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Olio – February 3, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

If Phil had come out today instead of yesterday, he would not have seen his shadow.  It is thick and gray.  It looks like it could snow, but there is none in the forecast.  Even the weekend storm threat has dissipated, so there should be no missed school next week.  It is cold, each day this week has been colder by 10 or more degrees than the day before.  It was near the upper 60’s on Tuesday and it won’t reach freezing today with a low in the shivering teens.  We have had wind this week too, though today is calm.  One day, the wind took out our power for nearly 7 hours before they found the tree on the line and did some major pruning about a mile down the road.

With the lengthening daylight hours, the hens are picking up egg production.  Yesterday there were 5 eggs out of the 7 hens.


It amuses me to see the variation on the size and color of the eggs from the Buffys.  The top two right and the bottom left are all Buff Orpington eggs.  The top left is the Americauna and the bottom right is the Americauna/Buff Orpington cross.  The seller of the Buff Orpington pullets that were to increase the flock must not really be interested in selling as they have not gotten back with me though they have email and phone number to arrange the sale and pick up.  Hopefully the girls will  be prolific this year and provide us with enough chicks to replenish the predator loss and still give us enough for the freezer.

The Fibonacci Infinity scarf is still growing.


There is a 13 row white repeat to go, then pick up the blue with the white and finally the blue with the merlot.  It is already as long as my legs and very heavy due to it being a tube.  It will definitely be a warm scarf.  The silk cowl at the top is growing, it is about 70% done, only getting attention when I am the car passenger instead of the driver.

The Leicester Longwood, a bit finer than the yarn for the scarf is on the wheel.  Hopefully, it will make a knitted fabric that is more sweater friendly after a swatch or two trying different needles.  This week, my Spanish Peacock drop spindle went to a new home as it caused too much strain and pain in my shoulders.  The proceeds from that sale bought a new supported spindle and bowl.  That is a learning process and some of the soft California Red roving is being used to learn. This still allows for portable spinning with less strain on the shoulders and elbows.



This is definitely a learning curve.  The spindle spins nicely, but my drafting of the fiber is still very inconsistent and trying to avoid the park and draft technique makes it more of a challenge.

Still loving life on our farm.


Six More Weeks

One of Jim’s favorite movies is Groundhog Day, fitting on February 2.

This morning on Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney Phil  and his counterparts here abouts saw their shadows foretelling 6 more weeks of winter, but really, don’t we have 6 more weeks anyway. I don’t know about where you live, but our winter really begins in earnest in mid January most years and continues on until Mid to late March.  We are most likely to see snow and cold temperatures during that period.

I can’t complain about having a sunny day this time of year, even if it predicts 6 more weeks of winter.  As long as I awaken tomorrow and it is February 3, I can live with that.  Spring and summer will be along presently.




Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” ― Bette Davis

The housecleaning diet was imposed after Christmas and maybe some improvement was occurring, but oh that sour dough and homemade bagels from the Farmers Market, the mug of hot cocoa on a snowy day, maybe with a dash of Chambord, the local cheese and pizza, pasta…  It was difficult and sliding occurred, joints complained along with an increase of another symptom.

As the joints hurt, my mind wanders to my baby brother, 6 1/2 years my junior.  As a kid, he used to run into a room, launch into the air and skid across the carpet or floor on his knees.  Bet they pain him now.  Then as an adult, he had a slip on ice that resulted in neck surgery.  As we age, the old injuries, separated shoulder skiing, broken wrist roller blading with daughter return to haunt now with discomfort and stiffness.

The gluten must go.  The dairy is easier with alternative milk products for coffee (the current favorite is unsweetened Toasted Coconut/Almond milk), but oh the cheese, sob.  Hot cocoa can be made Mexican style with water, but it still has the sugar, not as much as commercial or even homemeade mixes, if you use real Mexican chocolate disks and grate them yourself, but still probably too much.  I have eliminated other sugar such as jam, honey, and sweets once the Christmas chocolate was gone.


Perhaps the elimination process would be easier if only a category is eliminated at a time.  Peanuts were easy, just use Almond butter, eat whole almonds instead.  Peanuts are a huge trigger.  Wheat is next, a real tough one, but something must be done and it seems to be a major trigger as well.  Ibuprofen daily isn’t the solution.  Some of the damage is done and can’t be undone, but perhaps further damage can be slowed and some of the discomfort reduced.  Mountaingdad will never go for this type of cure, so I go it alone.  Lunch out is going to be a bear.

The snow is gone.  Now we wait for this weekend and the next round of winter liquid or solid as the case may be.


The best made plans sometimes go astray.  We had planned a week long trip to Colorado in early February to stay with cousins and ski.  Bought the airfare in October, reserved ski rentals, then a medical issue arose and the trip had to be cancelled.  The cancellation of the ski rentals was easy.  The airfare, not so much.  We had paid extra for the insurance that assured us that in case of a medical issue, the airfare would be refunded, after all, we are senior citizens. NOT! It can be refunded if the medical issue precludes travel at all, certified by the doctor, not just if the reason for the trip has been forbidden by the doctor.  We now have airfare for 2 that must be used before a year from the date of the original ticket purchase.

Okay, so we start looking for other options.  One option requires us to have current passports.  Ours are expired.  We were going off to get our photos retaken in a few days, the paperwork was all filled out, and the entire senior staff of the State Department walked out.  Guess that will delay things there for a while.

My spinning group meets on Thursdays.  Getting there was already a bit of a challenge for me because we pick up granddaughter at preschool at 12:15-12:30 window, she must be fed, and there is no way to get home and back to town again in time which means taking two cars to town, but one of the cars has been acting up of late.  Sometimes it just won’t start, not a grind, click, anything.  The dash lights come on, the radio works, the battery indicator is strong, it just won’t start, but not consistently and the dealer can’t duplicate it to repair so we have been hesitant to drive it much.  We were going to today anyway so I could go spin and socialize, but then we got a call that grandson had to be picked up at school and granddaughter is supposed to be napping.  Another plan foiled.

Instead, of socializing with the other spinners, I am sitting home spinning my Leicester Longwood and knitting a cowl from the silk that I spun a couple of weeks ago.  I just couldn’t put it in my shop, it called to me to make something luxurious just for me.



Sometimes, we just have to be flexible.

Respect our Mother

“Only when the last tree has died,? the last river been poisoned,? and the last fish been caught? will we realize we cannot eat money.” —Cree Proverb

I tend to shy away from politics on my blog.  I have left social media at least for a while due to the same, but my heart hurts right now.  How many Deep Water Horizons,  how many people are going to lose their water due to contamination caused by fracking, how many pipeline accidents causing loss of life and property, how many valleys and streams must be ruined with mountain top removal for coal extraction,  how many coastal towns will be flooded and animal species become extinct due to polar ice melt/global warming will it take before we learn.  It hurts my heart that land will be taken and ruined from people by imminent domain to allow such projects.  It hurts my heart that the National Parks that we have come to love through decades of hard work and protection may be lost to or despoiled by logging and drilling.  All at the whim of the pen of a wealthy man and his party with an agenda that is not in the best interest of the people and certainly not the environment.  Is this desecration something we can live with for the increased wealth of a few?

pipeline mountain top removal


Tools of the Trade

In addition to keeping the household of 4 adults, 2 children, 3 big dogs, 3 cats running, raising chickens for our  eggs and some meat, making soap, balms, salves, and beard products for my online shop and craft shows, I love fiber arts.  I sew, knit, crochet, and spin fiber into yarn for my own use and for sale in the shop and shows.

A couple of years ago, we were flying on a vacation, I took knitting with me to help occupy the time and keep me settled on the plane (I’m not a huge fan of flying).  The project that I took was  socks for one of the grandson’s for Christmas, Batman socks.  I had black and gold yarns and I wanted to put the Batman emblem on the cuff of each sock.  I rummaged through my bag and could not find a piece of graph paper though I usually carried a small graph paper notebook and ended up drawing a grid on the back of a receipt and graphing out the emblem.  Several days into the vacation, we were shopping in one of the native markets and I spotted a small woven fabric covered notebook cover with a graph paper pad in it.  It was inexpensive and I purchased one.  The pad got used up over time and I discovered that it was a non standard size and unavailable in the USA or on any online store I could scare up.  It was larger than the pocket Moleskine or Fieldnotes books, smaller than the medium Moleskine variety and it had to be side bound with staples, not a spiral.  The cover sat idle and empty, but I liked it.  Recently, it occurred to me that I could use the woven part of the cover and repurpose it with some added fabric to make it fit a standard size. My very talented and crafty sister in law was called on with several questions, many ideas, and finally, bravely, I cut the notebook cover in half, removed the binding, made a new liner, spine, and binding that enlarged it enough to handle a standard notebook.


This required setting up the sewing machine and pulling out the sewing box. They are in the dormer in our bedroom where I have a handmade walnut table, pottery lamp, and shelving to store my yarn and fabric.

Compared to many of my friends in the fiber arts, I am a lightweight. Most of them have multiple wheels, looms, sewing machines. I do have two wheels or I will once the antique one has all of its parts back. But the rest of my equipment will fit into a tote bag.



The Louët has a built in Lazy Kate for plying, but I don’t like it, so I use the one my son made me for Christmas.


A swift and two different sized Niddy Noddys for winding yarn into skeins from a bobbin.




And two different sized Lucets for making cord.


An assortment of various drop spindles for portable spinning.


Hand carders for combing unprocessed clean wool.


A backstrap loom, that I need an instructor to teach me to set it up for weaving.

With one set of interchangeable knitting needles, one set of double pointed knitting needles in various sizes, a few fixed circular knitting needles, and several crochet hooks, I have all I need for spinning, sewing, knitting or crocheting.

It will all fit nicely in a beautiful hand made tote from a friend.


Though I don’t carry it all with me, I could.




We all have pet peeves, right?  Some really get under our skin, some are almost amusing.  I am currently reading Jeffrey Deaver’s The Steel Kiss, the bad guy has learned to hack into controllers that allow consumers to turn lights on or off in their home while away, turn off the stove you forgot, change settings on other convenience items and thermostats remotely and thus using them to murder or attempt to murder “Shoppers.”  Reading this has made me more aware of some of these conveniences and also some of their issues and alerted me to one of my peeves.  Public restrooms.  You leave the stall and move to wash your hands, many public restrooms now have automatic soap dispensers, just hold you hand beneath it and it dispenses soap.   Sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it dispenses soap enough to wash your whole body or dispenses a second dollop on the counter or floor after you move your hand.  Of all the automatic gadgets in a bathroom, that is the least necessary because once you have the soap, you wash your hands.  So if the bathroom has an automatic water sensor,  you have no control over temperature, if it lacks one, you turn on the water with dirty hands, wash your hands, then have to turn the water off.  If you are in a bathroom that has only electric dryers, there are no paper towels with which to turn the water off.  Maybe there are paper towels, but the dispenser is not automatic and you then have to push a lever to dispense the towel, okay if the lever is on the side, you can use your elbow, but not if it is underneath.  Then you get to the door in the bathroom with only electric hand dryers and it opens inward.  You washed your hands, but did the other person before you? No, I’m not a germaphob, I just find all of this amusing in a peevish sort of way.  Either use all automatic bathroom items and a door you can push outward, or at least give us accessible towels to use to turn off water and open doors, oh and a convenient can to deposit the dirty towel.  Oh and while you are planning this facility, put a hook on the door for jackets and bags.  I don’t want my reuseable bags  or purse on the dirty bathroom floor.

Next up is the Express Lane in the grocer.  You are standing in line with 6 items waiting to check out.  The store isn’t very busy, there are You Scan stations, but you don’t like to use them because they are taking jobs away from folks and they all have an annoying voice that tells you what to do even if you have done it a hundred times and don’t need instruction, plus that irritating voice asks you if you are using your own bag, then calls the You Scan monitor who is AWOL when you put your bag on the turntable.  The two folks in front of you have just unloaded a full week’s worth of groceries onto the Express Lane conveyor.  Ten large paper bags worth of groceries.  It is finally your turn and you mention your frustration to the cashier and are told, it is store policy to not say anything to the violators.  I almost did myself, but didn’t want to create a scene at 9 a.m.  Maybe I will just use the You Scan next time.

How about going to a restaurant and having a server that is friendly and attentive, but then three other people that are not your server stop by your table to see how your meal is? Are you satisfied? Do you have any concerns?  Not one, three different people to interrupt your meal and your conversation.  If you have more than one manager, customer care representative, or whatever the title, give them different sections to monitor.  Don’t keep bothering the same patrons over and over, maybe they won’t come back next time.

My husband says I am getting feisty in my old age.  Maybe I am, maybe less patient. Maybe I am just willing to voice my peeves.

What are your pet peeves?

The Undoing

It takes days to decorate for Christmas and days to put it all away.  Usually, I don’t begin the undoing until New Year’s Day and do a packing away marathon, but the tree needed to go.  Daughter’s family’s indoor cats escape out into the living room every night and one of them has been intrigued with the tree.  Each morning, I have found one or more or the ornaments that were high up in the tree, on the floor beneath the tree.  We have a tradition of putting small gifts, like gift cards or notifications of a subscription in the tree.  One that I put in the tree for Captain Video (hubby’s pet name), a notification that he was getting a personalized license plate CP VDEO for his Harley was there in the tree and then it wasn’t.  Christmas morning, it was no where to be found.  Daughter saw it there before she left for Florida, but it is gone.

The tree was very thirsty at first and was taking a couple of gallons of water a day, then it just stopped drinking and the needles started raining down on the wood floor and the living room rug.  The cat’s activity was speeding that process along, and several smaller branches in the tree were broken.

It was time.  After an early appointment in town, we returned home and I collected daughter’s ornament box, my box for garlands, lights, and the starfish tree topper and tackled the removal, pack up, and clean up of the tree.

The tree once denuded of it’s ornaments and lights,  required siphoning of a gallon and a half of water from the base, removal from the house and taken out of it’s stand it was dragged down the hill to an area we can’t mow that has several Christmas tree skeletons in it.  Some years, we buy a root ball tree and plant it after Christmas, but that wasn’t an option this year with just the two of us here to deal with it and with Jim having some irritated nerve issues that we have been dealing with for the past month or so.

The living room is rearranged into it’s normal configuration, the backs of the leather furniture draped with throws as one of the cats has claws and has damaged the back of one of the couches.  The Santas, snowmen, village, linens, and wreaths will remain for another few days, and the 2 foot tree atop my jelly cupboard that is decorated with Hallmark minis, will stay up until daughter’s family returns next week as the ornaments that DIL made them are currently adorning that tree, and the gifts from eldest son’s family to daughter’s family are under that tree.


Now that Christmas is over, real winter will set in here in the mountains.  We will see fewer mild sunny days, more cold, some snow, and lots of rain.  That is the nature of winter in the Virginia mountains.

Wishing you a Happy New Year.


Medicare Frustration

This is the month of my birth.  This is the month that Medicare sends me the annual email letting me know what medical services and tests I am entitled to receive at no out of pocket cost and notation of whether I have done so.  We would assume (I know what assume means), that they would prefer that as seniors we follow through and remain healthy as the routine tests are cheaper in the long run than paying for a long term illness.  Hubby and I carry Medicare part A and B, plus we pay for a supplemental policy as well.

Since moving to this area about a decade ago, I have had 4 physicians.  Three have left the area, forcing me to select another.  Each time, I have tried to stay within the same practice.  For several years, I scheduled my own mammogram and then last year, the Imaging Center would not let me do so because my third physician was no longer in the area and the newest one was not in their system yet.  I phoned the medical group to see if I could get them to schedule it and because I had been healthy for more than two years and had not been in their office, they wanted me to come in, but not as a returning patient, rather as a new patient and not for at least a month.  I just didn’t bother.

Early this spring, I decided that if I must go in as a new patient, that I would switch offices and see the new physician in the county in which we reside, so I scheduled the appointment in April.  I went in, met with the physician, had all the wellness stuff done, agreed to the mammogram and colonoscopy.  Agreed to come back the following day for a fasting blood work draw, but not for a dexa scan as I can’t take the bone density drugs, they make me ridiculously dizzy, so I saw no need to go through the scan and have Medicare pay for it.

I followed through with all the tests and started receiving Medicare statements of what had been paid and bills from the blood lab and the Family Practice.  It seems that Medicare doesn’t cover lipid screening for cholesterol and the Family Practice coded the visit as routine/new patient instead of Annual Wellness and it was denied.  Several hours on the phone with Medicare, the Supplemental Insurance Co., the blood lab, and finally the Family Practice and I thought we finally had it straight.  WRONG.  The blood lab started threatening to take me to collections, so we just paid that bill 5 months after the service was rendered, Medicare would not pay it.  Then last week, the quarterly Medicare statement came and the Wellness Visit still had been denied.  Yet another call to the office, another promise that they would contact the coder and would get back with me.  No return call.  Today, their biller sent me a bill also threatening collections that indicated that Medicare has paid the claim then reclaimed the payment and that I owed the money NOW.  A call to the biller and she told me it was because it was coded wrong and she would put a hold on the bill until she could talk to the coder.  Another call to the Family Practice to let them know and again I am on hold awaiting their call.  It looks like by finally trying to do what was right according to Medicare, I am going to be out of pocket about $400 as the supplemental won’t pay until Medicare pays and with the code wrong, Medicare won’t pay.  Needless to say, it will be a cold day in H*^& before I go for another Wellness visit, which according to Medicare, I am entitled to and encouraged to get once every 12 months.

Oh the frustrations!

A Week On and Off the Farm

We have had wonderful weather for the past week.  The sky has been mostly clear, the temperatures mild and seasonable during the day and cool enough for a quilt under the open window at night.  The garden, except for the peppers is winding down.  Friday afternoon, the grandkids helped me dig the sweet potatoes.   We picked a basket of 3 pounds of tomatillos, and another of peppers.

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The peppers are drying or pickling, depending on the type.  The tomatillos have been washed, husked, and frozen.

I planted two varieties of sweet potatoes,  purple and  orange.  The bed wasn’t the most ideal spot, it was too rocky, and the yield was amusing.




The largest and the smallest.  The 1 pound box of spaghetti is for size reference.  I think that one will feed us all for a meal.  They are curing and will be moved to the cellar soon. This week is mostly supposed to be pleasant, so I think it is time to cut down and mulch the asparagus, pull the tomato vines, cut down the sunflower stalks, and prepare a bed for planting garlic in a couple more weeks.  I will leave the volunteer tomatillo plants and hope to harvest a few more of them before the first frost.  My facebook memory from last year said we were anticipating three nights of frost in a row.  Our lowest so far has been in the lower 40s.

One of the young cull cockerels must be Houdini.  I keep finding him out in spite of the netting to protect them from the hawk.  He must be flying over the gate and enjoying his days free ranging.  Some nights I find him perched on the egg door of the coop and have to collect him and return him to the safety of the coop for the night.  Some nights he finds his way back in on his own.  He better enjoy his freedom, because he is only a couple short weeks from a permanent vacation in freezer camp.

After the Spinzilla competition, I have only been spinning at the two outdoor events.  The Bridge Day event ended up being a front page article with photographs in our local paper.  The picture doesn’t show how cold and windblown I was.  Today’s Harvest Festival at the historic Smithfield Plantation House was fun.  It wasn’t well advertised, so not too well attended, but the folks that did come enjoyed fresh pressed cider, music; could take a dance lesson; buy a pumpkin or some gourds; watch the blacksmith ply his trade; the weaver working on a small loom, making a belt or strap; and me spinning.


Though I was the spinning demonstration, I was in the pavilion behind the house and not in the Weaver’s Cottage this time and had the opportunity to not only spin and discuss the fiber art, but I got to vend.  In spite of the poor turnout, I sold some soap, salve, beard products, and a handspun, handknit hat.  I am 4 ounces closer to having enough yarn to make my sweater, still spinning Priscilla the Leicester Longwool.

My next spinning demonstration will again be at the Smithfield House for the Halloween activities on October 28 with pumpkin bowling, a historic hayride, and other activities.

Jim got to take an overnight trip with his HOG group, a handful of bikes and folks rode most of the state of North Carolina to watch motorcycle drag racing.  I am still awaiting his return home and as it has been dark for an hour now, I start to fret over his safety.  They were 3 hours and 40 minutes from home and didn’t leave for home until 3:30, so it is just in the range where he should be getting here.