26 July 2014

Gold medal?

I am really not sure what the level above “trifecta” is but I think even if there is one, I’ve exceeded it. I am declaring this last accomplishment a Gold Medal achievement.

First, some context.

If you’ve been following along, you know that I have been bitten by the reorganize/tidy/clear out the old stuff bug lately. I reorganized the north wing living area (because I wanted my chair by the window, and then everything else shifted) and followed that up by clearing out the loft (including building a reading/spinning/knitting nook out of an Ikea bookcase).

Then I sat down and looked around the newly organized loft and all I could really see was …

… the unfinished ceiling.

We have lived here for … what, seven years? eight? Somewhere in there. And the ceiling just never got dealt with. We made an attempt with some panelling, but it was unwieldy and didn’t look good. We would have put the same stuff up as is on all the walls, but whoa, talk about a fussy job. It would take ages. And it would require a person lift of some kind. A contractor would make more sense. But there was no budget for a contractor.

And then, some money arrived unexpectedly. Let’s just say it was a much appreciated gift that gave me the freedom to actually do something about the ceiling.

So I went to the city, talked to the helpful people at All Weather Wood and came home with enough materials to experiment with cedar shingles on the ceiling. I started in the loft, where I could work without needing a ladder for some distance, and after some false starts and modifications, I decided it was worth continuing. Then I fell off the ladder. Gently, really – I fell forward, not backward, and banged my legs up on the way down, but it was enough to make me realize that this was not really a workable strategy.

Take home message: using a ladder leaning up against an inward slope is very dangerous. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.


I phoned the nice people at DV Rentals and arranged for scaffolding. Voila: a workable strategy. More wood, proper infrastructure, lots and lots of nails for the air nailer, and we were off to the races.

(Yes, there really was a platform that went from one side of the scaffold rack to the other, but we’d relocated it temporarily when this was taken.)


When all was said and done …



No, it’s not perfectly even. I knew I’d never get it even, so I staggered the shingles on purpose. They stagger a little more than is reasonable in a few places, but oh well. There’s also one spot above the fireplace that I just could not reach safely from the scaffold: the frame wasn’t wide enough to scoot past the wood stove, and after leaning as far out as I dared, I decided that perhaps The Reluctant Farmer (who is, after all, a firefighter who runs training sessions on safe ladder usage) might be able to get up there and deal with that one tricky spot some other time. Not falling from two floors up seemed fairly important right about then. I did a lot of very slow moving while on top of that scaffold: reaching up to support myself on the ceiling as I walked, crawling from one end to the other rather than walking, lying on my back and doing Michaelangelo imitations, you name it.

I didn’t have enough stain to cover all the new boards I put up, but those can be done with a stain pad on an extension pole at a later time. There are still some pieces that need to be put up, but most of what’s left is finicky fitting that I am really quite terrible at doing, but the thing is …

I can live with this.

It feels much more comfortable.

I realized that I’d been avoiding spending time over here, avoiding organizing and cleaning it up because it just felt like a construction zone anyway. There’s one noticeable place that needs to be covered up before that sense is completely eliminated, but my goodness … to glance up and see wood instead of vapour barrier and insulation? To have the ceiling covered (with real wood and an air pocket which will add more insulation value to the roof as well)?

It ain’t perfect, not by a long shot, but I did this and it’s damned good, if you ask me.

I am bruised all over – the fall actually didn’t damage me too badly as we instituted proper first aid measures immediately, but all the pressure points of legs and shins and arms where I braced myself against scaffold pipes are turning blue. My hands ache from gripping the air nailer – it got heavy after three days of use. My shoulder muscles are sore from so much lifting over my head (even though The Boy did the vast majority of the heavy lift-and-carry-fetch-and-lug work for me, bless him).

But I am sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window … and not seeing any yellow insulation or floppy plastic, the whole house smells of cedar, and I am content.

Many thanks to the generous provider of these funds (you know who you are): you didn’t have to make the choice you did, but you did, and I am grateful.

And deep appreciation to The Boy, who hauled and carried and tolerated the noise late at night and loaded and unloaded the van and let me use his vehicle to haul materials and scaffolding and fed me and brought me water and lemonade and gave me ice packs when I fell and spotted me when I had to use the ladder again later on and delayed taking a shower until a time when I wasn’t up on the scaffold, just in case. Couldn’t have done this without your help, Boy. Thank you so much. You are a very good kid.

And now I think I might go lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling or something.

Because you know what? It’s awesome.

21 July 2014

And for the trifecta…

… I cleared out the loft today.

I wore shoes this time, but my feet still hurt. As does my thumb, I poked it on something sharp.

A little back history here: the loft was, originally, The Boy’s bedroom. Then the addition was built when The Reluctant Farmer and his kids arrived, and I moved out of the downstairs bedroom in the south wing. It got stuffed full of storage things and fibre things and before long you couldn’t even walk in there.

One day, The Boy and I decided to switch rooms. He got a door, I got more space, things were good. There was room for the store stock, a loom, plus some storage.

Then the shop moved out, and the upstairs was just … a catastrophe. It wasn’t anyplace you wanted to spend any time. It was a place to go dig up what you needed and escape as quickly as possible.

Right now I seem to be in the place where I want all the spaces to be user-friendly. At least mostly tidy (there is still a good ways to go with some of the piles that have been removed from their original locations, but we are making definite progress here) and welcoming. Light. Comfortable.

The loft was none of these things. It was quite frightening in fact. So I got started.

Photo 2014-07-21, 2 48 18 PM

Like I said, frightening.

But I firmly believe that good infrastructure eases most problems … so I set out to improve the infrastructure. Hence the power tools and lumber in the picture.

I’ve been dreaming of a little spinning/reading nook … I spent a bunch of time last night online looking at ideas, but of course I am constrained to work with only materials I already have at hand – no purchases allowed. I think that this new spinning/reading nook should earn me a place of honour on the Ikea Hacker’s website: using the framework from one IVAR section and several no-longer-needed wine rack shelves, I made a base; then covered it with tongue and groove pine (we still have some outside: I used some of the watermarked stuff, partly as an experiment to see how it looks when stained – and honestly it looks fine). Then I took three IVAR shelves and the two remaining wine racks and built a bookshelf, which I screwed to the end of the platform surface, using four of the predrilled holes in the side rails as guides. A few more pieces of pine and the shelf had a top rail and was sufficiently sturdy that it wouldn’t wobble.

Pictures are a little strange as it was dark by the time I was ready for photos but here you go:

Photo 2014-07-21, 10 26 12 PM

The platform will get some kind of mattress, some day … probably in the short term it’ll get a down quilt and several blankets piled on it. For the purposes of the picture I spread out two cotton blankets I wove and tucked a little hand knit pillow in the corner … I took it all off afterwards, though, as the stain needs to cure the rest of the way (I love Watco Danish Oil!)

This one shows the bookcase a little better: it’s not got any books on it, just spinning and knitting stuff. though that may change as I improve my stash storage.

Photo 2014-07-21, 10 26 01 PM

Under the platform there’s room between the shelves (which act as cross-braces) to tuck banker’s boxes and assorted other bits and pieces. The edge of the platform is surrounded by an old bed dust ruffle – if I am not mistaken, it once belonged to my cousin who is a big Texas A&M fan, it’s a lovely shade of burgundy! I’ll try to get some better pictures in daylight tomorrow. If I can still climb the stairs.

The lamp base is a piece of wood – I think my Dad made this, I should ask where it came from! It’s been around pretty much as long as I can remember, anyway!

The pony wall at the top of the stairs had never been properly finished: I added one more piece of tongue and groove, which created about an inch and a half ‘lip’ at the back of the wall, then used two boards of different widths to surface the rail. At the left, where a person might be leaning back against the wall (like a headboard), the shelf is flush with the edge of the panelling, but further out, it widens and has a bit of an overhang. It’ll be a lovely spot to put treasures once the stain dries!

Photo 2014-07-21, 10 26 27 PM

The two shelves are positioned to be easily accessible from the platform, but without being so deep as to get in the way as you round the corner. The bottom shelf is quite close to the floor, but I’ve found it is much easier to keep the floors clean if stuff is up … even by a few inches! That shelf is wide enough to hold two of my favourite baskets for yarn and knitting. The top shelf is narrower and presently has a couple of cones of yarn (including one that is stuck full of the various circular needles I found while cleaning up) and some thread. I’m sure it’ll find more appropriate contents before long.

The bin on the right contains various knitting patterns in hanging file folders. I need a better spot for it, but that was sufficiently out of the way for now.

What you can’t see is the big pile in the corner: several boxes that are going to the ‘take it or leave it’ at the dump, three HUGE Rubbermaid type bins of fibre goodness that are going to be listed for local Ravellers to take off my hands, another bin for the new owner of Flannelberry Creek, and one for my fibre neighbour. Two huge bags of garbage left as well, plus a pile of boxes bigger than I am.

The loom has a spot just to the left of the ‘nook’, there’s lots of room to work there and it doesn’t impede traffic. The roof slants sharply down at that corner, so I mounted a very wide shelf and hung a fabric skirt all around it: underneath is storage for banker’s boxes, the sewing machine, and some more fibre. It’s much tidier having it out of sight like that! The shelf is currently covered with a disorganized pile of books – I need to figure out some proper bookcase management, but that can wait. The small loom and a couple of bins of useful things are over by the front of the loft, and two spinning wheels are upstairs now. And the gold tub chair, which is ugly but so ridiculously comfortable.


I am amazed.

Yes, there are still several ‘landing zones’ of stuff to be cleared up yet … piles of books in the basement, hats and mittens in the hallway, a corner of assorted fibre stash oddities, and some things to rehome or sell … but oh my goodness, what a relief.

Tomorrow, I promise, I’ll stay in the recliner. I have computer work to do … and sore feet!

ETA: Daylight view!

20 July 2014

I know better…

… than to work around the house for two days barefoot.
I used to have no trouble, but my joint issues will give me nasty aches if I do not wear supportive footwear (I like my orthopedic Crocs quite a lot, actually). Still, I kept thinking “just a few more minutes” and that turned into most of yesterday and pretty much all of today. I slathered Volatren on them and am now sitting Gram’s chair with my feet up.
See … it all started when I decided that I wanted my chair next to the window. When The Reluctant Farmer isn’t home, I often sit in his chair, because it’s by the window and has a table next to it for your tea or coffee but I like my Gram’s chair best of all, and it was on the other side of the room. So I moved it. But that meant moving the couch. Which meant moving the bookcase. Which meant taking all the books off (we had intended to sort them anyway). Which led to the realization that I had another small bookcase upstairs now freed up since Flannelberry Creek has moved out, so I brought it down and put some more books on there. Then I noticed that the space behind the couch, which is sort of an office and a complete disaster area, could benefit from two more shelves I had upstairs, so I brought them down as well. There’s still a few piles of things in need of sorting, but overall, things in the North Wing are much, much tidier.
And the floors all got swept while I was at it.
Gram’s chair:
Photo 2014-07-19, 8 44 59 PM
What I see when I’m sitting there (like I am right now):
Photo 2014-07-19, 8 45 29 PM
So that was yesterday. Then I got to thinking, you know, the South Wing is a real mess and needs some work. I should tackle that today.
It was a much bigger job, but tackle it I did. There are still several fairly large ‘landing zones’ of stuff in need of sorting (much of which will leave here, no doubt), but I made some pretty major changes. The bird cage actually sits quite perfectly on top of Benny’s crate, which puts the birds nicely at eye level and freed up a table. The table went to the front entry to replace the bench, which opens up and stores mittens and stuff inside but is always piled high with stuff so you can’t even sit on it. Clearly we need a *table* in that spot, not a bench. And a table you can put boots under would be even better. So I did that, and brought the bench – which my father made for me when The Boy was just a tiny baby – into the South Wing. It now stores yarn stash!
Photo 2014-07-20, 6 09 40 PM
Because it’s wonderful having the yarn nearby, and I can actually fit a good portion of what I own in here. Not all of it, there’s still more upstairs, but the loft reorganization is on indefinite hold … that one is a big job, and it’s ignoreable, so I’m ignoring.
Anyway, I had a lot of things to shuffle around … the cream separator needed to be in the kitchen, the birds were now where the water dispenser used to be (we filter our water with a British Berkefeld, the well water has way too many minerals in it), I had some shelves on the wall I decided I didn’t want anymore, I realized the south wing really, really needed a bookcase …
Yeah, it was a big job. I went downstairs and emptied out the bookcase The Reluctant Farmer made me as a Christmas gift a few years ago and brought it upstairs. The books that were on it will now need to be sorted, but it’s time, especially as it held a lot of little kid books. Realized it had never been stained, so found the Light Walnut and gave it a quick coating, then got it in place. Shuffled furniture multiple times to make everything fit. Moved two spinning wheels upstairs. Hung a lovely picture that was at my grandparents’ house and has been in my house, my mom and dad’s place, and my sister’s … and now it’s back in my house. It’s a reproduction of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, so it seems appropriate that it is here!
Photo 2014-07-20, 6 08 47 PM
I do very much love that painting. It is signed “A Schneider” but I’ve no idea who he was, or how old it is. It’s older than I am, that’s for sure!
The quilt rail is strategically placed to hide the controls for the air circulation and the thermostat – it actually shuts off the heat whenever we have the fire going, or even when the sun shines on it too much, and then at night it’s way too cold, so it does need to be a little more protected. Plus, what a lovely way to display a quilt! This one was made for me by a friend of my mom’s, I use it a lot.
Other changes that’ll really only make sense if you’ve been to my house include turning the dining table the other way, making more room in the kitchen to work (I actually brought in a small table like a mini-island, I think a proper kitchen cart might be very handy to have there but I’ll test it out like this and see), putting the piano back in the southwest corner (with the bench there – I’m puttering around with playing now that I often have the house to myself, I do need to go downstairs and find the student music books!), and putting the little night table that was in my room when I was small next to the rocking chair that’s over by the bookcase. Oh, and I moved the chalkwork people – the boy and his dog and the girl at the spinning wheel – so they aren’t hidden by the bookcase. And I hung my “Home Safe Home” sign right there on the end of the bookcase so I can see it from the whole room!

Here is a short video of the whole room (you can hear the birds chirping!):

16 July 2014

Natural hair treatment for Frazzleheads

My sister sent me a link to this Instructables page … and I knew right away this was something I had to try.

The article writer has curly, frizzy hair very much like mine, and the transformation when she used the flax seed hair gel was incredible! I knew I had to experiment.

I boiled up some flax seed in water (and added some chammomile and orange tea, because I had them here and they smell nice), let it cool for about an hour, then filtered the whole gloopy mess as per the instructions.

I showered, washed my hair, towelled it dry and massaged the gel (which is the consistency of regular store gel) into my hair, combing it through with my fingers (no brush or comb). I twisted it up into the clip I keep my hair in over night (so that I’m not lying on soggy wet hair after I’ve washed it, and so that the rest of the time I don’t end up with hair in my mouth or pinned under my husband’s elbow in the middle of the nigh - which causes me to wake screeching, and that isn’t good for anyone).

Sure enough, it was a bit crunchy in the morning, but a few scrunches and a bit of fluffing with my fingers and it was all good. The curls stay in their locks, they don’t frizz out, even when I wear a hat and work in the hot sunshine for an hour! It’s incredible!

Photo 2014-07-16, 8 57 03 PM

That is after being slept on and generally ignored for a day. A hot muggy day.


This is just a low resolution webcam shot, but you can see the locks by my forehead are still in lovely perfect little ringlets … usually by this time of day they are starting to frizz out in a big way. Had I put in a little more gel last night, you’d see even better curl definition – but for a quick-and-dirty hair treatment, this is fantastic.

It leaves my hair feeling really soft, it’s completely natural and won’t do nasty things to my skin, my hair, or my septic system. Flax seed is incredibly cheap and a quarter cup makes enough gel to last me for oh, I don’t know, probably eight or ten washings. The tea should help lighten (or at least brighten) my hair a bit, and the orange tea just plain smells nice.

I am very, very pleased. My sister says she doesn’t even remember what triggered this to show up in her random surfing, but I am sure glad she found it! What an amazing thing for Frazzleheads like me.

15 July 2014


The barn is dark inside. It has windows, and I usually have the door open, but still, it’s quite dingy in there.

So today, after converting two sheep stalls into one larger cow stall, I decided to experiment with whitewash. We had bought a bag of lime some time ago, which I used to help dry out the soggy ground in the barn intermittently, and I thought … hey, what about whitewash?

Mix the lime with some water and add a bit of salt, paint it on the walls, ignore the fact that it looks like it’s barely covering the surface and just keep painting … and voila! White walls!

The stuff comes off like dust for the first little while … I hear it needs to cure for a day or two (and even then it’ll flake off a bit with rubbing, but hey, lighter is better!). I covered all the gates, the pen walls, the interior barn walls, everything but the ceiling (which would be nice to have done as well .. maybe next year). It was a messy job, but it looks so much better in there! I will go out and test it tomorrow and see how it’s sticking.

I also installed the head gate, which I got as part of the milking machine barter deal a few weeks back: I painted it with some rust-covering paint, and hung it up in the milking stanchion. I had it in there yesterday, actually, and Sasha didn’t mind it at all, so I am very pleased.

This picture is kind of blurry, but it’s the only one I’ve got at the moment:

So yeah, after all that work my feet hurt and I’m very weary … I came in and had a shower, coated my feet and arms and back with Voltaren, and sat down to watch a movie (Inception – cool!) and knit. Now for some hefty sedatives and off to bed!

11 July 2014

Simply Comfortable: new shawl design

At Fibre Week two years ago, my friend pulled this gorgeous naturally dyed yarn out of her basket and I exclaimed “Oh! I need that!” … so she gave it to me.

It wanted to be a shawl. Definitely. But the yarn got put away and forgotten until we were clearing out the fibre room this week.

It still wanted to be a shawl.

I obliged.

Photo 2014-07-11, 12 11 59 PMPhoto 2014-07-11, 12 11 07 PM

You can make one just like it, if ya want … the pattern is free, and as long as you can knit, purl, yarnover, knit two together and knit two together through the back loop (which is easy, but you could substitute a plain knit two together, nobody’ll notice), you can do this. Minimal counting. No stitch markers needed. 675-725 metres of worsted weight yarn, a 9 mm circular needle, and you’re off to the races.

Help yourself. It’s called Simply Comfortable, and it’s available as a free download from Ravelry.

06 July 2014

Unscheduled drug holiday

There is no Prazosin available. Anywhere. There is a manufacturer's shortage and everyone is all out for some unknown length of time.

I spread out what I had as long as I could, but I'm all out now. And I can tell. 

There's a substitute, and I see the psychiatrist Thursday, so I'll get a prescription for that stuff and try it out. Apparently it doesn't work quite as well, but hey, I'll take it. 

It is very clear that I need the chemical assistance to keep my neuro chemistry in balance. I'm back to being jittery and tired, finding it hard to talk, needing to concentrate hard on staying relaxed. 

The sertraline is keeping the Mean Girls quiet, though. I'm able to just take it easy ... I know it's only for a little while, and so I adjust the to do list to fit my energy. 

I did start a new shawl design. :)

04 July 2014

Lovely days

I am having a lovely, lovely couple of days. Went to Sylvan Lake yesterday with The Reluctant Farmer, put my feet in the lake, watched all the people, ate nachos on the patio. Stayed at a nice hotel where we swam in the pool, soaked in the hot tub, and got up to soak some more in the jaccuzi. Came home to everyone's favourite dinner (taco salad) and buttermilk chocolate cake (made with Sasha butter and buttermilk, and our own eggs, yum), and now I am knitting some more on the project I started yesterday, a new lace shawl design in some gorgeous yarn that was given to me by the wonderful DandelionFluff.

I have a pint of Guinness, Sasha gave me three litres of milk and no hassles, there’s enough milk and cream in the fridge that tomorrow will be butter and cheese making day, and I am a very happy person.

: sigh :

Life is sure good.