Lasagna Garden Method, Season Two: Fall Time Garden Soil Preparation

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I’m no expert, but I’m not a dummy, either.  The concept is grasped, it’s just the implementation that’s difficult.  The idea of Fall soil preparation is not new to me, it’s just that I lose steam when everything freezes.  It’s always been a little depressing to go out and wade through all the dead and dying leaves. Gardening, it seems, should be done with the warm sunshine at your back, on one of the first jacket-free days, not in wet, half-frozen mud.  I prefer to wait until Spring to renew my faith and hope for a better garden.  But I know.  I know what I need to do in order to improve.  I’m always hoping to become a better gardener some-year. Maybe it’s this one.

I got a late start last Spring, and I stumbled upon the lasagna gardening method too late to really do a good job of it.  I spread straw–since that’s what I had available–instead of newspapers and leaves or grass clippings. Turns out the straw took root and thrived better than anything planted intentionally.  I harvested eleven potatoes.  That’s right.  To break it down for you more precisely, that would be seven large reds and four small ones.  Only one of my squash plants came up, and I wasn’t sure whether it was zucchini or yellow squash until I got one.  Yellow. Who knew?  It’s some kind of dubious honor that I can’t even grow zucchini, now, don’t you think?  I got a few cucumbers, and the tomatoes were large, juicy, and plentiful, but came on so late that I was just getting used to having a regular supply of them when Jack Frost found them.  That was the extent of it–a flash in the pan.  But I’m not about to give up yet.   IMG_1553

(This picture was taken before the last layer of leaves finished covering all the newspaper.)

I’m committed to doing it right next year, and to prove it, I’ve started collecting ingredients early.  The first (weed prevention) layer includes a towering stack of newspapers about four feet high and a half dozen or so large flattened cardboard boxes.  I will be surprised if a single weed dares poke its ugly head above this armor!  Next, the enrichment layer is made up of the remains from all the tomato, cucumber, potato, and squash plants (not to mention loads of straw) all left to decompose under more layers of newspapers and leaves–approximately eight bags full of leaves from my yard and another seven or eight I got from neighbors.   A half bushel of bruised and wormy apples, our dilapidated Halloween pumpkins, and a number of other organics were thrown in for extra nourishment.

Until the rain started making it sag, this was piled up to my knees.  The precipitation we’re expecting the rest of the week is just going to get the chemical decomposition process jump-started for the winter.  Once it gets really soaked, I plan to cover it with a black layer and let it “cook” all winter.   Looking forward to next Spring and planting time!

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Knit Cozy-Hug-Shrug

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You can see I’ve been on a knitting kick, lately.  Here’s another project I’ve recently finished.  I made it for my niece.  It was a surprise, and I asked her model it with the t-shirt she was wearing at the time.  I’m sure it will be cuter with the right outfit. . . but doesn’t she have a great smile?!  She’s a sweetheart–so appreciative, it makes me really enjoy making things for her!  In the cooler weather that’s coming, there are very few things that make a person feel so scrumptiously warm and comfortable as a Cozy-Hug-Shrug!

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It doesn’t get simpler than this:  it’s just one big rectangular piece, then seamed up on each end to form the sleeves.  I began with 60 stitches in a provisional cast on in the middle of the back.  I made up the random pattern of striped rows as I went along (using only knit, purl, and an occasional lacing row of K2, k2tog, y/o, k1). Approximating from the center back to the shoulder, I switched the direction of the stripes with cables down the sleeves, and ended with about three inches of rib stitching at the elbows.  I picked up the live stitches from the cast on (center back) and mirrored the pattern for the other side.  (I was especially careful to change the direction of the cables.)  I finished it off by seaming up the sleeves and weaving in the ends.  You can’t really see from the pictures, but this is a very soft, gushy, delicious yarn!  (Red Heart Soft) and it really is black.  (I don’t know why it looks so light in the pic.)

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Three Little Kittens Knit Vest Step by Step Instructions

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Here it is!  I mentioned in my last post that I had accepted a challenge to reproduce a vest that my grandma used to make for some of my younger cousins.   I thought that they were owls, and knitted up the dress for my niece before I saw pictures of the back.  I’d forgotten–or maybe never saw–that they had kitty tails!  I hope that, with the pictures, my instructions will be fairly easy to follow (even though I’m obviously not a professional photographer, as evidenced by some fuzz and discoloration.) I’m not really satisfied with the buttons I had on hand, so I hope you’ll overlook them, but I was really anxious to get it posted. I’ll switch them out if I can find some better kitty eyes, but for now, MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!

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Materials needed: Four ounces of worsted weight yarn, size 9 knitting needles (or size to produce the desired knitting gauge) You’ll also need a size I(or 9) crochet hook and a tapestry needle.
Gauge: 14 stitches makes 4 inches. 22 rows make 4 inches.

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Finished measurements: 10.5″ X 13″ (11.5″ X 14.5″) Differences in the instructions for the larger size are in blue in parenthesis.  If not noted, the instructions are identical for both sizes.

Skills Required:  Casting on, garter stitch, stockinette stitch, cable stitch, crochet chain and slip stitches, binding off, side seam (mattress stitch) and seaming two bound off edges. Refer to verypink.com to brush up on any of these methods.

Tips to remember:

  • Any time you change from knit to purl (or purl to knit) in the middle of a row, you have to move the working yarn forward or backward of the right needle (or “yarn over.”)  This step is not noted in the pattern, but if not followed, will result in increased stitches and “holes” in the pattern.  (This doesn’t apply to a continuous knit row, or purl row where yarn over results in the increase and hole.)
  • Remember this:  Odd numbered rows are worked from the right sideEven numbered rows are worked from the wrong side.  This will help you count rows, and keep track of where you are in the pattern.

The front and back of the vest are identical with one noted exception–the tail row.

Cast on 40 (44) stitches, making sure to leave a generous tail 18 to 24 inches long.  These will be used to seam the sides.  (See my post on Grandma’s Booties for help casting on.) Tip:  After you have knit several rows, use a crochet hook to “use up” the tail temporarily to keep it from tangling with your working yarn.
Rows 1-10 (1-12):  Work in RIB STITCH (K1, P1, K1, P1 repeating across each row.)

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Rows 11-46 (13-50): Work in STOCKINETTE STITCH (Knit row, Purl Row, repeat.)
Row 47 (51): Purl across the row.
Beginning with row 48 (52) you will be working a garter stitch along the first and last four (six) stitches of each row.

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Row 48 (52): P 4 (6), K 32, P 4 (6)

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(The next row is the only difference between front and back of the vest.)
Row 49 (53) : (Front) P6 (8), K8, P2, K8, P2, K8, P6 (8)
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Row 49 (53): (Back-tail) P6 (8), (K4, take next stitch off left needle with size I crochet hook, chain 12, slip stitch (11) in each chain stitch. Slip final crochet loop onto the right knitting needle, K3, P2) Repeat sequence in () twice K2, P4 (8)

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Row 50 (54)  P4 (6), K2, (P2,K1, P2, K1, P2, K2), repeat sequence in () twice, P4 (6).
Row 51 (55) :  P6 (8), K8, P2, K8, P2, K8, P6 (8).
Row 52 (56) :  Repeat Row 50 (54)
Row 53 (57) :  Repeat Row 51 (55)
Row 54 (58) :  Repeat Row 50 (54)
Row 55 (59) :  Repeat Row 51 (55)
Row 56 (60) :  Repeat Row 50 (54)
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Row 57 (61):  P6 (8), (place 2 stitches on cable needle–I just use a double pointed needle–and place behind, k2, knit the 2 stitches from cable needle, take next 2 stitches off onto cable needle and bring to front, k2, knit stitches from cable needle, P2) Repeat sequence in () twice, P4 (6)
Row 58 (62):  P4 (6), K2, P8, K2, P8, K2, P8, K2, P4 (6)
Row 59 (63):  P6 (8), K8, P2, K8, P2, K8, P6 (8)
Row 60 (64):  Repeat Row 58 (62)
Row 61 (65):  Repeat Row 59 (63)
Row 62 (66):  Repeat Row 58 (62)
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Row 63 (67): (Ears) P6 (8), (remove 1 stitch with cable stitch needle and place behind, K2, Knit 1 stitch from cable stitch needle, K2, place 2 stitches on cable stitch needle and place in front, K1, K2 from cable stitch needle,  P2) Repeat sequence in () twice, Purl 4 (6)

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Row 64 (68):  P4 (6) ,K2, P2, K4, P2, K2, P2, K4, P2, K2, P2, K4, P2, K2, P4 (6)
Row 65-70 (69-74):  Work in garter stitch Purling each row.

Row 71 (75):  Bind off using crochet hook in this method from verypink.com.  Leave a 10 to 12 inch tail on each (front and back) to sew up the shoulder seams.

IMG_1546Once you have finished knitting the front and back, place them together with wrong sides facing.  If you crocheted the long tail, unravel it now, and thread it into a tapestry needle.  Stitch up the sides using the mattress stitch from the bottom edge of the ribbing up to the first row of purl stitches under the arm.  Secure and weave in the ends.IMG_1542

Turn inside out, and seam the shoulders along 9 (10) stitches from the outer edge, leaving a neck opening about 22 (24) stitches wide. Reinforce the seam at the neck, and weave in the ends.IMG_1547

Finish the vest by sewing button eyes on each kitten.IMG_1550

Vintage Knit Owl Pattern ReDressed

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Here’s my inspiration.  My grandma made this little sweater vest many years ago, now modeled by the daughter of my cousin who wore it long ago.  I’m somewhat new to making cables, but I thought it would be fairly simple to “pick off the pattern” as there are no sleeves or decrease rows for the neckline.

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My first attempt was interesting–harder than I thought to actually write down the pattern.  I could easily see what I needed to do, but couldn’t quite figure out how to document each stitch for others to follow.

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I need to study up on the notations for cable stitches before I can finish this, but that’s my goal.  For now, I’ll describe the process in general, with plans to finish the stitch-by-stitch pattern shortly.  I used two of the smaller sized skeins of worsted weight yarn and size 7 needles.  (Next time I’ll use size 8 and a single color yarn.)

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I thought the gray and white would be cute for the “woodsy” pattern.  It makes it a little harder to make out the form of the owls, still, you can sort of see them.  I decided to make the vest a little longer to be a “dress” for my year old niece’s birthday.  With the colorful buttons I chose for the eyes, I think it will be cute with long sleeves and tights of any bright color, white, black, or gray.

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I cast on 40 stitches, then had to determine whether to knit from the top down, or up from the bottom.  I decided to start with 8 rows of ribbing first, then continued knitting in the stockinette stitch for about 10 inches–going UP.  The owl pattern required about 18 rows, with four stitches of the garter stitch on each side for the sleeves.  I finished with seven rows across the top (shoulders and neckline).

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I cut the yarn off in a long tail (36 inches should be more than plenty, but I wouldn’t want to skimp) and attached one shoulder with the Kitchener stitch, for 10 stitches, bound off 20 stitches for the neckline using the crochet bind off (love it!), then finished off with the Kitchener stitch on the last 10 stitches of the other shoulder.  (Check verypink.com for tutorials on all of these processes.)

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For the back, make the ribbing and stockinette stitch up to the sleeve opening, then the garter stitch along the 18 rows that were the owl pattern on the front, and seven more across the top to form the edge that will be the sleeve openings and neckline/shoulders. The seam down the sides was “like cake” using this tutorial from (you guessed it) verypink.com.

Here it is on my live “yearling” model at her birthday party.

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And here’s the Happy (Hungry!) Birthday Girl stripped down for birthday cake.  Can’t eat cake like this with a new dress on.IMG_1522

Coming soon: an actual pattern for the original vest.  And–surprise!  They aren’t really owls.
UPDATE: PATTERN POSTED HERE. HAPPY KNITTING!

Sometimes a Girl Just Needs to Bake Cookies

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After working together as a family to catch up on a little house- and yard-work Saturday, we had our separate errands and projects to do for a few hours.  My daughter decided on a little “baking therapy.” Sometimes a girl just needs to bake cookies.  I can relate to the need to lose yourself in the creative service of making something delicious to share.  But it’s been a long time since I had patience to do roll-out cookies.  She searched the internet and found this recipe from Wilton.  The rest of us left while she mixed and baked, but when I saw how cute her first little turkeys turned out, I just had to document the rest of the process.  With just a cup for a cookie cutter, two containers of frosting, food color paste, candy corns and sprinkles she designed these adorable turkeys.  She even improvised the decorating bag by cutting a tiny hole in a zip plastic bag!  I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

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Priorities, Anyone?

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Time is life. We all have the same number of seconds per day, so why is it that I never seem to have enough of it to do all the things I have in mind?  I’ve never understood boredom.  There are enough projects in my head to fill decades of free time.  Still, I’ve mis-spent plenty of time, and value mindless relaxation, too.  But the quest for “busy”-ness can overcome me like an illness.  I haven’t posted much, lately, because I’ve neglected a few of my most important priorities in the name of productivity. (Matt. 6:21  “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”)

Aligning my activities with the priorities I consciously acknowledge needs continual tweaking. That’s why, when my high school freshman son decided he wanted to try out for the tennis team, I found myself in this beautiful setting.

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As you may suspect, I’m an unlikely sight at the tennis court.  I’m just elated when I make contact with the ball, no matter where it goes.  His dad would have been a better partner, as he lettered in tennis in high school, but he wasn’t available for the afternoon.

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Fortunately our son is athletic and fit (unlike his mom.) He’s also a really good kid.  After all, teenagers and their moms don’t always see eye to eye, and we’re no exception, but he never seemed to mind being seen with his frumpy old mom.  We had the court to ourselves and had wonderful candid conversation while we ran after the ball.  He even admitted he was having a great time.  I guess he really was, because we went out again every afternoon all week while the weather was nice.

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We each noticed some improvement.  I started connecting on my backhand.  His serve improved and he started to get comfortable switching hands.  The best thing was the self-depreciating comic relief.  Sharing the same air in the family room, each doing our own thing, just isn’t synonymous with quality time.  If I had chosen to be “productive” I might have missed out on the treasured opportunity to relax and catch up on my relationship with my son in this beautiful setting!

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Family History Fair and the Legacy of John Ellis, Mormon Pioneer

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For the past couple of months I’ve served on the committee for a Family History Fair our church hosted for the community last weekend. There were three planned events.

Friday night we had an “Indexing Party” where folks could bring their own laptop computer and get help logging in to Familysearch.com and getting started on indexing photographed records into a searchable database.

Saturday we had three hours of workshops, presenting several class choices each hour, followed by a catered lunch. Classes covered everything from computer resources and access to scrapbooking and blogging your personal history. There were classes on photographs, both ancestry and descendency on the family tree (roots and branches), international research tips and technology. There were classes presented in English and Spanish. We had a few hundred people, I’m guessing, and everyone I talked to said it was really helpful and inspiring.

Sunday topped the weekend off with a fireside with the temple president and his wife speaking to families about eternal families and other blessings of temple worship.

I wasn’t able to attend any of the Friday or Saturday classes, because my involvement was in the children’s program. We provided nursery for children from 18 months to 3 years, and a rotating schedule of classes for children ages 4 to 11. There were craft projects, games, activities, songs, and stories of inspiring historical figures.
Of course, the children’s program was geared to their level of understanding and interest, but I am so glad I was able to share a little of my passion for family history with them.

During the course of our plans, I delved a little into some of the stories and life histories I have in my possession and learned (or re-learned) a few things about one of my ancestors, John Ellis. This is the grandson of the elusive one I wrote about in a past post.  He chose the more difficult path to leave his home and family, to leave his parents’ tradition in favor of following his heart on the subject of religion.  Whatever you may think of his choice, it’s undeniable that he left a legacy of unyielding faith and determination to follow the man he believed to be a modern prophet of God.  He went to his grave firm in the faith and confident that he had lived his life in such a way that he was prepared to meet his maker unashamed.

John Ellis was born in 1814 in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada; the oldest of twelve children of John Ellis and Hannah Stoner.  I love his story, as expressed in his own words beginning with what he considered the pivotal event in his life when he was twenty-two years old:

“The true Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth by a Prophet of God, and we are here to teach you the true principles, as were taught by Jesus Christ, when He was upon the earth! May we come in?” I heard these words and saw the two missionaries at our door in Scarboro, Ontario, Canada. But then I heard my father turn them away. I looked at my mother but she, too, was unresponsive to those words. I couldn’t believe it! Didn’t they have a strange burning within their hearts upon hearing those powerful words, as I had? . . . I was still curious about why I had that “burning feeling” when I heard their words of greeting, so I attended their meetings and I investigated their claims thoroughly by reading their Book of Mormon before I asked for baptism in November, 1836. I had not told my parents . . . I knew their strong “anti” feelings toward the missionaries, and their activities in our community.
So my secret baptism had been a joyous time for me to be able to declare my true feelings to my Father in Heaven and to commit myself, for the rest of my life, to living His laws and commandments. But it was a sad time, when my family found I had gone against their wishes, and had actually given up their professed religion, to join another. Their bitter feelings made me realize that I could no longer be happy in their home, so on that winter night in 1837 I bade good night to my family . . . I knew that I would never see any of them again in this life. I skated around Lake Erie and into the United States, where I eventually made my way to Far West, Missouri, where the Saints were advised a temple would be built. (Note:  this was a journey of 1089 miles)

The missionaries had promised that we “would find friends and loved ones” if we had to leave our homes, to follow the dictates of our hearts, so I was most happy to join with other families from the Scarboro area, who were living in Far West when I arrived there.

1870 John Ellis and Harriett Hales

The Hales Family, Stephen and Mary Ann, were very good to me and took me into their home. It was there, at Far West, that I first saw the “Mormon-hating mobbers” gathered to drive us from our homes. Joseph Smith and five companions were imprisoned in Liberty Jail for six months. Much of the time they were in chains, food not fit to eat, and even poison was given them in food, making them very sick, and only through the blessings of the Lord, they were preserved, and at last freed. With all three of the Presidency in prison, the burden of removing the Saints from Missouri was placed upon Brigham Young. He showed his leadership ability in arranging and devising plans for every soul to be helped in their move to Illinois. I was able to help the Hales in their move and then returned, time after time, to take other Brothers and Sisters to Quincy, Illinois.
We were received there with a friendly welcome and the residents voiced their disapproval of the treatment we had received from Missouri mobs. The Hales purchased a farm, and many other Saints chose to remain in Quincy. The Prophet had purchased land for $14,000, on long-term notes, of a place called Commerce. It was about 50 miles up the River from Quincy, and an excellent site for a city. The Mississippi River made a half-circle around the place, giving three fronts on the River. After draining the swamps, and much hard work, it became “Nauvoo, the Beautiful.”

At Quincy, on 31 October, 1839, I was married to the lovely Harriet Hales. I guess I fell in love with her upon first sight. . . It was a double wedding, as her brother Charles Henry and Julia Lockwood were married that day, too.

Our first baby, Mary Ann was born there on 10 December 1840.
Then the trouble began again. . . So we moved to Nauvoo, where our second child, Hannah Isabella, was born 31 December, 1843.
At Nauvoo, I became a body guard for the Prophet Joseph, and also a member of the Nauvoo Legion. The Prophet vowed that “we would never be driven from our farms and homes again.” He organized the Nauvoo Legion, an army of men, who were trained to protect our city, our families and homes, and the farmers of the surrounding countryside, which we were called to do many times. I served as Quartermaster in the Legion. When Joseph was to be arrested, for the so-called attempted murder of Missouri Governor Boggs, he went into hiding, and I helped with his seclusion, but soon he gave himself up and proved he was not guilty of the attempt. He urged the people to work longer and harder to finish the Temple, as he predicted his own fate when he said in Conference, “I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes, then I shall be offered freely. The Kingdom of God was set upon the earth from the days of Adam to the present time. They will never have the power to kill me until my work is done.” Nauvoo had risen from a swamp and wilderness in 1839 to a commonwealth of twenty thousand Saints in 1844. In June, 1844, threats were made to exterminate the Saints and utterly destroy the city, by Missouri and Illinois mobs. The city was placed under martial law and the Legion called out to serve in self defense.

As the Prophet stood before us in the uniform of a commanding General, he said, “It is thought by some that our enemies would be satisfied by my destruction, but these men are moved upon by the adversary of all righteousness, and he is out to destroy every man, woman, and child who believes the doctrine that God gave me to teach to this generation.” On 22 June, Joseph and Hyrum decided to save the people of Nauvoo from the fate of being driven from their homes again. They had been told that the officials wanted only Joseph, but Hyrum refused to leave his side, knowing he also would be killed. Both planned to leave the city to go to the West and seek a place of refuge for them all, at a later date. However, his wife Emma sent a letter to Joseph saying the people thought him a coward in deserting his flock for the wolves to devour again. He returned, saying, “If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself. . . I go like a lamb to the slaughter.” They were taken to Carthage jail to stand trial, but were murdered on 27 Jun, 1844. We had lost our beloved Prophet!


A meeting was called to determine who was to lead the Church, on 8 August, 1844. Sidney Rigdon gave his revelation as to the Lord appointing him “guardian of the Church”; then in the afternoon Brigham Young spoke, telling us of the power given the Twelve Apostles, and all the Keys of the Kingdom: they stood next to Joseph Smith. We saw his whole being changed as the mantle of Joseph fell upon him, and his stature grew to the form of Joseph, and his voice became that of Joseph’s, even to the slight whistle from a broken tooth that distinguished his speech from any other. No one could doubt his power, through this transformation before our very eyes! We were absolutely convinced that Brigham Young, as the President of the Twelve, was the lawful successor, and we raised our hands to sustain him.

Again we were ordered to prepare to vacate our City and leave our homes for the mobbers to plunder. At a Conference, in Oct. 1845, Elder Parley P. Pratt spoke to us. The Lord has another purpose to bring about and fulfill. We know that the great work of God, must all the while, be on the increase and grow greater. The people must enlarge in numbers and extend their borders. They cannot always live in one city, nor in one country. They cannot always wear the yoke; Israel must be the head and not the tail. The Lord designs to lead us to a wider field of action, where there will be more room for the Saints to grow and increase, and where there will be no one to say “we crowd them”. . . And where we can enjoy the pure principles of liberty and equal rights. One small nursery may produce many thousands of fruit trees while they are small, but as they expand toward maturity, they must needs be transplanted, in order to have room to grow and produce the natural fruit. It is so with us. We want a country where we have room to expand and grow; in short, this people are fast approaching that point which ancient prophets have long since pointed out as the destiny of the Saints of the Last Days.” In January, 1846, it was announced the exploration of California and regions west of the Rockies showed a good valley in the mountains, and that we were to depart in the spring, so water and grass would be available for teams. By February 6, the mobbers struck, and the first wagons, loaded with only the necessary things for life, started crossing the Mississippi River, bound for the unknown. I helped to move my family to Garden Grove and then returned many times to bring those Saints who had no teams or wagons and were destitute from the robbings of the mobs.
1890 John Ellis and Harriet Hales Ellis Family

Harriet and I went on to Fort Madison, Illinois, where our first son was born, Stephen Hales Ellis on 18 October, 1846. It had just been two weeks before Harriet’s father Stephen had gone out to look for oxen that had strayed and he drank some poisoned water and died. I had loved that man as a father, and mourned his passing.
We moved across the river to Appanoose, Hancock County, Illinois, where our second son John Henry was born, on 19 March, 1849. Shortly after that event, we went to Garden Grove to live until the following spring. Homes had been built there and gardens planted for those families who were unable to go to the Salt Lake Valley in one season. We started for that place in 1850.

1850 first home John Ellis built in Utah, Woods Cross

At the end of the long and arduous Journey we finally arrived at our destination. At last we would be able to choose where we were to live and not fear that we would again be driven from our homes. We could enjoy family life and the association of our fellow Saints in worshiping and living the Gospel, as it had been given us. Daniel Woods had made a settlement in 1849, just north of Salt Lake and just south of Sessions’ Settlement. We decided to settle there. I had land to clear and farm, and good neighbors who needed my trade as cooper. I made barrels, churns, buckets and wash tubs. The large one I made for Perrigrine Sessions became a “traveling tub”; neighbors from miles around borrowed it for their laundry and baths. Many stories were told of this tub. I built a small home for our family and there acquired two sites for molasses mills. I purchased from Heber C. Kimball his grist mill on Millcreek and ran it for many years. The molasses mills were the first in the community and my sons, as soon as they were old enough, helped with their operations. I also raised cattle and sheep.

1860 2nd home built by John and Harriet Ellis, Bountiful

As I look back over my life, I have many memories. Some of the sad ones were of being forced to leave the home of my parents and family yin Scarboro, Ontario, Canada. I never obtained forgiveness for listening to the Missionaries and being baptized. My testimony of its truthfulness was never listened to nor understood by them, but I am ever thankful for being led to the Hales family, who gave me the love and family life I needed. I was sad to see them both succumb to the ravages and harassments of the mobs, and to be buried on the plains, en route to the “Promised Land” they’d looked forward to. I am thankful for my lovely wife, who has always been at my side, through all our hardships and persecutions. She bore twelve children, ten of whom we reared and saw married to fine mates.

I am thankful for those many trials and tribulations that we had to endure, as they served to strengthen my testimony and bring me closer to the Lord and Master. I am most grateful for having known and been a personal, close friend to the Prophet Joseph, and to his brother Hyrum, who blessed and ordained me an Elder, at the time of trouble in Nauvoo. I was ordained a Seventy and hold that office today. After our arrival in the Valley I was called to again be in the Militia (which was organized from the old Nauvoo Legion) in Salt Lake City. We were called to check Johnson’s army in 1857. Because of false reports from conspirators in Salt Lake City to the U.S. Government, an army was sent to Utah, “to put down the rebellion.” The command was given to General Johnson, who was from the South, proud and haughty. He looked upon the Mormons as “rebels” and his troops, while on the march, boasted of what they would do when they arrived in Salt Lake City. They planned to pick out the houses they would inhabit, and farms and property, and women were to be distributed among them. “Beauty and body” were their watch words. President Young ordered out the Militia to maintain the pass, by force of arms, against any attempted invasion. He sent a letter to the army, then camped at Green River, Wyoming, forbidding them to enter Utah Territory. We were instructed to annoy the troops, stampede their cattle, set fire to their trains, burn the countryside before them so there would be no feed, keep them from sleeping by night attacks, blockade the roads, but strictly avoiding the taking of life. These troops were forced to face the snow and sleet of the most severe winter weather. Colonel Kane, an old friend to the Mormons, interceded, and the new Governor Cummings sent word back to Washington of the true circumstances, and that there was no rebellion. The army was to enter the Valley, but refrain from stopping in the city. However, President Brigham Young took no chances, and ordered us to fill our homes with straw and place straw in our gardens and fields, so that everything could be burned if Johnson’s army did not keep their word to leave our houses and fields alone. We were ready to be driven from our homes again, but this time it was to be on our terms. We would leave the desert as barren as when we found it. We would not leave them our homes and crops another time! With the knowledge of our decision, Johnson proceeded on to the Fort, and our homes were saved. The United States appointed governors and judges, who gave us much opposition and trouble, but the Lord pulled us through it all, with our religious freedom intact.
I shall miss my loved ones, for they have all brought me much Joy. I journeyed to Salt Lake yesterday, by freight train, to see a doctor there. He examined me and then said I had cancer of the face, and there was not anything he could do to help me. So I know my days are numbered. My 57 years on earth will not be in vain, if I can leave my fervent testimony with my posterity. I know that we have the only true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, and that it is led by a chosen Prophet of the Lord, and will continue to be so led, until He comes again in the flesh. I am ready now to meet my Lord and Savior, with love in my heart for Him. I leave my testimony upon you all in His name.

198005 Boutiful marker of John Ellis and Harriet, also two last babies buried here

Whole Wheat Birthday Cake with Cooked Buttermilk (Caramel) Icing

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Contrary to what you might think, you can make good cake with whole wheat flour.  It’s been literally decades since I ate it, but I close my eyes and I’m reliving the memory of this deliciously traditional birthday treat with its creamy caramel icing at Grandma’s house. I’ve never tried to make it myself, but today is the day! I can’t think of a better dessert to honor my daughter’s birthday. Grandma used to tell about how she came up with this recipe on a dare. She tossed one of the layers in the air, spinning it to prove to her naysayers how light and fluffy it was.  I wouldn’t say it was “light”–it’s more like a pound cake, but it is moist and flavorful–certainly not the “brick” you might expect.  Here’s the recipe with Grandma’s own instructions along with a few of my own observations:

Whole Wheat Cake
2 eggs, separated
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (finely ground is best)
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/8 t. salt
1/2 c. shortening
3/4 c. canned milk (may also use fresh)
1 t. vanilla
Make a meringue by beating egg whites until frothy and slowly adding 1/2 cup of the sugar. Set aside or chill in refrigerator.

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(I LOVE my hand wheat grinder!  Fresh ground flour is the best, but I wasn’t sure it was as finely ground as store bought flour, so I sifted some of the bran off.  Because of this, I decided I could get away with using 100% whole wheat instead of adding the 1/2 cup white. I wouldn’t do that next time.)

Sift white flour and measure. Add baking powder, salt and other 1/2 cup of sugar. Sift together. Add the remaining ingredients (yolks, milk, shortening, vanilla) reserving about 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour. Beat well with electric mixer or by hand. Add enough of remaining whole wheat flour to make a fairly thick batter.

Different brands of whole wheat flour absorb moisture differently, so the amount of flour may need to be adjusted.  To test batter, put a spoonful onto a greased pie plate.  Bake to see how it cooks.  If batter flattens out and looks crystalized there’s not enough flour.  If the it rises up high and cracks, there’s too much flour.  Adjust batter accordingly.

Fold in the meringue. Bake in 2 greased 9″ round cake pans at 375º for 20 minutes or until done.

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As I don’t own 9″ cake pans, I increased the recipe by 1/2 so I could bake them in 10″ rounds.  You can see it worked out nicely, but I might even double it next time for a little thicker layers.

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When cool spread tops and sides with Buttermilk Icing.

This cake can be stored in the freezer, wrapped tightly with pieces of wax paper between layers.

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Buttermilk Icing

2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 t. soda
1 T. vanilla
Cook all ingredients, except vanilla, until it forms a soft ball. (This will take about 20 minutes, so make sure you have a large cup of cold water on hand, and prepare yourself to “stir constantly” for awhile!) Cool Add vanilla. Beat until creamy. Spread on cake.

Cooked Icing Tips
Always cook icing as long as called for in the recipe. If icing seems too thick after it’s cooked, stir in a little cream while still warm. If icing seems too thin, add a little powdered sugar.
Cooked icing can be stored in the freezer for several months. To use frozen icing, mash up and slowly beat in a little cream or milk. Whip until desired consistency.

After the Fact:  As with anything, I wasn’t sure it would turn out perfectly the first time.  If I had remembered to take a picture of the final product you could see that it looked good with the icing dripping down the sides, and the flavors were delectable, but it seems there’s a “learning curve” with making this cake.  Next time I’ll try to make a couple of improvements:  As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t try to use 100% whole wheat without the addition of the bit of white flour.  There was a bit more texture than I remembered from Grandma’s.  And as with making caramel candy, I should have been more careful not to scrape down the sides of the pan while making the icing, and probably use a wooden spoon instead of plastic, because it was grainy rather than smooth and creamy like Grandma used to make it.  I’m still dreaming of Grandma’s cake, but next time it will be better, and next time will definitely not be another few decades away! (Maybe next week. . .)

“Arco Iris” for the Baby

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I recently finished this baby afghan that I gave to some friends who just moved, for the first time in their lives, to a climate where there is snow.  They’re due to have their first baby in a couple of weeks–in perfect time for winter weather to set in.  I’m afraid they are going to be very surprised to experience, first hand, how frigid it’s going to get!

They taught me the word for RAINBOW in Portuguese:  ARCO IRIS–same as in Spanish.  I wish the photo had turned out a little truer to the actual colors of the afghan.  It really is an eye-popper!

IMG_1335I don’t know the real name for the stitch I used, because my grandmother called it the popcorn stitch, but it’s not the one you’ll find in crochet directories.  It’s especially nice because it moves quickly and gives my work a lush fullness I don’t get with a double crochet stitch.  It’s especially nice if your tension tends to be loose.

I tried the chainless foundation stitch I first learned about here from a fellow-blogger, Stitches ‘n’ Scraps.  I easily adapted it from the demonstration for single crochet to the stitch I chose by chaining for 3 stitches in the beginning, then adding a chain at the beginning of each double crochet/popcorn/whatever-you-call-it stitch as I added length to the foundation.  It was awesome!  I did still have to think about keeping it looser on the bottom and a little tighter at the top of each stitch, but it was so much nicer than working with a simple chain! (Hurrah!  Knowledge IS power!  Thanks, S’n’S!)

Starting after you’ve made your foundation row, chain 3 and turn.  (Trying to take pictures as I went along, but needing one hand to operate the camera, I didn’t start with the first stitch in the row.  I hope you can see the progression of the stitch, anyway.)  Insert hook into the back of the next stitch, yarn over and draw the yarn through (leaving three loops on hook)

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yarn over and draw the loop through two of the stitches on the hook (leaving two loops on the hook)  Up until this point this is exactly like making a double crochet stitch.

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This is where things differ from double crochet: yarn over again and insert back into the same foundation stitch again, draw the loop through (four loops on hook now)

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yarn over and pull through three stitches (two loops left on hook)IMG_1379

yarn over again and pull through the remaining two loops.IMG_1381

Whatever you decide to call the stitch, it’s beautiful, quick, and a lush choice for an afghan.  I especially love it because you don’t have to concentrate on your pattern, so you can enjoy the company of your family while you work on it.IMG_1344

Namesakes: An Adventure in Family History

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1944 05 Bonnie and Rosemary20020000 Bonnie and her dolls

I was named for my mother’s eldest sister.  I’ve always liked that fact.  She well-deserved the adoration of her baby sister and she had many qualities worth emulation.

198700 Bonnie and dolls

As a little girl I remember going to her home where shelves in every room displayed her collection of beautiful dolls.  Her basement was a virtual museum with hundreds more.  Some were not so beautiful–yet cherished–antiques with a few broken or missing parts.  She had spent a lot of her life and treasure on them.  She knew the history of each doll and had restored and reconditioned many of them.  She loved music and I remember that she played the organ for church when I attended with my grandmother. She was outgoing and generous.

I remember Aunt Bonnie most for her role as the family genealogist.  She did family research when it required years of sending letters to county records offices and cemeteries and distant possible family members requesting information–and waiting–to discover a single piece of information.  It was tedious labor, but she made many lifelong friends with whom she collaborated in her research.  She always came to family reunions generously loaded with genealogical records to share.  She held us captive listening to stories of “our people” whose lives she knew in great detail and with whom she was personally acquainted–no matter  whether they had lived in her lifetime.  She had a special way of instilling in me a sense of belonging to a large, inclusive extensive family unit.

20040730 BonnieEveryone in the family figured that if Aunt Bonnie couldn’t find the records for a person or event in our history, they probably weren’t available anywhere.  There was one member of the family who proved to be too mysterious even for her.   John Ellis, the father of John Ellis (who was married to Hannah Stoner), the grandfather of John Ellis (who was married to Harriet Hales.)  She couldn’t find sufficient evidence to determine which of many other John Ellises belonged in our family tree.  She uncovered many other historical truths in her lifetime, but left to her posterity the nagging mystery of John.

A recent visit to our family tree on Familysearch.org reveals that somebody has been able to sort it out as John and a number of his generations of ancestors, have been identified on the tree.

A few years ago I got the genealogy bug and, armed with technology my aunt never had, I began to search records for my husband’s family.  I had records from all over the world literally at my fingertips as I searched from the comfort of the keyboard in my own living room.  Once I had collected everything my husband’s mom could share with me I got busy searching names and dates on a variety of websites.

I think the first discovery I made was that my husband’s family had an elusive John, too–His second great grandfather, John Peebles!   We couldn’t find conclusive evidence of the family he came from other than that he was married to Helen Hutcheson Mitchell who was born in Quebec, Canada.  He was born in Scotland, they were married in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; and he died in New York. We had a lot of territory to cover!  Results for my searches included countless men named John Peebles.  I found interestingly close information submitted by a man who lived in British Columbia, Canada.  I resorted to “snail mail” to contact him for more information and received a friendly letter back, but no keys to unlock the mystery.Family History Center

Next, I turned to a local LDS Family History Center for help.  They are equipped with computers,  access to Ancestry.com, and friendly volunteers who will help when needed (or just leave you alone to do your work, if you wish.)  Family History Centers are owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints (LDS) but free to the public.  They’re open most Sunday afternoons and for several hours a couple of evenings a week.

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I started my search of census records, finding several possible families, and narrowed the immigration date down to a smaller window of years.  Then I plugged in a few possible dates of entry into the United States and came up with a little miracle.  Scribbled in tiny letters on a line on the passenger record was the tidbit I had been urgently hoping to find. The column requested information on the location of the passenger’s intended residency upon arrival.  It merely stated that he was going to stay with his brother, Llewelyn.  LLewelyn!  Now there’s a distinctive name!  Bless that mother’s heart for naming her son Llewelyn!

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IMG_1351Back to the census records, using the search term Llewelyn, the family was reunited in no time!  John and Llewelyn were two of eleven children.  Their parents were John Peebles and Susan Mitchell.  We were able to trace them, along with four generations of their family, through Rattray and Blairgowrie Parish registers in Perthshire, Scotland.   Scotlandspeople.gov.uk  provided me with a plethora of marriage documents, birth and death records linking them all together.  Reading between the lines of the major events of their lives: marriages, births, and immigration travel, I feel a kinship with them.  In my dreams, I’ll travel to their homeland to visit the towns where they lived and loved, and the little church burial grounds where they were laid to rest.

Until then, my fingers continue to make connections with the world wide audience from the comfort of home.  It’s funny, though, to think that you, my readers, who have come to read my little blog from the far corners of the earth, might include folks who could be personally acquainted with the neighborhoods and Parishes that witnessed events in the lives of the Peebles and Mitchell branches of our family tree!

Scottish Boy

It’s such a small world, after all.

No offense to our Great Grandfathers John, I think if I honor anyone with a namesake again, it will be Llewelyn.  There are enough grandfathers named John.