A Day Outdoors

It isn’t really here and cold will come again, but yesterday was spring time.  The tractor finally got warm enough to start, allowing  some chores that had been needed for a while.  Haying farmer friend always brings me a couple of bales of old spoiled hay after he takes the new hay each year.  That old hay is used in the chicken coop until it gets too wet to be usable, it also is used over cardboard as mulch between the beds in the garden to help keep the weeds at bay.  One of the bales was dropped where it could be rolled down near the coop, but the second one was too far from the garden.  Our little tractor is too small to load a large round bale and though that ball wasn’t a full bale, it was too large for the bucket, so it just sat.  Now that the boxes are being put in place in the garden and mulching between them is necessary, the bale needed to be moved.  pushing it with the tractor bucket started it to unroll.  Once it was about half of it’s original size, it fit inside the bucket and was dumped over the fence into the garden.  Then the unrolled parts were collected with a hay fork, loaded into the bucket in several trips and dumped over the fence as well.

 

garden

 

Now there is a huge pile of spoiled hay just inside the movable part of the fence that serves as a gate.  Maybe this spring, a real gate will be hung. Shortly after moving in, we bought 4 half wine barrels at a winery to use for storing root vegetables.  They were only used for a year or so that way and then two of them were put in the garden for flowers and later for potatoes.  The remaining two were left behind the house and had begun to come apart.  One of them was sound enough to move very carefully yesterday in the tractor bucket and carried into the garden, partially filled with soil to help hold it together.  There are now three in the garden for potatoes.  The fourth one fell all to pieces and needs to be puzzled back together.  It really should be in the garden too.  For now it is a pile of staves, metal rings, and a bottom.

While the tractor was out, the culvert at the top of the driveway received a clean out as the winter rain has caused it to nearly fill with fine gravel again.  Two buckets of gravel, sand, and soil were scooped out and utilized to build up the area in front of the garage door that was forming a pond with each rain.

driveway

It was pretty quick work to scoop a bucket full from the ditch, drive it down, dump it and use the bucket to spread it flatter.  It only took a few more minutes with a rake to make a gravel area again where it was only sandy mud.  We will see when it rains again if the pond is gone and the water runs around the house as intended.

Some flower bed weeding was accomplished, the chickens loving something fresh and green to eat, the peach tree pruning was begun, but just too much to tackle in one attack.  It won’t produce fruit this year, but will be a much more manageable size for pruning in future years and perhaps the other peach tree will give us some fruit this year.

It was nice to be outdoors in February working in the yard and gardens.  Last year, we had just been plowed out by our farmer friend from one of the largest snows of the winter.

We are still searching for some chickens to increase our flock.  Chick days are about to begin, but that is really not the preferred approach.  Hopefully, the hens will be prolific this year and there will be many homegrown chicks from which to choose.  Their fencing still needs to be removed and replaced with a finer mesh and a top put in place to try to thwart the hawk so that we don’t lose so many this year.

We are toying with adding two piglets, putting them in the lower garden which is a large space.  To do so, perhaps that fencing will be used for the replacement fencing, it is good welded wire fence and just run a row of chicken wire around the bottom of the chicks pen.  We could just use strands of electric to keep the piglets in or put hog panels between the t-posts. More research needs to be done before that step is taken, to see how much a port-a-hut costs, how much feed will be needed, and where and how to get them processed.  It needs to be economical in the long run.

That would be another nice step toward self sustainability.  Still loving life on our farm.

 

 

Olio-Week’s End, February 17, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

This week has been an emotional wreck.  The grandson that lives with us is with his Mom, Sister, and “Dad.”  His biological father lived in Florida and without sharing details, passed away on Wednesday afternoon.  Grandson had been told about a week before that he wasn’t doing well and couldn’t talk on the phone on the scheduled day, but it was still very hard news for him to take and for daughter to have to deliver to him.  They are awaiting information on the service so they can go down and let the young man be there.  It is hard,  he is 10, and as my sister reminded me, children his age are still too young to fear death, though I’m sure he will have his share of tough moments over the next few weeks.  I still do over my Dad’s passing and it has been 14 months.

The week has been up and down with the weather as well, and the changes are causing allergy symptoms for some in the house, weather related headaches for others, and confusion for the animals as they go out to freezing wind one day and temperatures that invite playing in the creek the next.  Each day is a debate of what to wear, the uniform has become a short sleeve t shirt with a sweatshirt or fleece over it, a parka added if necessary.  Gloves stay in pockets when needed.  Some days, the layers stay on, some days peel down to the t shirt.

If we hadn’t had to cancel our ski trip, we would have arrived home late last night from a week in Colorado.  We missed not only the skiing, but also the company of our cousins who are wonderful hosts when we visit them.  Instead of sharing our anniversary dinner with them as we did 4 years ago, we just enjoyed each other’s company at one of the finer restaurants in town, a great 4 course meal that was delicious.

Last night, the cowl that was being knit from the silk that I had spun was finished.  It is beautiful and is blocked and drying.

cowl

The weekend approaches, our usual breakfast and Farmers Market Saturday, tomorrow and more vendors are beginning to return with early greens, so good food will be had next week.

My spinning is improving on my little antique spinning wheel.

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Generally it doesn’t throw the drive band, but the upright nearest the spinner still moves some and causes the wheel to skew and throw the band.  The next time it jumps off, the upright is going to be wrapped in a few rounds of waxed hemp thread to see if that will tighten it enough to hold its position.  The peg under the table also needs to be forced in tighter to help.  The missing part for the new antique walking wheel is being made and when it returns, another learning curve for me as a spinner.  Also improvement is noted with the support spindle that we got last weekend.

The Winter of the Wind

Each year since moving to the mountains, more than a decade ago, it has snowed on Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes just a couple of inches, sometimes a foot or more.  This time of year has been noted for it’s cold and it’s snow, but this year is different.  There has been very little snow, mountain snow showers, yes, a trace here and there, but only one really measureable snow of about 3 or 4 inches. The temperatures have yoyo’d from parka cold to 80ºf (27ºC), definitely not mid February in the mountains weather.  The trees are confused, already they are budding out, some of the maples have tiny leaves.

But this has been the winter of the wind.  Our log home is in a hollow with a mountain gap to the northwest and the wind at times howls through that gap sounding like a locomotive bearing down on us.  We have experienced that wind many times in the decade, but it seems this year like a constant force.  It howls and rattles.  Our home is a large sturdy structure with a three story west side of logs on a stone faced concrete footer wall.  It isn’t going anywhere, but some days it seems like the whole house is shuttering.  The window choice of the log home company from whom we purchased are not the best, though they are double hung insulated windows, we have hung insulated Roman shades on those windows.  The ones on the west end of the house have been closed more times this winter than most winters in the past.  Opened in the late afternoon to allow in the sun’s warmth, then closed again at night to block the chill from the wind. Today is cold, mostly cloudy, and a high wind advisory again.  Tomorrow it is going to be spring like again and calm, reaching unseasonable temperatures for most of next week.

The Virginia and West Virginia ski resorts are probably fretting this year, having difficulty even making man made snow at night.  On our way home from out son’s house last weekend, when the temperature was rising to 80, we passed one of the resorts, they had two long parallel man made runs with snow in the otherwise very unwinter like surroundings.

The winter has produces some beautiful morning skies.

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bluesky

sky

Sky

 

How do I show it?

Today is our 39th anniversary.  We met less than a year before we married and waited only a short 6 weeks between engagement and the wedding.  That was 6 weeks of a sling on my left arm holding a separated shoulder in place and recovery.  It has been a wonderful 39 years, raising 3 children, seeing them have children for us to love, buying a couple of houses and building our retirement home.

We tend to indulge each other’s wants when the finances allow.  If he is asked what he wants for a gift giving opportunity, he is reticent to provide ideas, and there have been few occasions where he was surprised.  We usually get each other items that are suggested or in his case, dragged out of him, so gift giving is rarely a surprise anyway.

There were no plans to do more than the token card and dinner out tonight, but the weekend brought me the new to me antique Walking Wheel spinning wheel.  It didn’t have to come home with us, but he bought it for me for our anniversary and Valentine’s Day.  That gift can’t be reciprocated in kind, so what is one to do.  The one thing he wants is to not be feeling the arthritis in his back that is causing him several issues and has curtailed several activities he enjoys.  I can’t give him that, I am not a doctor or a miracle worker, though I wish I could provide him relief.

My gift to him today is to publicly let the world know that he has been and continues to be the best husband, friend, and love of my life that I could have asked for.  He is a wonderful father, a loving grandfather, wise and caring. He has a sense of humor that sometimes I miss, sometimes I want to miss.  I want him to know that I will do whatever I can to support him emotionally, to love him unconditionally and to let the world know that he is the best ever.

I love you babe!  Forever! Want 39 more?

Olio 2/13/17

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

And this is all over the place today.

Yesterday it was spring and the wind howled, taking out the power for a few hours before we got home. Last night it got very cold and the wind howled, rattling the dog run dormer on the back of the house and whistling through the edges of the metal roof.  This morning was crystal and the wind still howled.  Out to start the car to warm up for the grandson run to the bus stop and this was the view.

sky

 

The sun higher each day, rising above the ridges in the east and lighting the tops of the other ridges while our hollow was still in the dawn and the waning moon still high in the western sky.

As grandson was grabbing his coat and pulling or pushing on the bi-fold hall closet door, it sounded like someone dropping tinker toys (do you remember them, I do).  Most of the doors in the house are beautiful doors handmade by eldest son when he was finishing the inside of the house, but rather than make a door that opened out into the hall, we opted for a bi-fold on that closet.  This is what happened.

Door broke

 

The top separated from the side and the slates came tumbling down.  Thanks first to my Dad who taught me to tackle most repairs, from replacing the insides of a toilet or even a whole toilet, replacing garbage disposals when in the city and they were used, installing faucets, door locks and knobs, and on and on.  Next to  eldest son who will set me to work on a job with some instruction, then go off to do a different job himself, the door was taken down, the slats were carefully put back in the slots, lined up top and bottom and the door hammered back together with a new glue joint and a screw for good measure.  The pilot hole drilled, the screw set, the door rehung, good as new (hopefully).

Fixed

 

The day’s mail brought the parts to the first antique spinning wheel that was bought.  The repairs are wonderful and there is a second bobbin.  The wheel was put back together, the instructional video watched twice before attempting to put the double drive band on, and she was taken for a spin.

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The front near leg still splays out a bit too much.  When the wheel arrived, that leg had an adhesive spongy material on one side of it, a shim of sorts?  That repair is on me to resolve.  The wheel does spin and draws in the singles, but it has a tendency to throw the drive band after about a dozen rotations.  Some adjustments must still be made, but my knowledge is too novice to know what so it has been thrown out into the ether for answers.  It is a beauty, but it needs to be functional.

For as long as I can remember, each Valentine’s Day, my Dad sent each of his girls from wife to great granddaughters a kid’s type valentine card.  When he passed in December of 2015, I knew I wouldn’t get any more of them, but Valentine’s Day 2016 came and there was an envelope with a card for me, one each for daughter and granddaughter and the envelope looked like it could have been written by him.  I cried, daughter had to open it, my younger brother had decided that he was going to carry on the tradition.  Today the envelope arrived and this was inside, again with that oh so familiar handwriting.  His handwriting is eerily similar to Dad’s.

valentine

 

Yes, it made me cry again, but tears of sweet memories.

R & R and Thanks to my Love

We had a great and relaxing weekend away.  A weekend trip to visit our eldest son and his family near Front Royal was planned.  Their log home is not really set up for guests, though I have a cot there for when I am babysitting, so we booked a room in a motel in Front Royal, a short drive from them.  We got up there in the late evening on Friday and son came in to pick up the cooler of chicken, beef, and other frozen goodies and a large canvas sack of home canned goodies, eggs, and sweet potatoes so that we didn’t have to drive the dark curvy road to them after travelling there.  We visited in our room in our coats while we waited for the heater to get the room warm enough to settle into.

Saturday, a meet and greet was scheduled at 8:30 a.m. for me to purchased a support spindle and bowl from a fellow fiber artist that had listed it on Ravelry,  a fiber artist social network.  It turned out that she lived near Front Royal.  That was an anticipated purchase and the spindle and bowl are lovely and fun to use.

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It is slightly small and lighter than my other support spindle, so with my two remaining drop spindles, I had a 33% increase in spindles.

Our motel was situated with a median that required us to either make a U turn to get to the familiar road, or take a tour of the historic downtown to get to the other familiar road, and as we cruised down before the businesses were open, I spotted a Great Wheel in an antique store window.  After our transaction for the drop spindle and a visit at son’s house, sitting on the front porch on a beautiful warm morning, we lunched with them in town and had authentic delicious Mexican food.  That was followed by a walk downtown and by the antique shop on foot.  The 49 inch wheel looked sound and true, minus the quill.  My love bought the wheel for me as a 39th anniversary and Valentine’s gift.  We left it to be packed and drove a third of the Skyline Drive, stopping at overlooks to try and spot son’s house.  Though we could see his landlord’s roof, the houses to the left and right of them, their house sits in evergreens and deep in the hollow and we couldn’t see it.   After taking son and grandson home, rearranging the seats to make it fit, the carefully wrapped and padded wheel was loaded in the car and followed us home, a 50% increase in spinning wheels.

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Left to right, the nearly 200 year old Amable Paradis, the Great Wheel of unknown age, and the small light colored Louët with my stressless chair and ottoman my spinning stool and work baskets.

While online chatting with Bobbin Boy about the Great Wheel, they told me that the parts for the Paradis wheel were on their way back to me.  It looks like obtaining a quill for the Great Wheel from them is possible and affordable, so that purchase will be made soon.

Today was still warm, but very rainy when we visited again this morning at son’s house and for a portion of our trip home.  Then the sun came out and it went up to 80ºf in the Virginia mountains in mid February.  And they are threatening us with snow flurries over night today and a high half that tomorrow.  At home, a rearrangement of the loft was in order to accommodate the large third wheel.  By moving the love seat closer to the television, turning the desk and file cabinet, there is now a spinning studio for this fiber artist of the house.  A bit more needs to be done to better organize Cabin Crafted Soap and Yarn store supplies and packaging material and moving the bookcase of yarn and fiber from our bedroom to the “studio” needs to be done, but it has been a full weekend and the job will have to wait until tomorrow.

Once all the parts are here, a steep learning curve faces me to learn to spin on the two “new” old wheels.

It’s Back!

It has snowed all day.  Nothing is sticking, it is mountain snow showers, but the high was at 7 a.m. and it was below freezing then.  The wind has howled all day long.  This weather system according to NOAA is the system that spawned the major snowstorm up the east coast of the US.  And yesterday it was in the upper 60’s.

My new parka has been most welcome today, as this was school and preschool days, a book reserved at the library arrived and needed to be collected, parts to fix the kitchen faucet came in, a special order from the grocer also arrived, plus it was Spinning Group day and one of my fellow en-actors at Smithfield House Plantation was coming to give me a lesson on how to warp the backstrap loom that was acquired a few months ago.  The spinning group was large and boisterous, having a lot of fun while D and I sat on the floor and got the loom set up and got me started with weaving on it.

Because of the arthritis from old shoulder and wrist injuries, drop spindle spinning, my portable spinning has had to be curtailed.  There is another type of portable spinning that involved a spindle that is supported in a bowl or dish in your lap or on a low table and my interest in learning this has been piqued.  One style was purchased online, then a different style was found on the fiber social network, and in inquiring about purchasing it, found out the gal selling lives just a few minutes from eldest son.  We already have a weekend trip to see them scheduled for this weekend, so I will get to meet this other spinner who is also homesteading a small acreage and pick up the spindle directly from her.  What a fun coincidence.

spindle

spindle2

The bottom one is the one we will pick up Saturday.

Habits

Waking before the alarm is my norm.  The alarm is always set, just in case, but it rarely goes off, even if sleep has alluded me at bedtime or having one of the sleep is optional nights when something awakens me after an hour or so of sleep and then no sleep comes again for hours.

At this time of year as the days lengthen, the sky has lightened just enough to see movement in the yard upon awakening, but dark enough to not know what is moving.  This morning, just below our window, were several dark shadows moving slowly away from the house.  By the time the morning ritual and dressing have occurred, it is light enough to distinguish what animals are out and about.  This morning was rich with wildlife, not all on our farm.  The shadows below the window had moved along the treeline to the upper edge of the hay field, 4 large does that stopped and warily looked toward the house with the activity of letting the dogs out and getting them fed, the coffee started, and the “barn” kitty fed on the front porch.

At this time of the morning, the eastern sky is lightening, but the sun has yet to rise above the hills and trees, but its back light highlighting the skeletonized leafless trees on the ridge in the header photo.

Forty minutes later, while waiting at the road for the school bus, the sun is just beginning to climb above that ridge.

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Once home again, chickens let out, watered, and fed, it is fully light and  Girlie, the barn kitty, always seeks a point high enough to enjoy the sun’s warmth.

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The picture that was missed was the flock of a couple dozen turkey down by one of the covered bridges, slowly crossing the road and ambling up the hillside.  They have been spotted several times in that area recently, but not in a place safe enough to stop and take a photo.

Today we are expecting record high temperatures and this morning was already so warm that only light jackets or sweatshirts were needed by the grands as they headed off to school and preschool.  We will enjoy today, a slightly cooler but still springlike day tomorrow, then plunge back into winter for a short stent before another trip up the yoyo string next week.  This has not been a typical winter in any sense.

“Lions and tigers and bears…”

Well, no lions and tigers, but we do have bears occasionally.  Last night while daughter was putting the finishing touches on dinner  and we were visiting with each other,  looking out the kitchen window we saw a large dark animal moving in the hayfield.  Deer are dark this time of year, but even a good sized buck is not as large as what we saw.  We have an all black coyote, but it too is not that large. Realization that one of the regions black bear was ambling along the tree line a couple hundred yards away.

bear

 

This is the best we could do with a cell phones telephoto lens.  A quick shout out brought the whole household out to have a look.  The doors opening at the house, stopped the bear to look up at us taking pictures.  This was the largest bear we have seen on our farm but not the closest.

Littlebear

 

This curious little fellow a few years ago was about half way down the driveway and also curious about us taking photos, but quickly dashed into the woods.

We have seen them in the fields, crossing the roads, but so far, never around the chickens or in the garden. It is fun seeing the native animals wandering in the fields and woods.

Same Song Different Dance

clouds

 

Yesterday was clear and sunny, but cold.  We are in the week’s yoyo on the climb back up the string.  Today is gray, but expected to be about 8 degrees warmer than yesterday.  Maybe the mid 40’s (8ºC), breezy, but no heavy wind. We will climb another 10 degrees tomorrow and Tuesday with increasing chances of rain, then plummet on Thursday back to a high of freezing and a low in the teens.  My system doesn’t like these flucuations.  With the changes bring wind.  Wind brings power outages.  We are low on wood for supplemental heat.  This spring, the woodlot will be checked for dead or dying trees to try to resupply.  A few years ago, a huge oak blew down in the woods of our farm.  It landed on thick branches so it was propped up at a dangerous angle and it sat that way for two years.  Eldest son tackled it with the chain saw and cut many thick branches from the tree, but our saw wasn’t long enough to go through the trunk.  Our farmer friend that hays our fields came in with heavier equipment than our chainsaw and little tractor and left with a couple of thick long logs for the mill, loads of firewood for another neighbor who had recently had bypass surgery, and left us enough firewood for two winters of supplemental heat and ambiance fires.  Two Thanksgivings ago, eldest son and I took down a dead tree and between then and a second visit at Christmas, we got it all cut up, I split most of it with his help on some and it was stacked.  That wood is almost gone.  Hopefully there will be no extended outages before it warms back up.

What does a “Mommom” (my name to these two grands) do on a Sunday morning?  Grandson’s breakfast of choice is pancakes or Honey Nut Cheerios.  About once a week, a week’s worth of pancakes are mixed and baked on the griddle to be frozen for him.  The last batch ended up too thin for his liking, Granddaughter loves them.   This morning, I felt they were too thick, but he insisted that was the way he liked them.  They are so thick that they didn’t bubble up on the edges to indicate the griddle side was baked and ready to flip.  His weekly batch of pancakes are cooling and will be frozen for this week’s breakfasts.  His Mom and Dad are grocery shopping now and he asked for sausages to go with them. The microwave will be busy this week.

pancakes

 

And I don’t even like pancakes, I would rather have oatmeal or a farm fresh egg, right from the nest of my girls.

Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family