, but outside in some of this country's most beautiful land. For many years he was a hand for a couple who owned quite a spread of land, eventually becoming ranch foreman. Not only was he very good at managing cattle herds and cowboys, but he earned a widespread reputation as a saddle maker, even carving his own saddle trees. By the time I met him, though, VS had stopped making saddles, calling the work better-suited for a lonely young cowboy.

Young he was not, but why was he no longer lonely? Because some time after the ranch owner died and left VS to take care of his widow's land and cattle operation, VS married the widow. They were the sweetest couple, and even though they never had children together, they had each other. In the cold winter evenings, VS would craft miniature saddles to precise proportions, and his loving wife would knit patterned saddle blankets to drape over the tiny saddle racks he made. The little saddles were in great demand, but VS gave them as gifts rather than ever selling them. Eventually his wife died, and VS went back to being a lonely cowboy. He told me many stories about her and her graciousness whenever I would see him.

When I was moving on from the banking job and that small town in Wyoming, I hoped that all my favorite ranchers would come into the loan department before I left so I could say goodbye in person. When VS came in, he was carrying a small box, not wrapped, but presented to me just as if it were clad in silk moire and a big bow. Since he used to bring us hand-made brittle and Christmas cookies when his wife was living, I thought maybe he was giving me some of her recipes. But when I opened the box, my breath was taken away by the tiny little saddle inside.

As I teared up, VS apologized, "I made this for you. It's not very good, as my eyesight is getting bad, and my hands are too shaky to set the glue right. But I had one last little horse blanket that my wife had knitted, and I wanted you to have something to help you remember Wyoming." Not only will I always remember Wyoming, but I will never forget VS. And his gift fits right into the "Cowboys & Indians" decor at Le Rustique.

There is a tradition at one of the Serbian Orthodox churches in our city neighborhood where the name of every member who has passed away since the establishment of that church is read aloud once a year to ensure that no person is ever forgotten. I have taken on a form of that tradition myself, and every Thanksgiving during my morning meditation, I say aloud the names of those people I've known and loved who have passed away. In addition to my grandparents, parents, favorite aunts and uncles, there are the names of a handful of friends. VS is one of those. So old cowboys really never die, they live on forever in the hearts of those they befriend.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My New Ride...

Oh, man, this is so embarrassing. Last time I posted, I put up a photo of my souped-up Harley-Davidson DynaWideGlide which I sold to make room for more utile toys. I promised to post a photo of my "replacement" ride - and then one thing after another went wrong with the photos, the photographer, the camera, and the new ride itself. So much time passed dealing with those things, that the whole topic seemed moot, but quite a few of you let me know you were anxiously awaiting to see whether I got a horse for LeRustique, a Moped for the city, or even a new car (you should have known that was a silly guess!).

The reality is actually quite anti-climactic. I got a riding mower, a well-used and supposedly refurbished riding mower. I used it once for practicing all around the house. It got the job done, but things weren't right with it. Nothing that a trip to the small-engine hospital wouldn't fix, but that in itself posed a problem since we have no pickup truck or trailer yet, and the thing is just a little too big to drive into the back of the Tahoe. On the day the neighbor left her truck for us to haul it in, the mower wouldn't even start. And then the battery to the neighbor's truck died. And the whole sad story just goes downhill from there. But I did get a couple pictures of it just after my practice mowing session and just before my camera lens decided to follow the lead of all things mechanical in our lives and stick halfway between open and closed.

So, if you're still interested, here's how you know when you're an aging baby boomer... you trade 1580 cc's of screamin' hot big-girl bike for this:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Times Change...

I'm no longer a Harley girl. Just sold "Lakota Lightning Horse" to the highest bidder, and this weekend I'll post what we bought to replace her.

Goodbye Old Friend. I'll always remember the good times.

Friday, June 3, 2011

All's Right With Our Wild World...

In late May our game camera at LeRustique caught a sight that both surprised and thrilled us. Surprises included (1) that a doe would bring her fawn to a fairly open spot at 5:49 p.m. and (2) that so many ticks are visible on the back of the doe's ears. The thrills I hope you can feel for yourself.

Two nights later, as we were sitting out on our deck listening to the sounds of the forest, we heard an extended and strange crying/moaning coming from the farthest reaches of our land. Apparently something that sounded like a small deer was being killed, and the process was long and painful. Our first thought was that "our" little fawn had met disaster.  We were so sad thinking of the loss, and we even kept an eye out for evidence as we hiked around our property the next day.

But thankfully we were wrong about just what animal had lost its life. How do we know for sure? Because five days later the same game camera snapped this image. More surprise and more thrills! And all seems right with our wild world.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It' A Dilly...

Just down the road from LeRustique, we ran into this dilly. Well, we didn't really run into it. Someone else had, and obviously just moments before our arrival. Of course Big Daddy wanted photo documentation.
Doesn't he look weird - and alive?
But, alas, he had spilled his guts.

I think he must have been on his way to a much-needed mani/pedi, and he was so 
excited about it that he didn't look both ways before crossing the road.

 And apparently he woke up with a really stiff neck. But now that it's all over for him, 
why doesn't he just put his little head down and get some much needed rest?

All kidding aside, it's worrisome finding out that armadillas have already migrated into the wooded areas of central Missouri. I wonder if that's what's been eating so many turtles on our property. Scientists have confirmed that armadillas can transmit leprosy to humans, and thankfully we had just read this article -

- or no doubt Big Daddy would have insisted on keeping this guy for posterity. It really is a dilly, isn't it? Or is it a doozy?

I Won!

Finally, I won something BIG. I've been awarded the "Most Hopeless Blogger Procrastinator!"  Of course I'd prefer that the title be a little less negative and just offer kudos for Best Procrastinator in the Blogger category, but I'll take the win any way I can get it. I'm sure some whiner will protest that they went a whole year between blogs and not just under three months like me, but they probably had a legitimate reason. I, on the other hand, had no  excuses - er, reasons, whatsoever. Unless you count tax preparation, which took a couple weeks, even with the help of TurboTax. And you should count the pre-tax preparation month of anxiety while I was gearing up for it. And what about the recovery time? But I don't have to try to justify the award - it's mine!

I've worked hard for this award, and I'm happy to finally have won something significant (since I can't ever seem to win a Nikon camera or a LeCreuset pot from Pioneer Woman over at ). Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go get my trophy engraved. And maybe post a real blog entry. Maybe.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Is...

...25 years of sharing Valentine's Day with Big Daddy. To celebrate this particular milestone, we spent the weekend at Le Rustique using and admiring our gift of love to each other - a new kitchen sink! I'm not kidding. And I'm certainly not being facetious. The sink that came with the farm house that came with the land we bought last spring was arguably utile, although it was shallow and only had one basin. Washing dishes in a rubber dishpan wasn't all that hard, but it sure wasn't fun, especially since the dishpan wouldn't hold a plate laid flat or more than two coffee mugs at a time. Yes, there's a real dishwasher installed, but it wasn't draining right, thus making it pretty useless.

Even though a new kitchen is in order "someday," its priority falls a little bit after "all new windows" and "all new flooring." And that means not real soon. But Big Daddy, generous guy that he is, offered to move a new sink up the list a bit. Even though he doesn't do dishes (never has, and never will), he did use the old faucet once in a while, and he could tell what a chore it was for me to have to hold the faucet lever way over to the left to get water hot enough to rinse dishes. Hence the love offering.

Billy the Plumber came on Friday...

...And took special care to get everything installed perfectly. He even fixed the jury-rigged plumbing to the dishwasher so it will never again take on the gray water from the garbage disposal and smell like mildew by the time it's discovered, which happened twice already. When Billy was done, I had the best Valentine's present ever...

So Big Daddy and I broke out the champagne to celebrate - which we've done every year on Valentine's Day for 25 years! And then I happily washed dishes. Note how the biggest cast iron skillet we have fits very nicely into one side of the sink? 

And that is truly what love is. Ain't it grand?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Life Is A Highway...

That man I'm married to is quite a trip. Last weekend while out at the farm, Big Daddy decided to express his latent interior designer by hanging part of his license plate collection (???) in the basement. When I saw him sorting through a pile of rusty old metal, I couldn't help myself.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm choosing which license plates I'm going to hang up here at the farm."

Then I noticed a box of nails and a hammer right next to him as he continued to shuffle through his pile of plates.

"I hope you're planning to hang those things in the barn or the garage and not in the house," I said with a tad more urgency and a good dose of sarcasm.

"Nope. I'm hanging them right here in the basement. In every house we've ever had, I never have any say about anyplace but the basement, so I'm asserting my right to this space and hanging what I want on that wall right there."

So I'm thinking, 'Okay, then. It's the ugliest wall in the whole dang place, I'm working kind of a "Cowboys & Indians" decor for the farm anyway, so what the hell, rusty license plates sort of conjure faded Wranglers and old beat up trucks, why not let the guy have his fun?'

But what I said was more like, "Do what you want. But I suggest you start in the corner and work your way out. And I also suggest that random placement usually looks better than trying to figure out some sort of pattern. And - if I hate it, I'm taking it down." And I went back upstairs.

A lot of pounding noise came from the basement, and as much as I wanted to watch the process, I stayed upstairs. Even when the pounding ended, I kept myself otherwise occupied. And then, when Big Daddy and Dusty The Trail Dog (aka Lazy) went out for their requisite ride around the property, I sneaked a few snaps.

Truthfully, I think he improved the look of the wall. But I do hope his decorating itch has been permanently scratched.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's A Wild Life...

Yesterday, in the midst of an unusually heavy snow storm for St. Louis, Big Daddy and I loaded up the dogs and headed to the farm. Hey, if you're gonna be snowed in, why not make it in a place where you can have some fun? This is what we saw when we turned off the paved road...

As you can see, by the time we arrived the snow had stopped falling, and the sun was making every effort to bring us all the way up to freezing. It never made it, but we sure appreciated its effort!

As soon as we unloaded all our gear, the first order of business was to go on a hunt for some dead, dry wood. With so much of the "farm" wooded, there is no lack of dead wood. The trick is to find a tree that has fallen and gotten hung up somewhere above the ground out of the snow, but not so far above the ground that Big Daddy can't easily reach it and work his chain saw magic. 

I know, you're probably thinking, "Why in the world would they wait until there's snow on the ground to gather wood?" We didn't. Last summer and fall, we gathered lots of wood in the process of clearing out poison ivy, chigger habitat, cool paths down to the pond and more cool paths around the perimeter of the property - we just didn't get enough old, dead wood. See, we have lots of wood piles just like this one scattered around the back yard ...

...(yes, there really is about a cord of wood under that tree!), but those logs won't be ready for burning until next winter or even the following one. In the meantime, we get to pretend we're modern-day pioneers and go on wood quests. And that's where the wild life we lead usually leads us to the real wildlife - like this guy...

He and his momma must have been nesting in a tree that Big Daddy cut into logs and loaded into the back of the Mule. Why they waited to leave their nest until all the logs were loaded is beyond me, but there they were running around the bed of the Mule wondering what happened to their house. First Big Daddy grabbed the bigger one, but she immediately jumped out of his hands and burrowed into the loose undergrowth of the nearest tree. This little guy was much more skittish, and by the time we got him, he bailed out and hid under the back tire of the Mule. Every time I got  him to move, he just ran to the cover of another tire. I finally coaxed him out into the open, where I snapped a quick picture. I was afraid that, if I tried to pick him up again, he would run off in the wrong direction, so we left him right there hoping his momma would reclaim him before he froze to death or became a snack for one of the many predators around here. Such is the wild life of wildlife at Le Rustique.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Strange Sky...

I love the shows put on by Mother Nature! The other day at Le Rustique the wind picked up, and the sky did some strange stuff. First, everything outside got a sepia-ish cast to it as the sun tried to burn through the already gray sky. [BTW, this same ground had at least three-inches of snow on it for Christmas weekend, less than a week before.]

Then the wind quickly blew in some black, wispy clouds about halfway between the far western sky and the ground.

The wind, eerily silent, blew the clouds racing by the sun, which had finally burned a patch of blue through the gray. The sky went from dark to light to dark again, all in less than five minutes.

And then things turned very dark just as the thunder gave a brief, but loud, announcement of the rainstorm to follow. About that time, Big Daddy and LazyDog came rushing out of the woods with a load of wood in the back of the Mule and hurried to park in the garage to keep from getting soaked. Alas, no video to illustrate that event, since I was running back into the house to keep from getting soaked myself.