Out of Milk

Have you come across this app yet? I was searching for food & cooking related apps for my new Android smartphone (my first), and it is so cool!

Out of Milk is an electronic shopping list, which is really handy. But even more helpful for me is that you can also use it to inventory just about anything that you use (and use up). Pantry, spice rack (or in my case, spice cupboard; I outgrew my wedding gift spice rack about 25 years ago), refrigerator, even your bathroom toiletries. Just create any custom list you want, enter each item and the quantity on hand, and you've got an inventory. It even has a handy bar code reader to make things easier. For the pantry, I can track the number of items I have on hand. For the spice cupboard, I can actually track how much is left of any item, either by a sliding scale (half left, or almost empty) or by actual ounces.

It took me about 3 hours to build inventory lists for canned goods, staples (flour, sugar, etc.), herbs/spices, and condiments… time well spent. I got to test it last night when we made a trip to Trader Joes on the way home from dinner. I picked up the few things I knew we needed, and Dave browsed. Every time he came up with some bottle or jar in his hand, I could tell him whether we already had it in the pantry (or refrigerator), and whether we needed a spare. How cool is that?

The shopping list and inventory lists are linked, too. If I enter shampoo on my shopping list, it will show me a list of all the shampoo items in the inventory, so I can choose which I need to buy.


The last garden

The farmhouse at Pennylane Farm sits in the middle of 5 acres, with orchards and paddocks on two sides, a pasture on the third, and a concrete patio and garage on the fourth.

Over the years, the paddocks gradually evolved from enclosures for animals to open areas of lawn. Fences came down, the grass got added to Dave's lawn-mowing area, and the borders were carved out one at a time, becoming home to things like hostas, hellebores, and climbing vines like wisteria. The filtered shade still allows for my favorite blue and purple bloomers, things like peach-leaved bellflower, bachelor's buttons, pincushion flowers, and phlox. The daylilies took longer to get established, but seem happy there now. The last bit of earth in this garden, and the bit that gets the most sun each day, is now planted with hollyhocks. The patio has turned into a beautiful jungle, with big rhodies and hostas and heather and lavender around the edges, and pots of perennials and annuals and shrubs that separate a table and chairs from a firepit seating area.

I've filled up the space I have, and that's been fine until now. While I was working, I had my hands full with the yard and gardens just the way they were. Some years, I didn't even add summer annuals to the perennials in the patio containers, and was more than content. The gardens were in balance with my life.

But now that I've retired, that's all changed. More time means more gardening possibilities. So, where should I garden next?

It's a bit ironic that of all the places I could grow flowers, the only place that gets full sun is the one place I have no flowers at all. And that's because planting a garden there first required digging up the lawn. That was more heavy lifting than I was ready for. So I enjoyed the grass and views of the orchard, and focused on other parts of the yard.

But now that I've retired and have all the time I need for gardening, suddenly I see all the possibilities of that unplanted lawn. Now when I look at the bare side of the house with no trees or shrubs, no trellis or arbor, no spring and summer color besides green grass, I hear it calling me. And I'm listening.

So over the next few weeks, I'll be making lists of the plants and shrubs I've always wanted to have, but can't grow in my current gardens, things that will thrive on the sunny side of the house. I've collected mulching materials, and this fall Dave and I will design out the border and cover the grass with thick layers of cardboard and burlap bags, then cover it with bark. I've already started to gather perennial seedlings, and will plant what I can in the current flowerbeds this fall, the rest in pots. The plants will grow sturdy root systems over the winter, ready to be moved into the new garden next spring. And I've taken a good hard look at the perennials in my other gardens, and tagged those that would grow much better in a sunny location.

I'll post my list as it evolves, and photographs of the garden as it comes together. I'm excited, and would love any suggestions you might have as I plan this garden.


The old orchard

On the south side of our farmhouse is a small patch of grass, which leads into the old orchard. There were seven old, gnarly trees when we moved here, and there's only one tree left. Harsh winters, especially ice storms, took their toll on these big fruit and nut trees. In January 2012, huge limbs from the walnut tree scored a direct hit on the apple tree that stood just outside the pasture fence, knocking it to the ground. There's only one apple tree left now, it's a beautiful yellow Pippin that still sets fruit each year (although the crop dwindles each year). I love how the tree frames the original pump house for the well, leaning protectively over it, making a beautiful photo whatever the season.

In the spring, the birds build nests in the tree, and in the surrounding cedar trees. We occasionally see deer grazing on the lush grass. I always had plans to fence it in and let my horse graze there; it would have been a perfect night paddock, with the added bonus of bringing a horse right up near the house. I would have loved that! We never got around to fencing the orchard before the last horse moved on. But it's something I think about each time I walk outside in the early morning with my coffee mug in my hand, enjoying the view from the porch. The orchard is quiet and serene, and I can see my mare standing at the gate in my imagination, waiting to say hello.

This is the orchard, taken during last winter's snow. It will always be one of my favorite views on the farm.


80 times around the sun

I have the world's best mother-in-law. There are those who would argue with me, I'm sure. But they don't know her, or they would agree. She loved me as a daughter before I married her son, and she comforted me after my own mother passed away. We've laughed together, cried together, shared a bond that only a mother and daughter can have.

As a young bride, getting together with my friends, we always seemed to talk about our in-laws. For a group of new brides, it was natural, I guess. As my friends moaned about struggling to find common ground with their mothers-in-law, I'd just sit back and smile. I never had any real battles with Dave's mom, she was too easy-going for that. We had our moments, sure. But when I think back over the past 39 years that I've known this wonderful woman, what I remember are the smiles and hugs and laughter.

Today's barbecue was a blast: lots of good German food and beer, perfect weather, the whole family gathered around... we even had an accordian player to play polkas and traditional German folk music. Watching my husband do the chicken dance with his sisters, his brother, and his nieces... that's a priceless memory.


Never do this again!!

To say that today was not a good day is the understatement of my life.

Dave and his uncle were rebuilding the engine of our old 1977 GMC pickup, and I was cleaning the house and doing laundry, then sat down to browse my latest stack of quilting books.

My foot was asleep after reading for an hour with it tucked up underneath me, but it seemed OK to walk on. Boy was I wrong. Two steps later, my ankle buckled, I crashed to the floor, and burst into tears (something I haven't done in a couple of decades).  After a few minutes of this, I rolled over and crawled to the kitchen and got the ice pack out of the freezer drawer.

I wrapped it in a towel, then wrapped it around my foot. After a while I could walk on the ankle, but it hurt like hell. I spent the rest of the day on the couch, feet on the ottomon, watching my foot swell. Oh joy. I finally took a photo, figuring this was one instance where a picture really was worth a thousand words. It is understandably not the best picture in the world, but considering the situation, I think you'll forgive me.

So...  note the "innie" near my outside ankle bone on the right foot? That's my normal, slim, foot. Compare it with my left foot. See the "outie" bulge? Ouch.

Once I can walk again, I'll update you on progress. This sure is going to mess up our plans for July!

Note to self:  Do not sit with feet tucked underneath, ever again. And in case I go back to my old habits... never buy a refrigerator that doesn't have the freezer on the bottom.


Hatpin flower frog as photo holder

Antique flower frogs are a favorite thing to collect. I love all the different colors and shapes and sizes, especially the glass ones. I looked for years before I found a green glass frog, and have always wanted one of the uncommon (and usually expensive) hatpin flower frogs. I always look for them in our travels, and a few years ago I finally found one in a little antique shop in Littleton, Colorado, after spending the day researching the family tree in the historical museum there.

This hatpin frog is in my favorite green, so it fits perfectly with the other antiques that are displayed in my house. Unlike the glass flower frogs, which I use all the time, I'll never use this one to hold flowers, for fear it will rust.

Last spring, while reading through a stack of library books on country-style decorating, I saw a unique way of displaying an old photograph. They'd used one of the spikey metal flower frogs to hold a photograph, with a glass vase turned upside down over the top of it.

I didn't have a vase that was wide enough to fit over the flower frog & a photo. Best I could do was this dome-shaped vase I bought years ago at a yard sale, which hangs from a wrought iron frame. It has a flared lip and rounded bottom, and is wide enough for a small photo. Now I just needed a small snapshot to display. Searching through a few treasured snapshots of my family, I found this picture of me at about 8 years of age, wearing a pink dress with a velvet sash. It was one of the few dresses my mother didn't make for me, still, I loved it.