Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thinking Outside of the Box With a Garden

Someone wrote into one of my lists and asked about raising chickens and doing a garden. She had had a friend back hoe her yard a couple of years earlier. They found rocks and she was left with a big hole that she had an excavator level last year. She was wanting to have chickens and a garden, but money is short. Her final comment was on how she was going to need some expensive lumber to do these projects.
This was my reply to her.

NO THEY DON'T (need expensive lumber)!
They require you to think out of the box and to recycle what you have!
I don't know where you live, but if you have any kind of newspaper or other place that gets stuff on pallets, go ask them if you may have the pallets. Take them home, break them apart and use the wood.
Been there, done that and it works just fine! Made square foot gardening blocks and housing for my chickens with them.

Later, after I bought 5 acres and later married, my (now ex) husband worked across the street from a concrete place. He noticed that they had a pile of broken concrete blocks - cinder blocks. The kind that are rectangular, have two flat sides and two open sides, split down the middle so there were two sections in each block. He asked if he could recycle the broken blocks and they said yes. So every evening he would put about 4 blocks in the back of our small truck (don't carry too many. They're heavy and you don't want to damage the truck with too heavy a load.)

I measured out some 4x4' square and set the blocks up so that the holes faced up. That gave me extra planting spaces. I stacked the blocks two high for support. When I had about 6 squares, I called the local "dirt" company and bought some top soil/mushroom compost (from a local mushroom place). (If they don't have any "compost" type dirt, just buy the top soil and find someone with a stable. Then learn how to compost.) A dump truck load cost me $5. I'm positive it would cost more now! But still, even if it's $35, it's worth it. They deliver it and put it in one spot, so pick a spot before they come out. Make sure the truck can access that spot and that you can stand looking at where it's located for a while. Do this AFTER you have your squares built. Also remember a new garden doesn't do as well it's first year.

Why in the world would someone use a BACK HOE to dig up a garden??? Not having any gardening experience, you didn't know any better, but the back hoe operator certainly should have! That's like trying to kill a fly with a cannon ball and did as much damage. People use a roto-tiller to dig up a garden. It only digs down 6-24 INCHES. A shovel works too, just a lot more work.

Let's suppose that there are no brick places, no pallets or other types of "free" wood to build with. Then start asking construction sites if you can haul off their lumber - when they're done with it. lol. If that doesn't work, use your old milk jugs, juice bottles, etc. Cut drain holes in them, add some top soil and then refer to a Square foot book, website, etc. (any intensive gardening site will work.) You can put 1 tomato plant, 2 green pepper or hot pepper plants, 4 small herbs, or about 36 carrots in a one gal. milk jug - if I'm remembering correctly.

Wait until you've got a garden going well before you buy the chickens. (you can go to the feed store in spring and buy a sack of starter feed and they'll give you 6-12 chickens. At least around here they do.) Last time I bought a sack of starter, it cost $7, but that's been several years ago, it's more now. But why should you wait?

If you're having to buy all their food, you're not saving any money. It will cost more in feed than you save with the eggs. Oh, by the way, home grown chicken tastes REALLY different from store bought. Enough that you may not care for the taste. Before you go buying 100 broiler chickens "for meat". Raise, kill and eat one. Make sure you and the rest of the family will EAT the home grown meat. Both because of the taste and because of killing it yourself, you may find rebellion in the ranks. You could also raise rabbits for meat too. But the same thing. Raise and eat one before you go into it wholesale. (After the first time one lay's your arm or stomach open with it's hind feet, you won't have any trouble eating it.) Getting scratched handling rabbits is like getting stung raising bees. It's all part of the fun. (Yes, I did handle them when they were babies and it didn't make a difference. If they're preggers, most of they don't like you.)

Also wait until you've got the gardening down before you add another job. Make sure you can put up the food you grow, or it's wasted. A smaller garden to start with is better than a big one that you throw food away or let spoil because you couldn't handle the preserving of it.

For me, Square Foot Gardening has been a blessing. Minimal weeding, watering and care. Nice amount of food. I'm not having to weed and water the spaces where I walk. I don't have to over-plant and then thin to the proper spacing - saves seeds and my time (we homeschool too). (Or fail to thin - who likes to kill all those baby plants, and have a poor crop because they're so over-planted that nothing can grow properly.) Gardening this way requires no special tools - no shovels (unless you're moving dirt into the squares to start with.) no rakes, hoes, hoses, etc. I do mine with a tablespoon, a sharpened pencil (to poke tiny holes), small scissors and a watering can (recycled metal or plastic can that I used a nail and hammer to poke holes into) and seeds. (I've kept mine in the fridge, in zipper bags and they've sprouted for years after the "good" date.)

Remember, the food from the garden helps with the feed bill on the critters. Start now with a "composting" bucket on the counter. Each time you peel veggies/fruits, scrape plates, toss left-overs, etc teach yourself to put them in the "compost" bucket. Lean what can go into the bucket (no meat, fats, and a couple of other things.) Each evening, go dig a spot in your yard or garden and "plant" the bucket contents. Or make a regular compost pile. When I had chickens and rabbits, I used the scraps to feed the animals with. Just make sure you empty the bucket each evening and clean it out. That way you won't encourage bugs or mice. Also, put a lid on it during the day helps too.

I did these thing when I lived in Florida. Now in North GA, I can't have a garden. Well, no. The rules are that I can't dig up the yard. I can plant stuff in my 55gal drums that I had cut in half and filled with topsoil. I can put stuff in containers on my porch. I can dig up the area under the eves, next to the house. See what I mean by outside of the box?

I just wanted you to know that you don't have to do bells and whistles to have your dreams. It only requires thinking outside of the box. Look at what is needed and then at what you can use to substitute with what you have on hand.

Then DO IT. Get the kiddies to help. You're teaching them a life skill as well as the interesting fact that kids tend to "like" and eat what they've planted. Mine would eat stuff out of the garden, raw. I never cared that they had peas and carrots for breakfast. Straight from the bush to their mouths. (I didn't use chemicals on my plants, and was on 5 acres, so there was no chance of contamination from a neighbor.)

Only you can make your dreams come true. But don't sabotage yourself by thinking you need expensive things to work with or a lot of money to start these kinds of projects. The Pioneers didn't have stores to go to, yet they were able to raise gardens and feed their families. You can too. Recycle, reuse, repurpose, thrift store, out of the box thinking will get you where you want to go. Make a game of it. Teach this game to your kids. (I have a 2'x2' box, what kinds of things could we do with this box. I need plant starter pots, what kinds of things could I use to make them. Then make a list of everything you can think of. These are REALLY good exercise for you and them. They will expand your creativity!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Carrots, Eggs and Coffee plus the Last Lecture

I had two really inspirational items come across in my emails this week. I thought I'd include them both for your enjoyment. The first is called Carrots, eggs and coffee. I don't know who wrote it, so I can't give credit to them. Just know that it's not my own.

The second is a link to a website with a video that is 11 minutes long. It's well worth the viewing time. It's called the Last Lecture.

Carrots, Eggs and Coffee:

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, 'Tell me what you see.' 'Carrots, eggs, and coffee,'
she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, 'What does it mean, mother?'

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the

'Which are you?' she asked her daughter. 'When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain & adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain.. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along their way.

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling.

Live your life so at the end, you're the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying.

May we all be COFFEE

The Last Lecture:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, things have just gotten incredibly crazy again.

One day I may do a blog on court. Not fun, but the end result was the my ex was found in contempt of court on both child support and custody. I'm not sure when he's going to have to return her, but he's supposed to have to do so. We'll see what happens.

It was sad, he brought her into court to testify against me and she was willing to go along with his lies. He claimed that she always wore rags, that he was always buying them clothes, sending them home and I'd throw them away. Unfortunately, for him, I have pictures over the years of the kids at play and they are nicely dressed and not many of them are with the kids in clothes that he bought, because he never bought them many clothes. The only time the clothes were tossed, were when they were ripped past repair. If they outgrew them, I passed them on to another family.

Then he declared that I never taught her anything, etc. and she was willing to lie about that too. I've done my best to keep the kids out of his and my disagreements, but he's dragging her into it and so twisted everything that was ever said or done that she doesn't want to speak to me. I finally got the DA to mention that if I never taught the child anything, then how did she, never having been to school, get A's in 6th grade, placed in 7th when school restarted from Christmas break and she's still making A's. It set the judge back on his heels a little and he thought about that one for a few minutes.

I've had to go to a moderated blog. They have my blog address and messages are being left that aren't nice ones.

On to a happier note. It's getting to be that time of year again. Time to be planning our gardens for the coming planting season(s). Here in the South, we really have 3 seasons. We have the first plantings of winter veggies in Feb/Mar. Then in April we do our spring planting. Then in Aug or so, we start our second winter veggie planting.

I rent and am not allowed to dig up any of the yard for a garden. So I have several 55gal plastic food drums that were cut in half that I plant in. I was looking for a way to plant without going out and buying more stuff - seedling pots, or plants ready to transplant. I found two really great sites for making your own seedling pots from newspaper.

This one is an origami style one, you only need newspaper to make it:

This one is a video that just rolls the paper up around a drinking glass:

For a great many of us, it's time to start getting those little seeds into containers to be ready for transplanting in the next month or two. So collect your newspaper and start folding/rolling pots.

Remember, if you want to grow organic veggies, don't use potting soil with added fertilizer or pesticides.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A friend has some questions on a 6 year old with a negative attitude and whiny disposition who doesn't want to go to bed at night. Been there, done that. And while it's rather normal for this age group, it's not a behavior that will get them where they need to be in this life.

Well, I have had to change kids' schedules around. But to do that I also had to change mine around. I too am a night owl and so are my kids. The problem is that we live in a day time world and need to be on a daytime schedule.

The trick to getting them in bed a sooner is to get them up earlier.

My first dd was 9 weeks premature. When she was 22 days old, I took a 4lb 3oz baby home. On the way out the door, the nurse quipped; "oh, you're going to LOVE us."

At midnight, 3 days later, I understood what she meant. The night shift has the fun job of giving the babies their baths. Most of the kids are too sick to play with. But my dd was very portable, just a little too tiny to send home - even to a former paramedic with NICU training. (That training is how I sprung a baby that was under 5 lbs from the hospital.)

Anyway, my dd would wake up at 11pm and didn't want to sleep until about 2 or 3 am. When I figured out what was going on, mom did a rotten thing. She started waking that poor baby up. Yup! I'd wake her up. Now what does feeding have to do with sleeping?

Two things. First, if people are hungry, they won't sleep. In fact, that's what wakes infants up at night, crying. They're hungry. When they're full, they sleep (just like we'd like to do). I found that if I fed her first and THEN played with her, when she started to get sleepy, I could just put her in her crib. She wasn't nursing herself to sleep or taking a bottle to bed. I wasn't creating a habit she and I would only need to break later. Both are usually HARD habits to break.

Also, if they don't get enough to eat during the day, they will be wanting to eat at night. (By the way, as we get older, eating, winds the body up, we get a second wind and off we go. So if kids are eating into the evening, they're refueling - and that's NOT conducive to sleeping. It takes a couple of hours for our bodies to wind back down. If you want them in bed at 8 or 9, I'd suggest not to eat dinner any later than 6, have any dessert then and not letting them keep snacking until bedtime.)

With my dd, in order for our family to function, I realized that I need her to eat at 10, so that she would be in bed for the night at about 10:30 or 11pm, so that meant that I backed up all her feedings until I was close to the times I wanted to feed her. Then I awakened her to eat at the times I wanted her to start eating. It took me 3 days to get her completely changed over. Once she wasn't sleeping all day, she quit staying up when I needed to sleep. She still needed nighttime feedings at 10, 2 (and 6am - which is when I had to get up anyway.) But since she was eating more often in the daytime, she was able to sleep the extra hour at the 3 night feedings and still gain weight and be happy. I never made her wait or cry until the next "feeding time". By having her eat earlier than she was used to, she wasn't waking up crying to eat and then having to wait until it was "time". Rather I was awakening her TO eat and in this way, she was never upset by the schedule change. She was used to being fed every 3 hrs in the hospital. All I did was change the timing backwards a bit. And after eating, it was play time - well in a newborn, it was diaper change, snuggle and sing time, but she was awake and interacting.

(I know some people would have just put the baby on the breast and gotten into bed with them. We had a full motion waterbed. There was no WAY I allowed her into/onto that bed, the way it was setup made it too dangerous. So keeping her in bed with me wasn't an option. I just got up to nurse her.)

Anyway, back to the 6 year old. Don't try to get him in bed earlier, instead get him up earlier and feeding him earlier. Then set a loose schedule with him. Talk to him and give him choices about when he'd like to do things and what he'd like to do. Don't be a slave to the "schedule" and DON'T schedule every moment. Make sure he has blocks of free time. Tweak it as needed - schedules are never set up once and then forgotten. As life changes, the schedule will change.

Some people think of unschooling as no rules, no schedule, do as you please. Perhaps that works for some families. In my family, we do have rules that ALL family members live by. We all do chores, we all learn new things each day. I had/have a schedule, but it's not engraved in stone. I made sure there was free time for exploring, I made sure there was family time, chore time, fun time and (unknown to the kids) school time. Yup, I snuck (and STILL sneak) it in there. I read extensively to them. Not just nursery rhymes, but the children's classics as well as current popular books. We also read the scriptures together. When they were younger it was a picture book type scriptures. As they got to preschool and knew the stories better, I'd read from the regular scriptures. I kept it SHORT.

When they're little, we probably ought not to make all their lessons any longer than the kids are tall. lol Not quite, but 1,2, 3 and 4 year olds are not predisposed to sitting for long periods of time. Break up "lessons" and use a lot of visual aids. Have them "teach" you.

Now that mine are older, we read the regular "classics". We have extensive discussions of history, civics, social studies, morals, ethics, science, , etiquette, life skills (how to find a job, apartment, register to vote, open a bank account, manage money, cook, sew, iron, mow a lawn, etc - both male and female). English is taught by gentle speech correction when they are learning to talk, correcting (gently) misconjugations as they mature as well as games, videos, cds, etc. We do use math books for the math, but we have also used videos, Cds and games to teach math concepts, as well as manipulatives to demonstrate math principles. Reading was taught as they showed interest and I tried a variety of phonic programs, none of which the children or I cared for. I do wish I had found the program I have now, which is a spelling, writing and reading program for dyslexic kids. I'm using it with my older kids - even though they can already read and spell. It will make better spellers out of them. I also have my eye on a program that teaches essay and creative writing in a positive way. The public school textbooks that I have are really dry and don't walk the kids through in a way that they can use - which is why so many of us who were public schooled hated to write, but yet we like to blog.

The thing is, if you don't have some type of plan, then you have a harder time helping them fill their days with interesting things. Familiarize yourself with what areas of life there are to learn about. History, civics, social studies, language arts, regular arts, biology, earth sciences, physics and chemistry. When they are younger, use children's "experiment" books. Have fun with baking soda and vinegar, baking (yup, some of the best chemistry there is!). As they get older, go to the library and check out college age text books. Read them yourself first or even with your teens. Have them learn the forumlas. It's easier than it sounds - if you've made learning a joy instead of killed that joy with extensive dead tree work. (note: I have one that loves dead tree work. Go figure.) As Ms Frizzle of the Magic School Bus says: "

Bottom line, if they see you (and dad, if he's involved with his kids) learning and studying, they will too. If you have a "let's see what we can learn today" attitude they will pick it up. But if you're grumbling about having to learn something, I guarantee you, they will pick that up too.

Make sure in the early evening he gets some large motor exercise - run him around the block, up and down the sidewalk. Play catch with him, whatever you can do to tire him out some. Get a bath, a glass of milk - if he's not allergic to it. And then a story, prayers if you say them in your family, and bed. Set up a chart with stickers - even if it's just a dollar package of stars. He gets one for each of the tasks he completes. The bed star he does not get until in the morning IF he has gone to bed on time and another if he's stayed in bed.

I use a program called "Homeschool Tracker". I have a chore section set up. Good behavior and chores/school done earn points. Bad behavior and whining, negativity or any undesired behavior cause points to be docked. (You could spray paint some tiny pebbles gold and use a cup for the same effect. Which is something to give and take according to behavior.) Or a Chart for stickers or smiley faces. Then set up goals WITH him for him to reach. When he has earned XX number of points, rocks, stars, etc. he can do..., or have ... or play... (fill in the blank.) Mostly, kids enjoy time spent with parents over things. Ask him what he'd like to do for a reward. Perhaps bowling, a special picnic with dad, a walk with mom or a grandparent, aunt or uncle. You don't have to spend money. I've never had it to spend. I do know some families that have a Mom Store. Mom prints her own money (from a web site) and then the kids earn points. (or lose them) At the end of the week, the points were changed for "Mom" money. They could save the money for a larger purchase, or shop at her store right then. She got stuff from yard sales, thrift stores, dollar stores and ordered from some of the oriental trading companies where she could get a lot of little things that didn't cost much. ( I also didn't have the house space that they had and it would have been clutter for my house.)

You want to REALLY praise the good and almost ignore the bad. Actively look for him TRYING to do what you want. Offer praise and points, star, rock, whatever. If the behavior is starting to disintegrate, then simply take a point, star, rock, etc. Don't yell, don't argue, don't threaten - as in "If you don't quit that, I'm taking (rock, point, etc) from you." As Yoda told Luke; "Do or don't do. There is no try." Either use a reward system or let him run along as he has been doing, but setting one up and then only threatening to dock points does no good. In fact, it's worse than not doing anything, because you put yourself in the position of rewarding BAD behavior. You're giving the bad behavior attention with the threats and teaching that mom won't follow through, she whines! Yup, I never realized that when I scolded and threatened, I was whining. I needed to just go and quietly DO. If I want my kids to just go and do, then I need to go and do - not sit and complain (in the form of threats to them). Ouch! kids could "take points" from ME too. And there were days I got on a roll and didn't realize it. And it helped them understand that even grownups can have bad days. But it was probably more important that they saw how I conducted MYSELF when they took MY points. (We'd all usually end up laughing hysterically, but I would also apologize to them for MY bad behavior.) Surprisingly, they didn't take my points in retaliation. They tended to be quite honest at those times when I was being a bear - it wasn't often, but it did/does happen.

Get his help in setting up this chart. Talk to him about how we need a good attitude to be successful in life. Give him some chores to do. He's old enough to empty the house waste baskets into the main house trash can (he's probably still too short to get the trash bag out of the trash can).

Make him "Chef's Assistant". Let him help you cook. Notice that help isn't in quotation marks.
He is old enough to really cook. Because of problem pregnancies, I had to teach my little ones how to fix easy things. Tortillas with presliced/preshredded cheese, popcorn, Cheese "toast" (all in the microwave) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, presliced cheese. Milk either on a low shelf in a small container that a child can handle or prepoured milk in sippy/straw cups. (ones that are either closed or don't spill easily.)

At 6, he can do a lot in the kitchen that does not involve sharp knives, hot ovens (they're still a bit too uncoordinated) or stoves (not tall enough without a chair - which is too dangerous). He can use a plastic knife or table knife to cut tender veggies, spread butter, peanut butter, jelly, etc. He can peel boiled eggs. He can hand you ingredients and you can let him help measure ingredients - show him how to level a cup and then watch as he does it. (teaches fractions and as he gets older, have him double, triple, halve or quarter, etc. a recipe.) He can also help mix by hand any recipe. Personally, he's still a little young to use a hand mixer. He needs more heighth and dexterity before it's safe to do that, even with you right there holding his hand. They're too quick to stick a finger into the beater or bowl.

He can also set and clear the table. Help put any food away - he can get you the container to put the food in. He can wash the plastic bowls and the silverware. He can probably dry all but sharps and heavy things. Work with him on how to safely dry glass items and then don't be upset with him if something gets broken. If it's that important to you just tell him it's one of your treasures and you would be upset if anything happened to it, so you don't want to put him in the position of possibly breaking it. If you break it, you will be mad at you. If he breaks it, you might be mad at him and it's not fair to him. Sorting silverware is a great premath skill!

He could also help clean the bathroom. He can clean the tub and the sink. Until he's a little older, I'd not let him do the toilet.

He can help put away groceries when you come home from shopping. He can feed and water any pets. He can fold towels, wash cloths, dish cloths and match socks - other great math skills. There are many more of these type activities that he can do.

Now several things about this list:
One, he's not doing them all by himself. You're there working with him, first teaching him how to do what you want and then letting him do it so he's actually being a help to you, while you're doing the rest of that particular job. Remember to thank him and praise him for his efforts. And NO REDOING his work!! (And don't redo what you husband has done either. It tells them you don't value their efforts. And if you're going to redo it or complain, why should they even bother doing it?)

Two, even when he's old enough to do all his chores without help, don't overload him. I have 3 teens and we have a schedule set up so that we all have about an hour of chores a day. Except for the person who is the cook. That person has about 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hrs to do, depending on what they fix. We rotate the chore lists among us. When there was 4 of us here, we had a "Cook's list", a Dish washer's list", a "Dish dryer's list" and a "Table setter's list". Now that there's 3 of us, we split up the "Table setter's list" among the other 3 lists.

The best thing to do is to talk with kids and take them everywhere with you. Explain what you're doing and why you're doing it. Read out loud to them. Let them see you reading. Give them time to read - and they can't do that if they're running from one activity to the next.
Let them see you studying and express how much you like to learn new things. Talk about how you research things you want to know.

We live in an age where it's no longer possible to know "everything". But if we can read well, write well and know how to research what we don't know, then we will be able to compete in this world. Toss in the ability to do ordinary "consumer" math and they will be in good shape. They will be in a position to understand higher math. There are discalculate kids - they have a learning difference in math that makes it very hard to do math. It's harder than dyslexia to overcome and they struggle until they are quite a bit older to "get" a lot of math concepts. Teach them to use a calculator. Yes, we DO need to do math in our heads, but some CAN'T, or they can't do it in stressful situations - teach them how to cope, but also to keep trying to learn it. Bit by bit they will learn it. I'm 54 and Algebra is finally making sense. I now "get it". Never thought I'd see the day that I would.

As with anything, work on being consistent. We have to train ourselves as well as our children. Be patient with them AND ourselves, but never give up.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Things to come and another something for nothing quilting

I'm working on several new projects.
I have been wanting to start an internet business for a couple of years now. I've racked my brain as to how I can do this and until lately, NOTHING has presented itself as the solution to my quest.

Lately, things seem to be coming together on this point. I'm working for a friend whom owns an internet business, doing her data entry. So I'm learning a lot about how the data is stored and used on the website and what programs she uses to make it happen. I've acquired a CD on how to start an internet business. Then this past week, my daughter found Virtual University. We both signed up for courses. You may take up to 3 courses for $18 - total! Few of the classes require buying a textbook. Almost everything is on line.

I'm taking HTML - used to construct web pages (free to use); Perl - a language used to create hit counters and other little programs (free to use); and Corel's Paint Shop Pro - I'm learning how to use this program (that some one gave me!) to work with integrating pictures, graphics and text. I also am in contact with someone whom mentors people starting new internet businesses - the author of the CD.

Hopefully, these tools and resources are building within me the skills I'll need to finally get a business launched.

When I posted last, I forgot another great way to get a quilt. It's a rather old fashioned way. I've seen quilts that were just large remnants of fabric that were sewn together for the top and sometimes the bottom. You know all those pieces of cloth that you bought to make whatever (and now you don't even remember what it was you were going to do with it)? This is a great way to use them. You don't need to bother to cut them into smaller pieces. Just use several pieces to make the top as large as you want it.

I had a friend who was quite poor and she wanted to give me something for a wedding present. She didn't have any money, but she had access to large squares of cloth (about 36"x36") that were being thrown away. So she hand-stitched these pieces of fabric together and made me a quilt top. She told me that to finish it, I could take an old sheet and use it for the back. I could either not use anything for the batting or to take an old blanket (or several old receiving blankets) and use that for the batting. Then I was to lay the fabric either on my bed or on the floor and roll the edges towards the middle, until I had a small square left open, with all the edges rolled towards it. I could then start in the center and make a small stitch there. Then go outward making small stitches in the corners near the rolled edges - about every 4". Then I could unroll the edges once and stitch where I had just unrolled. Keep doing that until I got to
about 2" from the edge. I could then either fold the bottom edge over the top, tucking the raw edge of the bottom piece inside about 1/2" - 3/4" as I sewed. That makes it so that the bottom piece of fabric will show on the top side and it will have a finished edge. I could also fold all the raw edges to the inside and sew the edge closed, making sure I had folded the material inward by 1/2"-3/4" so that I could make a smooth edge on all 3 layers. I would be looking at a seam that when you looked at it sideways, all three layers would be showing a little. Or I could have used bias binding, in which case, the binding would be showing on top and bottom.

To do this on a machine, I would roll up my edges until I had about an 8" square. Then I would use a safety pin or spring-type clothes pin to hold my edges rolled. I'd slide one edge under the foot and sew the center of the square in what ever design I'd like - or I could just tack it like I would be doing if I hand sewed it. When the center part was sewn, I'd unroll each side one time, re-pin or clip it to keep the rest of that roll tight and sew that larger square. Keep doing this until you get 2" from the edge. Finish as above.

Either way, you have something useful for nothing.