Cleaning Clay

I’ve have always wanted to take clay from the ground, clean it and make a bowl or something out of it. Years ago I did bring home a 5 gallon bucket full that I had dug while dad was working in the field. He put it in the truck and hauled it home for me and there it sat. I didn’t get the rest of the materials rounded up to actually do the project. Well, history does repeat it self because I have a large soup pot of clay that I dug out of the sump pump hole in the basement. This time however, I’m pretty sure I have all the pieces to finish the project.

The problem the first time around was the directions I had to clean the clay required screens and more buckets and a list of things that even if I could have rounded them up I’m pretty sure dad would have been less than thrilled to find me coating them with mud and clay.

This time however I have figured out that clay is lighter than the sand, rocks and other bits of stuff that need to get cleaned out of it. I didn’t take “during” pictures because me, a camera, mud and a hose, well lets just say something was bound to go wrong.

Step one:
Fill the bucket of clay with water. With your hands get everything moving. Smash the chunks with your fingers and stir everything up really good. By this time the water will be very cloudy and your arm will be coated with dirty water.

Step two:
Let the bucket of water sit for a few minutes. This will allow the heavier particles to sink while the clay particles stay suspended in the water.

Step three:
Pour the clay water into another bucket leaving the particles that settled on the bottom in the bucket. Rise out the unwanted chunks.

Repeat steps one thru three until there is next to nothing settling on the bottom of the bucket. Depending on how dirty the clay is this could take three to six times.

Once your sure you have gotten all the sand out let the clay water sit for a couple days. The water will turn clear and you will see the clay on the bottom. Pour out the water and allow the clay to dry until it is a workable consistency. The drying time will vary considerably depending on the heat and humidity where the clay is being kept.

Viola, ready to use clay!

Next up, Using your clay.

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The Lake Julia Tuberculosis Sanatorium

I woke up this morning with a bur under my saddle and I have been ready for a fight all day. It’s just one of those days I guess. This evening I was just cruising Facebook to see all the news, that really isn’t news, and most of which I don’t really care about. I found this:

One of the most absurd articles I have read in a long time. The first comment I made on this post they must not have liked because I see it wasn’t published. But they need to know that their story was completely wrong (I’m sure they do know this, but I wanted the satisfaction of letting them know I know too.) and that maybe the should do some better research before they go spreading such rumors.

I haven’t written much about the bigger history of our farm and maybe it’s time. I will get some more facts together about it for you. It’s really kinda interesting. I didn’t know what we were buying until we did. That may be more of a winter writing project. For now here’s my “fire” about the above.

The farm that we live on was part of the Lake Julia Tuberculosis Sanatorium. It produced the dairy and a lot of the food that fed those living and working at the facility. In fact the old gutters and remains of the manger are still in the barn today. Though the house has been added on to over the years the original part is still at the heart of it and the old plaster and lath walls still remain.

The blog post above it so far from the truth I can’t even sit still to think about it. There is plenty of lore out there about the place and truth if people actually care to hear what actually took place. If you want to write fiction than state that it if fiction. Don’t write fiction and let people believe it’s true! That’s a good reason that historic places and old houses are broken in to and vandalized; because of some crazy story that people believe to be true and want to see it for themselves.

It was a sanitorium years ago. Yes, there are incinerators there. It’s not like they the means to safely transport infectious materials and refuse to be disposed of in a different location like we do today. To some it may seem like a spooky place to others it’s just how things were (and are).

The next two links are from someone who lived on our farm in the very beginning. She has some real stories about how things were when everything was up and running. Take a few minutes to check them out before you get too sucked into the fiction.

Lake Julia Tuberculosis Sanatorium

Photo was taken by Bemidji Pioneer

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Crunchy Towels and Stiff Blue Jeans

Ah one of the joys of country living is line-dried laundry. We had clothes lines in town too and I used it often. The younger neighbours gave funny looks when I did, I’m not sure if it was because I was using the line or if they didn’t know what it was for or maybe it was the apron and boots. Whatever the case they just didn’t seem to get it. The older neighbours seemed to enjoy seeing someone use the old line again.

I am quite surprised there isn’t one at the farm already. You can bet I will be installing one. For now some line between trees will work just as well. When the days are nice I hate the idea of using the dryer. It just doesn’t make sense. “Way back when” grandma said they hung the clothes out year round. In the winter they would freeze stiff and then be brought to thaw and drip dry by the wood stove. I don’t have the necessity or feel the need to go that far, however on nice winter days I will hang the blankets out to freshen them up a little.

Towels and blue jeans always seem extra crunchy off the line. I don’t mind it, though I’m not sure the rest of the family feels the same way. The midwife brought up a good point, line dried towels are a great for exfoliating.

The first nights sleep on sheets that have been washed and hung on the line to dry always seems like the best night of sleep. I don’t know if its the fresh sheets or the fact the it’s Saturday or Sunday night after a full weekend of long days working. Whatever the case, I like it.

There are a few down falls to drying laundry outside.
-The collection of pollen- during high pollen times of the season fresh sheets can be not so great with allergies.
– Wet dogs – when the dogs come back from falling in the slough or the lake (one of ours must fall because he doesn’t like to swim) and shake, of course they need to do it by the clothes line.
– Wind- This is both good; it dries things much faster, and bad; it can blow things off the line which may or may not end up needing re-washing.
-Bird shit- needs no explanation.

Even with the few minor mishaps, I would much rather use the clothes line.

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How Highs The Water Mama?

wildflowerfarm.orgSix feet high and rise’n. Well six feet may be a little exaggerated but we’ve been fighting water in the basement again. Our last house had a water problem. During heaving summer storms the water would actually flow in the back door because the drain outside couldn’t keep up. The last time it happened I was home alone and 8 months pregnant bucketing water out of the stair well in the storm. My husband and friends were having a hell of a time getting the  boat off the river and dodging down trees trying to get home. That was a good storm! And by that time the carpet had been ruined and removed from the basement, so our efforts were protecting the drywall and furniture.

This houses water adventures began a few nights ago with the constant, heavy, soaking rain we have been getting. It’s been coming down for a few days and the water table is high. We’ve spent the last four days now sopping up water and cussing the sump pump for not kicking on. Luckily the basement here is poured concrete with no drywall or carpeting to worry about. Most everything stored down there is it rubber totes. None the less, water in the basement is a frustrating thing to say the least.

Part of the water this time around was unknowingly self-inflicted. We took down an arbor that had a gutter built into it. Not knowing that the amount of water produced by heavy, soaking rain would be enough to seep into the now known cracks in the corners on the south side of the house. Yay! I foresee another project in the future! Little did I know, gutters are a rather important feature.

Rather than getting supplies to build the new chicken coop (yes, the chicks are here and there’s no coop yet. There has just not been time.) the day was spent sopping water and putting up gutters. Perfect timing too. Shortly after the gutters were up the rain started again. Leaving us with much less water in the cracks and still an over flowing hole in the floor.

Nap time used to consist of me cleaning, doing paper work and other various tasks I can’t do when the little guy is up. Lately that routine has changed to washing towels and digging the hole in the basement deeper in hopes that the pump will begin to work as it should.

Now off to check my handy work and hoping we are close to the end of this indoor water feature.

On a happy note all the chicks survived the night!

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Old Cookbooks

I have another slightly overgrown collection in addition to the aprons and cake pedestals, cookbooks. In the cookbook collection is a mini collection of church cookbooks and old cookbooks. I have a very hard time sitting down to read anything that is not some sort of instructional book or cookbook. If I’m going to sit down I either need to be working on something or learning something (sometimes both). Cookbooks are the relaxing reading that I do and old cookbooks are usually the most entertaining.

I like food history. Though these are not an actual history lesson there is something to be learned. I like to see the trend of ingredients with the year that the book was put out. Early books using very little sugar and more molasses, lots of nuts and dried fruits. Oleo and cakes of yeast. Then there’s the books where you start to see corn syrup and cans of soup. These start to get a little upsetting with the use of more processed ingredients, but there are still some good and easily convertible recipes. The current church cookbooks are the most upsetting. Most of the recipes, are a box of this mix and a container of that, and a can of the other. They call it homemade. What a load of crap! At this point a frozen pizza and oreos are just as healthy (food additive and chemically speaking).

I don’t tend to buy current church cookbooks for that reason alone. Instead I pick up old ones from second hand stores and garage sales. My favorite ones I received from Grandma. A couple, I believe first belonged to Great Grandma, the third is from the Willing Workers group in the area. The third is a current one but the recipes haven’t degraded to crap. Those ladies still know how to cook. The other two are a Slovak Women’s Union Cookbook and a Croatian Women’s Willing Workers of sorts. The copy write on them is pre 1950. The recipes are great. Some of them don’t work but that I expect with any cookbook, others are better than anything you can find in any fancy cookbook.

I was reading a Strudel recipe the other day (one recipe that didn’t work) and in the directions it said remove your rings. I read and reread the recipe looking for where the rings were added, thinking English muffin or cake rings. Neither of which would have made sense in this recipe. Then is dawned on me, your rings, like wedding rings. Duh! I would find that to be common sense when kneading dough or in this case stretching dough paper thin. Of course, I still forget to do so sometimes but that’s besides the point. Reading these old recipes you find interesting little notes and tips that you don’t see in the new publications. Not that they are necessary or unnecessary just fun to read.

The pages are usually yellowed, sometimes tattered and stained. The most used recipes are obvious just by looking at the wear on the page, and the light dusting of flour that never seems to go away. I like the little notes in the margins. Those too show the generation of the owner. Great Grandma’s generation’s handwriting is very neat, slightly larger and decoratively flowing, Grandma’s is also neat, tighter and had crisp points, Mom’s is wider, clean and rounded, and then there’s my generation a hodge podge of styles, mine is unfortunately exceptionally sloppy. I usually stick to smiley faces and “nope” rather than  Any way it’s written, I like to read the notes.

The recipes range from “put everything in the bowl, stir and bake” to very lengthy, step by step instructions. None of which take any extra magic to get them to turn out. I have a few cookbooks that I love but every recipe needs a little tweaking or the stars to align for them to turn out correctly. It’s like the author wanted to write the book but not actually give out the recipes. I have yet to find an older cookbook that intentionally has incorrect recipes. (Again, politically correct, only very few new ones seem sabotaged).

The recipes can be just as “fancy” as newer ones or have an old fashioned comfort. When you feel like a good book grab an old one you may find something you don’t expect.


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