I’ve never spent so much time with my husband. Week 3 of the new normal.
I’ve never spent so much time with my husband. Week 3 of the new normal.

I’ve never spent so much time with my husband. Week 3 of the new normal.

This possum has the right idea. He’s hiding from Nev inside a tree trunk.

Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff

Monday March 30

We work on topping off the load on the scrap trailer and spend the day at home. We only cleaned up the area around one corner of the junk shed and already have the trailer pretty full.

I expand the girls’ area around their playhouse by cleaning up a small pile of railroad ties and bed springs from the north side of the little building, then we wall it in with a couple of the ties. Doing this makes the sandbox stretch from the door on the front all the way around the long side, like a really tall L. This new expansion area is always shaded, and will make a great play place in the heat of the summer. I just need to haul home a ton of sand now to fill it.

I wondered at the time if this play area expansion was worth the hassle, but looking back on the week, the girls spent a lot of time out of our hair as we worked on projects because they were using their newly expanded area. The railroad ties make excellent work surfaces, and the girls have really impressed me with the resiliency of their elaborate cakes and pies: the aggregate formula they’ve assembled using the sand from the existing sandbox, mixed with the dark, firm, moist dirt from the expansion, well, it makes a really pretty cake.

This one says “Mom” on the side and has a mama cow with her baby perched on top. The cow falls off easily, but you’d think the cake was made of cement; it doesn’t fall apart, no matter how much it is jostled and stabbed with plastic cow feet.

I empty small containers of nifty junk while I work in the junk shed, sorting the contents and putting it away. If one of the containers has smooth sides, I holler for Creek to come get her new “mudcake form”.

Remember the tires Casey was working on when I was getting the bikes out and running last week? Casey is now working on cutting those old tires off the rims with a sawzall, since the old-fashioned method of bars and sledge hammer hasn’t worked out for him.

I’m working in the junk shed on coming up with some neat plant trellises for the seedlings in the kitchen window. They’re growing fast, and they need a place to go before they take over the window. I smell burning rubber and hear a lot of talk coming from the farm shop, and Casey comes out triumphant over the tires. They have a steel belt that he had to cut through in order to get them off.

We finish off the load on the scrap trailer together by loading the bed springs from cleaning up the girls’ area onto the top of the load and strap it down so that I don’t have to do it in the morning.

Scrap Run, Tire Trouble, ’67 Camaro

Tuesday March 31

I say I’m going to get up early to haul the load of scrap on the trailer, but I sleep late, then get ready like I don’t really have to be anywhere, which I actually don’t, so why rush?

I get $105 for my load. Scrap is way down, to $50/ton. Bummer, but fuel is cheap right now, and we are cleaning stuff up, so we can roll with it.

On the way back, I stop at Race Bros in Carthage. Casey gave me a $30 gift card that he has been holding since Christmas, and told me to stop in there and get what I need for when my first clutch of eggs hatches from the incubator. I think he’s halfway just being sweet and letting me have a little extra time away, and I’ll take it. They have seed packets for buy one, get one free, and I get more peas, a couple packs of nasturtiums, and a couple herbs I haven’t gotten seeds for yet: basil and thyme. I heft a 50-lb bag of chick starter onto my cart, then ask at the register for a bag of compressed shavings. The checker has to enter each packet of seeds manually, she says, and I groan inwardly while I smile at her and say “No bigs!” and I stand there forever, strangers milling back and forth behind me, shuffling closer as if to wallow me out the way. Had I know the seeds would make my checkout experience last a full 10 minutes, I wouldn’t have got them. My total is $37.05. I spend the gift card, a $5 bill from the scrap yard, and two dollars in quarters and a nickel that have been living in my wallet for who knows how long. I hold the hundred dollar bill from the scrap yard to buy fuel and coffee, which my friend Carson is picking up for me when he goes to the store. My grocery store doesn’t have whole beans (I might be a coffee snob; I grind my beans fresh daily for my single cup of joe), and the Carthage Walmart doesn’t have same day pickup service for the forseeable future, so I take advantage of having a friend going already and I have arranged to meet Carson later at his family’s feed store to get the coffee beans.

As I’m cruising toward Jasper on the interstate, I feel a vibration. I think maybe I have a loose bearing on the trailer, so when I get home, I pull up directly in front of the farm shop so we can jack up the trailer and wiggle the wheels. Casey asks which tire I think it is. Rear right. It’s actually not a loose bearing on the rear right; it’s the tire in front of that one, and the tread is separating from the sidewall. I remember out loud, the last time we got a couple tires for this trailer, we bought a couple used tires from our friend Dave, so I call him up to see if he might have any more. He has 4 15″ tires, he says, and we set a time to come by later on in the evening to shop and swap. He has an old tire machine, a handy tool for a friend to have, and we’ll be able to leave there with a better tire mounted on our rim.

I drop the trailer near the shop door and Casey removes the wheel for me.

I mess around with sorting stuff out of the junk shed that I don’t think I’ll actually utilize for anything. After nearly 10 years of this, I know now for the most part what I’m going to use and what’s just going to take up space. This quarantine is the first time I’ve had to actually make this kind of task a priority.

It comes time to go meet Carson, so I run to Jasper and break my hundred by fueling up. I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever bought diesel for Big Blue for less than $50. I had less than a quarter tank, and it normally would have taken over $60 to fill up from that point.

I have my choice of coffees; Carson bought 4 different whole bean packages, having needed to stock up himself.

I’m supposed to pick up canning flats from Dollar General for Mom; she has blue goose juice and blackberries that she is thawing out before making into jelly and she doesn’t have enough jar flats on hand. I called this morning and the Jasper store has plenty on hand, so I pick up 8 boxes and peruse the toy aisle. I get the girls a new pack of Play-Doh, a new hula hoop, a pair of cap guns and a hot pink frisbee.

Casey helps me junk out the junk shed for awhile, and it comes time to go to Dave’s for tire business. We leave the girls with Mom and Dad and run to Dave’s, out east of Lamar. He has four 15″ tires, and one of them is the right size and is brand new. Sold! The guys work on breaking the tire down and putting the new one on, as well as a pair that Casey brought for the turquoise pickup bed trailer, while I take a seat in the ’67 Camaro next to the tire machine. This thing is slick. Super comfy to sit inside. Nothing like the ’85 Z28 I had as a teenager. More compact, and not so much like looking out over the bow of a cruise ship.

After a little while of dreamin’, I decide I should make myself useful, and I go out and start up the mower that Dave was on when we got there. I rarely get to mow lawn at our place and the farm, so this is a little gem of 30 minutes of mindless mowing.

Casey and Dave walk up to get me when they’re finished. They got my trailer tire mounted, but were unable to mount Casey’s 10-ply tires on the rims for the pickup bed trailer. The tire machine wouldn’t do the job. I write him a check for the tire, a steal at $25, and give him the loaf of fresh bread I brought him for helping us out, and we are on our way home.

We pick up the girls, get back home, reset the cams. We still have our fox, who hasn’t touched the trap since robbing it previously. It hasn’t knocked on the house either, which is good because we have been sleeping better, but I’d love to get footage of that little turd fighting itself in the basement window, which is what we think has been happening, but we want proof.

I hesitate to mention this because my bestie Liz, who has been following along on this night knocker story since the beginning via regular check-ins on Marco Polo, thinks I’m a little nutty, and telling you about it just tells the greater collective what she knows and keeps secreted in the friend vault…I imagine the nefarious cartoon fox…he wears a neckerchief, a hat and a mask over his eyes and he walks on his hind legs, clutching a couple hens in a sack under his arm, like he’s stopping in for a snack on his way to a train robbery.

More Clutter Cutting, Homemade Bread, A Trip to the Woods

Wednesday April 1

We all work together, cleaning out the junk shed, loading the trailer with all sorts of bits and parts and large hunks of metal. The girls pop in and out, helping to throw stuff in the trailer, but after awhile they stop coming round…they’re baking cakes again in the new sandbox extension. Besides having several buckets for gathering and carrying small pieces of iron to the trailer, we have small buckets for copper and brass pieces, and a lick tub for hunks of aluminum. These metals bring more money, and go to a different area of the scrap yard than the iron.

I start a batch of bread rising before lunch, and tend to that between loading junk on the trailer. It has to rise for an hour after mixing, then I knead it, put it in pans and let it rise another hour before baking.

The girls are feeling like the world is small, so we knock off and go to the woods around 2:30. We find several species of mushrooms that we can’t identify.

I think these are young chicken of the woods, an edible fungus that tastes like chicken.

We find where we still have local beavers, damming up a stream and cutting down trees.

Beavers have dammed up a stream near our pond. We trapped them out of the pond this winter, but they’ll move back in if we don’t get this bunch too.

We find a couple new patches of jewelweed, which I use in my itch goop that I make. One of the patches is easier to access than any of my others, making it the new go-to. How nice to not have to hike in and pack it out with a backpack; I can pull right up next to this one with the gator.

Nev alerts us to a big blacksnake.

I find a skull from a small animal that has some mean looking incisors. Creek hasn’t found any treasures today, so I give her the skull to stuff in her backpack. We can ID it later, and she can add it to her collection. Yep, we have a collection of small animal skulls, which someday will be pretty cool looking and make an excellent presentation for homeschool community, which, by the way, I miss my people. Tomorrow is school day on Marco Polo, and I am looking forward to seeing their faces.

Just look at all that pollen.

Mom calls after she gets off work and says she is headed home to change clothes and work in the blackberry patch. I tell her we are already hiking back to the gator, so we will cruise down there and join her.

The rain last year really gave us a mess of a blackberry patch. The new growth got so long, the runners have touched the ground and rooted in place, so as Casey and Mom trim dead canes out of the row and pull out dead grass, I dig starts. After I realize how many we have, I put out the word on the sosh that I’m selling them for $3 each.

Our blackberry patch.

By the time we finish and get home, I’ve sold over 40. We have 78 in the back of the gator.

I have developed a patch of poison ivy on my knee from our tromp through the woods on Sunday. I decide to retrieve my poison ivy goop tubes from the store tomorrow while I’m in Lamar, and so I put the word out on that as well to my facebook friends, and get several shoutouts from people who want some goop.

Our evening routine is still cook dinner, gasp at the time (dang it’s 9:30 already), send everyone off to bed. I need to get up early to haul scrap.

Endless Errands

Thursday April 2

I actually do get up at 6:30, get my coffee in, tend to my incubator, let my hens out, and head out at 7:30 to haul the latest load of scrap to Webb.

I get $155 for the load. Nearly two tons of steel gets $95. The little amounts of brass, copper and aluminum bring $55.

I need to run errands, play berry fairy and sell Itch Goop. I make over $150 off of blackberry starts and itch goop, which is great because we have several bills in the first week of the month: mortgage, auto insurance and homeowner’s insurance…and we need to buy groceries.

First errand, I drop off the tires for the turquoise trailer at the tire shop; we are at the point where we are done fighting them and are ready to pay someone else to mount them so that we can get the trailer going.

Next, I hit the interstate and run up to Irwin. A local Amish man has window sashes for me. He would just be putting them in a dumpster, so he usually hollers when he has a bunch and I go get what I want. He called over a week ago, so I need to get up there and get these out of his way.

I score this little beauty of a 6-pane, 4 small single panes, and a dozen or so larger single panes that have cool handles on the frames.

Next errand is nearby. I ordered essential oils for an Amish lady last week, and I have arranged to swing by and pick up a check for the purchase. She lives just a couple miles west of the window man, so I jet over and collect a check from her daughter before heading back to town.

This cool barbed wire ball on a post is the dividing point as you enter the circle driveway at my Amish oil customer’s house.

I head back to Lamar, and I leave a couple of berry starts at my friend Ann’s house. I owe her for a bundle of sage anyway, so this makes us even. I love bartering.

After Ann’s, I go round up the itch goop and a few other items from my studio. Mom comes over from the courthouse to see the cute little windows I just got. We decide to take them home to do cute things to them, so I leave them in the trailer, and we rearrange everything inside so that I can haul 8 chairs home for her to paint for a customer. We run out to the customer’s shop and load the chairs, then grab lunch from the drive-thru and head back to the square.

I meet my cousin’s husband there to exchange berry starts and cash. His dad’s business is right next door to mine, and he was planning on being there this afternoon anyway, so it worked out perfectly. I give him a few pointers and wish him luck.

I drop off a tube of itch goop a few doors down…the sherriff uses my itch goop for poison ivy, and his wife works at the accountant’s down the block, so that makes this one easy. I just hand it to her and roll on out.

 I stop by the bank and make a payment with the cash I have made today before heading over to the local barbecue joint, Tractors. Judy, the owner, requested a tube of itch goop, so I run that into her before heading back to the tire shop at the other end of town. The east end of the restaurant is empty. They have pulled all of the booths and tables out and moved them into the west end. They have been doing all carry-out biz out the east end door, so it makes sense to have moved everything out, plus I imagine it’s a handy opportunity to do some deep cleaning. It just looks strange, as does so much in these strange times.

Back at the tire shop, I spend probably too much time talking to my cousin Lacey, who runs the tire shop, but I haven’t seen her forever and we chat at a comfortable distance.

I drop off a dozen berry starts at my friend Lisa’s on the way home. I sit on the bench on her front porch, which is a church pew I sold her over 5 years ago, and we chat for just a few minutes. She stays at the other end of the porch from me.

My friend Courtney and her husband Preston stop by the house later to pick up blackberry starts and itch goop. I end up sending them home with a 5-nipple calf bucket to make their chores a little easier. Courtney is a teacher off of work right now and Preston is an essential highway department employee.

Casey finally is able to put those blasted wheels back on the turquoise pickup bed trailer in preparation to go get the tank from behind the studio. It’s a 300-gallon metal tank that held coal oil, which is a long-obsolete heating fuel that was used in my store at some point in the past. The girls help him out at the farm shop while I go borrow Mom’s grill to cook us up the skirt steak and flank steak that I’ve had marinating in beer for about 36 hours now. Our grill bit the dust and we need to replace it. Mom hardly ever uses hers, so she’s cool with us cabbaging onto it.

I fried potatoes and onions in cast iron to go with the grilled steak. Nothing like steak and taters!

A free farmgirl lesson on steak: pull the steak out of the freezer (or carry it home from the store), then let it sit in the refrigerator for a week. It’ll be mostly brown when you unwrap it. If it’s a strip or a filet, grill that sucker now to get optimum flavor and tenderness. If it’s a tougher cut like the skirt or flank, marinate it for 24 more hours in a liquid whose enzymatic action will break the meat down further, tenderizing it and filling it with flavor. 

Casey remarked to me the next day: “Whatever you did to that steak before you grilled it last night, I’ve never tasted a steak like that, and you are welcome to to that again.”

Wood Shop, Smoker Tank Retrieval, A Plea from Etsy

Friday April 3

It’s raining and cold. The temps fell from the mid-60s to low 40s. There is a north wind. Bibs are necessary to being outdoors, I find out, when Casey and both girls come back inside from chores, shivering and looking for layers to put on.

We gather ourselves and head over to work in the wood shop. 

Casey helps me do a quick shop sweep, then he takes the pickup bed trailer to town on tank retrieval duty.

This is why we’ve been messing with those tires and dragging them around the countryside.

He has to borrow a small pump from our friend Brad in order to siphon out the fuel that is in the tank. The fuel inside is what has prevented us from getting the tank previously. He has a clean chemical shuttle in the trailer. He’ll pump the old coal oil out of the tank, into the shuttle, then hopefully he will have room to load the tank as well. 

In the wood shop, I form the top for the kitchen table. I have to sand the legs, which is disgusting. This is normally scraped off of the plank wood when I run it through the planer, but the 4×4’s we use for the legs are irregularly shaped, which makes them look amazing, but makes them unable to run through the planer, so I have to sand them with the orbital sander to knock off the dust and clean up the surface.

While I’m working, I see my phone light up. It’s a notification from Etsy saying “Make Face Masks”. 

I’ve never gotten a notification from Etsy like this before.

It has been on my heart lately that I’m not doing enough to serve my followers, like I should be doing cool craft tutorials and kids’ activities, filming them, and getting them out there for either entertainment or usefulness. And when I DO post, it seems everyone is wanting to hear from me, but it has been a real struggle lately to create content because we have been staying so busy and I have been LIVING it, not documenting things the way I usually do for my business. I have been stopping to take pictures for this journal, but that’s it.

Local cases of COVID-19 are starting to grow. Duh. There is limited testing available in this region, and you can harbor symptoms for up to two weeks. I predicted aloud to Casey a couple days ago that the MO total doubles in the next three days. (It comes true) More and more people are wearing masks. I agree with the need, but I have been so engrossed in working outdoors the last week or so, that when I’m in of an evening, I’m ready for food and some downtime, and I’ve not sewn anything even though I have carted all of the supplies home that I could possibly need in order to make masks. I had a fabric stash here already, and I brought my sewing machine and more fabric home with me over a week ago, along with a bigger cutting mat, an extra rotary cutter, and an extra spool of thread.

So here it is: the thing I can do to serve my people, my junky followers, my makers and shakers…I need to be motivating them to make masks, and give them an easy outlet for them. I have a local need that can be addressed, AND I can move them through Etsy, as the general population has taken to that avenue in order to obtain facial wear. I could make it very simple for everyone to make what they can and then help them to “move” it. They could simply take some good pics of the finished thing and I can post them to my Etsy listing. Boom. So I pause from my woodworkig to hit the facebook with a Live video, which sets things in motion.

Casey returns just as I finish planing the wood for the kitchen table top. He helps me by running the edge planer for me while I cut the pieces down to length to make the top. This table has some incredible character, and I discuss options for really making it amazing. Brandi is going to get turquoise inlay, like it or not. There are some cool cracks and nail holes and worm holes and knotholes, and I’m going to inlay turquoise to fill those spaces. It’s gonna be awesome with the ebony stain that she wants on the top.

We gather the kids up around 5pm so we can leave them at Mom and Dad’s and go grocery shopping for all of us. I’d rather send just one person, but it does make it easier having a second to shop for the second household, so we both go. 

Some may disagree with this, but we all made our lists so that we don’t have to go for two weeks. We got a few looks at the store, but hey, I’m shopping for our household of 4 and my parents as well. Our cart was full, and we had to explain ourselves to one person who asked, eyebrows raised, why we had so many groceries. I guess we didn’t have to, but we did. Casey remarked that we have two kids at home that eat constantly, and I added that we are buying for two households for two weeks.

We get the groceries home and put away and we discuss a loose meal plan. I love that my husband cares about this.

Bread Experiments, Prep for Mask Making, Paint Stained Glass

Saturday April 4

I start the day by mixing a batch of bread to rise while working on a tutorial video for this bread I’ve been baking. I like the simple recipe and I haven’t failed on the results so far, but am experimenting today with making hot dog buns.

Casey comes in from feeding the woodstove and informs me that I’ve caught an interloper, but it isn’t our fox. It’s a scarred up old gray tomcat, which we promptly let loose. He was NOT happy about being in the cage.

My sourdough starter is officially alive, I confirm, by feeding it and observing. I usually feed it in the evening during or after dinner, so it’s been impossible to know how quickly it has been bubbling and doubling. I feed it around 12:30, and at 2:30 I check it and it has more than doubled in size, which it should be doing within 4-6 hours of feeding. I’d say I have a healthy batch a-growing. All of this sets my mind asking questions in the background: what else can I learn about yeast, colonies, scobys? What can I make with it? What’s a good recipe to use it for bread?

My first batch of sourdough starter.
My finger is pointing to where it was immediately after feeding; it has more than doubled in size in less than 4 hours.

I drag the kitchen table out of the dining area and set it up so that the table is well-lit, has plenty of room around it to maneuver, and so that the sewing machine is on one side and a cutting station is on the other. I clear off the kitchen bar to make an ironing station, then sort through my stash and set out several large pieces of fabric that are of suitable material for masks. 

Glad I never got this fabric hauled to the studio.

Casey returned the pump that he had borrowed from our friend Brad to empty out the fuel tank behind the studio. This got him out of the house for a little bit, which is important. He is a creature of habit. He usually gets up and leaves the house early of a morning and then does things at home after work. This quarantine has disrupted his (I know, everyone else is in the same boat) routine, which is hard for him.

After he came back and had lunch, he was hanging out in his chair scrolling facebook, ignoring the cartoon on TV. The girls have both been little turds today and yesterday, fighting overt the silliest stuff, and Cale in particular is obstinate about everything.

She doesn’t want Creek to watch the new season of Spirit Riding Free with her. She doesn’t want Creek to play Play-Doh with her in “her kitchen”. She doesn’t want Creek to bake a chocolate pie with me in MY kitchen. While Cale is public with her dis-satisfaction with her sister, I suspect Creek has equal feelings but is good at hiding it, saving her jabs for inside their room where there are no witnesses.

So…with the way they were acting, I was ready to kick them outdoors for awhile, but they weren’t inspired at all, so I brought up Casey hanging a light in the henhouse, and they perked up, got in gear, and have left me inside alone to reflect on this week.

The hens have almost completely stopped laying, and although I suspect it could be a lack of sunlight coupled with the presence of a fox, a talk with my bestie Steph confirmed that I need to put a light in the coop to compensate for our lack of bright light. When chickens don’t get enough light, they quit laying. I have had a light in every coop I’ve ever owned, but I’ve taken this one down for some reason, probably to use elsewhere, and I need a new one put up out there. It’ll require a drop cord from the house, because although I have always had intentions (I bought the direct burial line 2 years ago) to wire the coop, I still haven’t dug a trench and set the line in the ground. I had him hang a light for me in the chicken coop. The hens have almost completely stopped laying, and although I suspect it could be a lack of sunlight coupled with the presence of a fox, a talk with my bestie Steph confirmed that I need to put a light in the coop to compensate for our lack of bright light. When chickens don’t get enough light, they quit laying. I have had a light in every coop I’ve ever owned, but I’ve taken this one down for some reason, probably to use elsewhere, and I need a new one put up out there. It’ll require a drop cord from the house, because although I have always had intentions (I bought the direct burial line 2 years ago) to wire the coop, I still haven’t dug a trench and set the line in the ground. Hopefully it keeps them busy for awhile and the girls springboard into doing something else outdoors and staying out there.

I hadn’t really journaled much all week, just making a couple notes in my phone on key events, so this time alone with my keyboard is delicious. 

My wonderfriend Lori texts me while I’m journaling. She’s in Dallas, where  they have been on total lockdown for over a month, and we are about two weeks behind them, but it’s coming. We chat about the strange times. I tell her to follow this blog, so hi there Lori lady, we can’t wait to see you here in Missouri again sometime.

Casey comes back in and sets about doing more work on the garage. The last large beam goes into place, followed by the cross-member support. I work on whittling down the pile of stuff around the big work table. We have moved everything to the center of the room, on and around the table, as we have worked on the conversion to wood shop. Now I need to use the table to work on the stuff to send it out the door, which requires unearthing it from the stuff that needs work. So I start with getting the painting easel off the work table, then I clear off the little table in the sun room, making a spot for the easel and the wood pieces that need to be painted with farm animals. Some are big and say “Welcome to the Funny Farm”…I asked months ago on my facebook page what animals I should paint, and I got a ton of feedback, so I plan on using that to make some new paintings. I also have a basket of small scraps that could easily have a chicken, cow or sheep painted on them. Getting all of that stuff away from the table makes a hole. Lots left to move, but the girls are antsy, so I stop for awhile.

I get out the painter’s tape and work on making a stained glass stencil on one of the garage doors. The girls are immediately on me, asking questions, clambering. I finish mine and hand the tape to Creek, with instructions to make her own design, then I retreat to the sun room to get more organized. I have brought the paint cart home, and Cale is raiding it, carrying armloads of tubes of paint from the sun room over to the door. I put a stop to that and make them carry it all back to the cart. I do not intend to let them loose with multiple tubes of paint; I have a plan for better containment. I send Creek to find a styrofoam egg carton, and I get plenty of colors ready for them to paint. They have half a dozen actual tiny paint brushes ready to go, and they’re crestfallen when I tell them that they won’t be using those. For real, it would take all night to paint the windows with those; we will be using sponge brushes to put the paint on the glass.

I spooned out water/dish soap from a glass into the compartments before gently mixing. This is just our acrylic paint we use to paint signs, animals and whatnot.

While we are painting, Casey disappears to the kitchen, where he starts to craft a pan full of tater tot casserole. Yum.

Mine and Cale’s window is dry before Creeks, and we pull the tape off. It’s pretty! Creek pulls her tape off too, and I tell her it might not be dry enouygh yet, but she pulls it off anyway. Over the next 10 minutes, paint runs from one space over into the next, and she wants to erase the whole thing and start over. I tell her to wait until morning; I’ll give her a napkin wetted down, and she can fix it like she would with an eraser. This calms her down and pacifies her.

I get the girls in bed, then go to my own bed to research a few things. I want to gather more wild plants to make winter tea.

I harvested and dried mullein last year, and it came to my rescue when I came down with a sinus infection in the fall that tried to turn into strep, or so I can guess by how it felt, which was like razor blades had set up a sharpening station in my throat. The tea gave immediate relief.

I know of other plants that will help with the same general issues of the respiratory system, and would like to round out a tea mixture that I can jar up separately and mix at will.

So I find several other plants in my books that grow readily around here, and make notes in my phone so that I can retrieve them easily.

I specifically search for information on cleavers as well, since I remember that it makes a sunburn remedy, and I have seen more of it this spring than normal because of the rain. I find an ointment recipe, for which we need lanolin, and a succus recipe, which only calls for honey. I’d rather make both with one harvest, so I’ll have to hold off until we locate some lanolin, but I have honey from my cousin Katie, so I am half ready.

I need to craft some drying racks if I’m to follow through on the tea. I found some racks still in boxes out in the junk shed the other day. They’re from Thorco closing. Thorco was a manufacturing plant in Lamar that closed a few years ago, and we were able to get some good stuff from it when it closed. In my mind, I build a plant-drying rack. Casey will be so excited.

I also need to research sourdough in order to answer all the questions from earlier in the day. I find out all sorts of cool stuff. I could go into detail here, but this is the stuff for another blog posting in itself.

While I’m doing my reading and research, I hear a plaintive wail from outside. Like a dog is stuck in my trap. I pad out to the garage and tell Casey I think I’ve caught my fox. He already has a head lamp on, so he heads out there to check it. Tanner has caught herself in the trap. Good Lord. I don’t know how she fit in there, but fit she did. There wasn’t even enough room for her to turn around.

Casey works late out in the garage; he is almost done insulating the sun room wall below the windows and wants to finish it up.

We watch Longmire and doze off for the night.

Sourdough Crackers, Prickly Pear Cacti

Sunday, April 5

We all have a lazy morning, and I eventually force everyone out to the truck to go to the farm. I need to sort through a pile of lumber over there and pull out the lightest pieces to make shelves for my cousin Brandi. Some of the 2×6 are super heavy and some are much much lighter. Must be different wood. The light ones have distinctly different character marks in addition to the saw marks; they’re really pretty.

I sort out 5 or 6, then go take pics of some wood siding from a carriage house in Jasper. My bestie Steph is looking for some wood to do an accent wall, and this stuff will work great. It’s lightweight tongue in groove, and it has chippy white paint on it. I snap the pics, then head out to the blackberry patch.

I’m going to dig the starts from the other side, and I need to know how many there are…there are plenty. I’d say we can get another 75 easily, which is great. It’s easy to take paypal for payment and either drop the starts off or leave them at the end of the driveway for pickup. I have 5 people wanting some already.

On the way back to the truck, I spy a giant patch of cleavers growing in our fescue patch. I stop to snap a pic of one little patch, then realize I’m standing in a 200 square foot area that will soon be carpeted with the stuff. Perfect. Easy to access and I know it hasn’t been sprayed. I need to obtain some lanolin to work with the cleavers. I have a few days, it appears, as these plants are still small.

As I cross the lawn area between the fescue patch and the haybarn, I’m admiring all the dandelions that have absolutely exploded the last few days (something else I need to work on harvesting, but need a dry sunny day, and those are nonexistent these days), and I notice there’s greater plantain everywhere. Super perfect. I want plantain for my tea. I need to get my drying rack assembled!

Greater plantain with clover, dandelion and fescue.

I deliver my wood to the wood shop, and Casey pulls in to feed hay. I’m so glad he’s able to help me with chores. I used to spend all of my spare time splitting wood and feeding cows. When I met Casey, I had all this time start to free up because he likes to split wood and has a really pimp splitter that he built himself. This is when my junk business really started to grow: when I started to have less chores and more time to create. Now that he works at Redneck, he is off work around 4 every day and has time to feed cows. This winter and spring, the old hay truck hasn’t gotten much action because of all the rain. Feeding with the tractor is necessary, which means I can’t just take the girls along and do it myself. It frees up a lot of creative time for me and removes some stress of feeling like I do way too much.

We have the cows dry-lotted, so they only have hay to eat right now while we let the pasture get a bunch of spring growth before we begin intensive grazing, which is using electric fence to allow the cows to graze one small patch at a time before they are moved to the next.

I have foraging and whatnot on the brain, and my plans are for the stuff I’m wanting to gather are weighing on me. Things are really greening up outside and the plants really have nice tender growth in the spring that is excellent for harvesting. I go to the junk shed, pull the metal grids from Thorco out of the boxes, and assemble one of them into a little rolling bin. I can use the second rack by cutting the pieces down to make extra shelves for the first one.

I’ve been wanting to check out the foraging on the other side of my section, and I know there are prickly pear cactus growing in one high spot, so I make sure there’s a shovel in the gator and go out and dig some, scoping out other foragables on the way. There are a million lilies growing in the ditches over here. The lily blossoms are amazing for eating…we just batter and fry them. The prickly pears will be super cute growing in coffee cans or tea pots. I dig about a dozen starts and leave it at that.

There is mullein growing everywhere. I harvest a sackful of the leaves, leaving plenty on each plant to still do photosynthesis for the bloom stalks that we’ll be seeing before we know it. There’s a patch of new rosettes growing in the field next to the path. It’ll get disced up soon, so we need to get these dug and transplanted to the back yard soon.

I make sourdough crackers using one cup of the discards from my starter. Man. These things are delicious. I think I rolled them out a little thick, but I’ll have to try again soon because between all of us, we devour the entire batch.

Casey grills burgers for dinner and we head off to bed. It’s been a satifsying day. A little bit of productive, a little bit of screwing around. It’s all work disguised as play though, which I am famous for.

A stay at home order for our area goes into affect tonight at midnight. We need ebony stain to finish the kitchen table and shelf orders, and we are almost out of kitty litter and cat food. We plan on sending Casey into town to pay our insurance and pick up those items, then staying out of town as much as possible.

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