The Ugly Quilt and Life Lessons

The Ugly Quilt and Life Lessons

It’s been snowing here in Western Washington. That in itself isn’t that unusual, however the amount of snow we’ve had over the last few weeks is. We had accumulated quite a bit for a state that doesn’t do much for winter prep or have many snow plows. This was starting to cause problems.  It’s not bad for us personally. We love being home. My biggest challenge the last few days has been relaxing. I’m more type A and love to be doing, learning and creating something all of the time.  I figure I come by it from my parents, who were the original “do-it-yourself-ers”.  I have a true love of projects and feeling productive.

During snowpocalypse, we did what we could outside, like checking the animals every few hours to make sure they were warm and had water, walking the fence line to check for downed trees and branches and of course, sledding down the long hill. But eventually it was time to go inside and thaw out. Since we couldn’t work on any of our numerous outside projects I looked around for something to do inside and decided that cooking up some warm, yummy comfort food was just the ticket.

I started with an early lunch. It was venison brats cooked with mushrooms and sweet onions and then topped with several handfuls of micro greens. This was accompanied by a rather large bowl of homemade vegetable soup made from last season’s garden harvest. Dinner was BBQ ribs, from our home raised pigs, fried okra and homemade Dutch apple pie. After dinner I decided a second dessert was in order so I made a double batch of chewy peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Baking to keep myself busy wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t eating everything I made. I rolled myself to bed that night. In the morning I warmed up my insides with a big bowl of homemade lentil soup and then made a huge sausage and egg breakfast casserole for my second breakfast. Hey, if the hobbits can do it so can I. (Life lesson #1 – moderation is key.)

Shortly after my second breakfast I noticed my sweat pants were getting uncomfortably tight and decided I probably  needed to find some other means of being productive because if I kept cooking I wasn’t going to be able to fit out the door when the snow finally did melt. I started looking through my boxes of old, half finished projects, searching for something to work on. True confession time, this box is rather large….it might be several boxes. I was raised that you finish what you start, so of course if I haven’t finished it I have to keep it until someday I get back to the project and finally complete it. This is my reasoning anyway.

This is how I ended up sitting on the floor staring at my partially finished ugly quilt. Let me back up, several years ago I had decided I really needed to master sewing. As a child I would wrap myself in one of these beautiful quilts that my granny had made and even though I barely knew the woman, I felt close to her.  When I snuggled into them I felt like I was connected to her and my extended family. So it made perfect sense in my mind that when I decided to learn to sew I would start with quilts. After all it’s just straight lines right? How hard could it be?  Bless my heart. Yes, I just blessed myself. We’re snowed in, it’s not like anyone else can do it and it really needed to be said. (Life lesson #2 – Everything looks easy from a distance, the devil is in the details.)

Anyway I digress, as I was saying, several years ago I started a strip quilt and after getting a good amount done I put it away to be finished another day. Sitting there now looking at the quilt I realized why I had put it up….it was ugly. Seriously ugly. But I could hear Mom’s voice echoing in my head, “finish what you start”. It was Mom’s voice because Dad didn’t actually say it, he just demonstrated it, never quitting until he had accomplished what he set out to do. To be honest I think he was just too stubborn to quit. I argued with myself for a bit about finishing the quilt. I really think Mom was talking about chores, school projects etc, but I guess the lesson could be applied to things like ugly quilt projects too. Besides between Mom’s lessons and Dad’s stubbornness, I knew I was going to have to finish the darn thing.

Besides being unsightly, it had some technical challenges too. Shortly after I started the project I knew I was in trouble. Like usual when I decide to learn something, if a little is good, a lot must be fantastic. So why not start with a extra large queen size quilt? Lord have mercy on my pea picking brain. Looking back I wonder why one of my many talented sewing friends didn’t try to dissuade me. I remember when one of my friends was  reviewing basic sewing supplies with me and she help up a seam ripper. My response was, “I know what that is. I’m really good at using a seam ripper”. Clearly that should have been an indication that I needed a reality check. But alas, it didn’t happen and here I was, trying to work up the enthusiasm to finish the beast.  (Life lesson #3 – It’s wise to test the waters before diving in headfirst into unknown territory.)

I remember when I was talking to someone and I casually mentioned I was sewing a quilt and they mentioned how they struggled with their points. I had no idea what she meant and so I just vaguely nodded my head and changed the subject. I went home and looked up quilting and points. I sat back stunned. You mean all those corner pieces are supposed to line up perfectly? Were they serious or was this some sort of cruel quilters joke? That was an eye opener. Obviously quilting wasn’t easy even if you knew how to sew (which I think we’ve established, I didn’t). (Life lesson #4 – know when you’re in over your head)

With the snow keeping my home bound there wasn’t many distractions so I figure I might as well buckle down and get it done. My husband wandered by a few times early on, but hearing me mutter and curse under my breath, he wisely chose to avoid the area. It was several hours later before he approached me to ask how it was going and wonder aloud why I was putting myself through this. Several answers ran through my head, because I still wanted to learn the skill, because I’m too stubborn to quit, because you have to finish what you start, but all I said was, “It’s a family thing”. He’s been married to me long enough, he just nods his head and pretends that I’m make sense.  (Life lesson #5 – Family matters. Whether you chose to embrace them or avoid them, they shape the way you look at life.)

A few hours later I had finished  the quilt top with its imperfect points, riotous colors and crooked seams. I called my husband over to admire the mess. Then I explained to him that although it was mandatory for me to finish the quilt top, I drew the line adding the batting and backing. After all my mom didn’t raise a quitter but she also didn’t raise a dummy. I also explained that the amount we would pay for someone to finish the batting and backing on would probably be more than we would have paid for a really pretty  store bought quilt.  His response was perfect, “yea but that wouldn’t be the same. This one you made.” A perfect response.

So this tale was my long winded way of saying, if you know of someone who finished quilts, has an adventurous spirit and is up for a challenge, feel free to drop me a message. (Life lesson #6- know when to ask for help.)  HELP!

Kidding and Snowmageddon

Kidding and Snowmageddon

For those that don’t keep up with our Facebook page, we have been one of Western Washington Snowmageddon victims. We’ve been snowed in for a week now and were without power for 4 days. There were some challenges for sure, such as cooking on the woodstove by candle or flashlight and very cold PTA baths (for those that aren’t familiar with the term….let’s just say the initials represent parts of the body that need addressing sooner than others) but overall we managed ok.

One of the biggest challenges was that kidding season started during the snow storm. Those of you who raise livestock understand all too well that the coldest, wettest and most inhospitable conditions seem to bring on goat labor like nothing else. Thankfully, for the most part, the goats needed little help because assisting by headlamp when your fingers are barely working from the cold makes things difficult. So I was grateful that little help was required…..until yesterday.

Yesterday Ursa let out a scream like she was being tortured, and I guess in a way she was. We arrived in the barn in record time and found her with one hoof out and the kid obviously stuck. We managed to push the hoof back in and fish around to locate both feet and a nose and Ursa thanked us by expelling the kid like she was shooting a rocket out her rear.

Since kidding season is usually pretty uneventful around here and we mistakenly we thought , statistically speaking, we had managed through the only issues we’d have this year. We were wrong. This morning Hubs went out to do chores and yelled in the door that Vessie was kidding. Since birth is rarely quick, in human or animal, I figured I had time for at least one cup of coffee before bundling up to face the cold, but alas that wasn’t meant to be. When Hubs didn’t return I figured I better get outside and help.

Vessie is an excellent mother and usually manages to have her kids external, cleaned and fed before I can even get on scene. This time was different. We arrived to find two kids born, she had apparently started cleaning the first one when the second arrived. It was stillborn and she was stunned. When we got to the barn we tried and tried to revive the baby but nothing worked. At this point Vessie seemed as confused as any first time mom. While we all would have appreciated a minute to process the loss of the baby Mother Nature rarely works that way. Life, as usual, continues on whether or not you are ready and able to keep up. Vessie had stopped cleaning the first kid and stood vaguely stunned when a third baby arrived. We got the 2 healthy babies cleaned, cords tied, trimmed and dipped but the last (and smallest) baby obviously had some fluid still in her lungs. We swung her for a bit but she still sounded a little raspy.  It was concerning. Vessie at this point had awoken from her stupor and was back to be the awesome mom she usually is, cleaning the looking after her two babies.

We made sure they had latched on and were fed the all important colostrum and even gave them a squirt of goat vitamins and nutrients. We cleaned them and placed them in the warming box and then we went into the house for our first cup of coffee while we waited. Sometimes Mother Nature goes against all your best efforts and sometimes she is merciful despite a million things that could go wrong.  Experience has taught us there really doesn’t seem to be a rhythm or reason to these things.

I went out to check the babies a while later and found the Vessie’s first kid up and actively nursing. The smaller kid was in the corner, pushed up against the water bucket, with her head flopped over backward. My heart caught in my mouth and I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. I had so hoped that she would make it. That despite being small, being born in the cold and having a bit of rasp in her breath she would persevere.

 I unlatched the gate and went to gather up the little one. I reached down and picked her up, she was still warm to the touch. I ran my hands over her wondering if maybe I could still resuscitate her when suddenly her eyes popped open and she opened her mouth to let out a surprised yell. I think I might have given off my own yell of surprised mixed with laughter. Apparently she had just been sleeping super deeply, in a position any yoga master would envy and decided the cold water bucket made a better bed friend than the warm heat box.  Goats…..they sure do keep you on your toes. She bounced back quickly, once she (and I) recovered from the surprise- her the surprise of being awaken in a strangers arms and me the surprise of her being alive. When I left the barn she was playing with her sister and romping around the kidding area full of vigor.

I share all of this for two reasons, like Vessie make sure you surround yourself with people who will step up and help when life knocks you a curve ball. Sometimes we just need a minute to catch our breath and since life doesn’t slow down for us at these times make sure you select your tribe based on who will be there when you need them. The other thing is to remember not to  ever give up. Even when people may think you are done and out of the game, you may just be taking a little rest to gather your energy.

And the Wheel Goes Round and Round

And the Wheel Goes Round and Round

You may be looking at the picture and wondering what the heck you’re looking at. Don’t worry you’re in good company, I wondered the exact same thing. Turns out the answer to that question is quite the tale.

I arrived home from work, late in the evening one night last week and stopped at the barn to say hi to the horses, as I usually do. Hubs drove down the hill to the barn and rather than his usual greeting, he started with, “You just missed the show.” This statement always strikes a bit of fear in my heart. It either means I missed something adorably cute that one of the animals did or he narrowly escaped death. There never seems to be any middle ground between these two. In this particular instance it was the latter.

Some of you may remember the very large spool we have in the goat pasture. Hubs brought it home many years ago and it was quite the hair raising adventure getting it across the horse pasture and put the hillside to the goat pasture. The goats have always loved playing on the spool, but alas it’s time in the goat pasture is coming to an end. We’ve decided to repurpose the lower portion of the pasture and so we needed to move the spool (along with a rather large stack of old split rails and a ton + pile of rocks).

With us both working off the farm and only having a few hours each evening of daylight to work by, it took most of a week to get all the wood rails and rocks moved. The last thing to move was the spool. I figured we would get it this weekend when we were both home because the spool has a few of the bottom pieces broken out and won’t roll well  and if it happens to get out of control  on the hillside there’s a fence right below it that I would prefer to keep in one piece and just past the fence is the pond.

Despite my concerns, Hubs decided he could get it done alone.  Inevitably whenever he decides that a two or more person job can be done alone, I picture the little imp that sits on my shoulder whispering into my ear, “grab a beer and watch this!” Sure enough, he proceeded to tell me the tale of how he had wrapped a chain around the spool and begun to drag the spool. Of course we don’t have a 4WD tractor and between the rain slick, mud and the slope of the hill, the tractor started sliding. The new angle between the spool and tractor cause the chain to strain and then break. The chain went flying by and when his life stopped flashing before his eyes he looked back he saw the spool tipped and had started a slow motion, drunken roll down the hill. He watched in equal parts fascination and horror as it continued its ungainly wobbly roll, down the hill toward the fence. Then, just when he was convinced the fence was going to be demolished  the spool, rather miraculously hit a bump in the ground, launching the huge spool several feet in the air, causing it to only graze the fence before landing on the other side. It finished its Olympic worthy rambling downhill journey by rolling into the pond before falling over.

So the answer to the question, “what the heck is that a picture of?” is the spool, sitting in the pond and half covered in brush, half covered in mucky and water. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, farming isn’t for the faint of heart.