Living local

As I re-read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable Miracle, a book I reread every couple of years, it re-dedicates me to live locally. We have the best Farmer’s Market I have ever shopped. They are open April through October on Wednesday afternoon and on Saturday mornings year round with more vendors. During winter, there are fewer vendors, but still some products are available including storage vegetables, eggs, meat, breads, and cheese. Each spring, I plant a garden and we have an orchard with 4 kinds of fruit trees and 3 kinds of cultivated berries, but other than tomato sauces, peppers canned and dried, tomatillos for salsas, and cucumbers for pickles, I don’t grow enough variety or quantity to supply us year round. This year, in support of the vendors, I decided to buy extras of items that can be blanched and frozen for winter use. This week was the first week of making these extra purchases and I came home with extra Sugar Snap Peas, celery, and carrots. The peas have been getting added to the freezer for a few weeks as I had extras and are coming to an end. The celery sliced for Mirepoix, the carrots sliced for soups and stews. Herbs are grown here in the garden to be dried and others in the Aerogarden for fresh use. Meats and poultry are available year round so don’t have to be stockpiled. One farm, in addition to beef and eggs, grows corn for meal, oats for oatmeal, and wheat for flour. Being able to watch my flour ground and bagged, unbromated whole wheat with bran is wonderful.

A bag was brought home, a loaf of artisan bread started last evening that was baked this morning. What doesn’t get used immediately will be frozen so there will be flour for bread this winter as well.

The finished bread is a little more dense than I had hoped, it was a new recipe that I will tweak in the future.

After putting the produce away and some frozen, dinner prepared using plenty of fresh vegetables from market and garden to make a salad, a little garden time was enjoyed. This week has been so wet, it was nice to be able to get in there, weed a little, pick berries, and pull the 34 heads of garlic to cure in today’s sun.

All but two are large and full and this should be enough to last us the year. The fall garlic seed needs to be ordered.

Soon there will be peas from our garden to enjoy and freeze. And the beans are beginning to have blossoms, the first zucchini is forming, tiny peppers and tomatoes are developing. The apple and Asian pear trees are heavy with fruit to be enjoyed raw or made into sauces later in the fall.

There was cheese purchased, Garlic Chive Chevre that was enjoyed on the salad, and a weekly treat of a bouquet of flowers from our friend’s farm.

Keep it close to home if you can, better for the environment, better for your health.

Signs of Spring

Though a single Hummingbird is visiting during the day, only the one has been spotted and not frequently enough to try to catch a photo. But other signs abound.

The apple blossoms against a bright blue sky, as I mowed below them yesterday, the second mowing already this spring, though less of the property is being mowed, with the hope of either more hay mowing or at least a wild meadow. Son 1 suggested last year when he mowed for me that too much was being done on the little riding mower. Without consistent teen helpers around, I agreed and less is being done this year. The section below the garden where the garden used to extend, and between the garden and the orchard where an extended chicken run used to be are very rough and hard on the mowing machine and the mower rider. I have self debated whether it could be smoothed with the tractor blade and reseeded, but somehow the chickens would have to be kept out while the grass grew or the effort would be fruitless. They have denuded two areas where the grass was thin to dustbathe already since being freed back to wander the farm. Trying to keep them penned is an act of frustration as they dig out under the fence and once a hen has succeeded, others follow. The entire run needs to be disassembled, expanded with new fence wire, a chicken wire base that turns inward a foot or so to prevent tunnelling, and a top. It isn’t worth the effort or expense to do that, so they free range and become hawk bait.

Part of the entourage that run to see what “treat” is in store whenever anyone steps out of the house.

A very poor photo, zoomed to the extent of my phone and cropped to further enlarge, of two Toms doing their spring dance to entice the 3 hen turkeys nearby. Zoomed as they are about 200 yards away. This dance is a sure sign of spring.

The first bird nest of the year in a Viola hanging pot, just put up a few days ago. Probably the Wren that builds in one of the pots each year, but I haven’t seen the bird on the rim yet and there are no eggs to identify. In a day or two, there will be eggs and in about 24 days, babies. It is hard on the plants in the baskets, but providing a nesting spot for the little Wrens is more important. Watering those plants has to be done carefully so as not to soak the eggs and nest. The only time I see them is on the planters, as Wrens don’t come to the feeders.

Today, the swallows were checking out the nesting box that they steal from the bluebirds every year. The bluebirds will get the second one as the swallows won’t occupy two as close together as the two in the garden are set. I still want at least one more house for the garden area. The birds help keep the insect load in the garden reduced.

The Peony’s are up. Though they are about 15 years old, they only began blooming a couple of years ago. Hopefully, they will bloom this year. It isn’t the best location for them.

And the lilacs are beginning to bloom.

The tomatoes and tomatillos have been planted deeply in tall single use plastic cups from fast food to allow them to grow more roots up their stems as many nightshades are prone to do, it will make for stronger seedlings when time to plant. At that time, they will still be planted more deeply than they are in the cups. Along with the pepper starts, they are spending their days on the back deck table in deep mesh baskets to protect them somewhat from the breezes, to harden them off and strengthen them for planting out next month.

Another sign is the proliferation of Carpenter bees. Living in a log home, they are inevitable, drilling into the fascia boards to nest and emerging on every warm day. Though we dislike the damage the woodpeckers do trying to get at the larvae, the bees do not sting and are pollinators like other bees. The fascia boards could be replaced with a material they wouldn’t use, but then the fear is they would attack the logs instead.

Definite signs that the dark winter has drawn to an end. There will be more chilly days, even a frost or two, but the worst is over. Today it will approach 80f here with clear, blue, sunny skies. There are a few days of cooler, not cold temperatures and some rain in the half week, but the trend is toward more consistent warmer weather.

Crafting and Winter Blues

Shortly after the Christmas Amaryllis gifted bulb quit blooming, it was cut back and put in a pot of soil. Much to my delight, it has begun to grow new leaves, so with any luck, it will survive to bloom again.

Shortly after it ceased, Kroger started displaying various forced bulbs. Walking past their display many times, I finally succumbed to the temptation and purchased the tall clear glass container with about 7 tulip bulbs growing in it. Unfortunately, the water in the container quickly took on the odor of a dirty fish tank and even if changing it every couple of days, it would again become cloudy and stinky. Yesterday when I grabbed the rim of the container, I realized it had a significant chip on the inside edge and cut my left thumb (I am a southpaw, so ouch) and left a tiny glass splinter that had to be removed. Once that was taken care of, and since flower buds are beginning to show on several of the bulbs, a decision to remove them from water and place them in one of my hand thrown pottery bowl planters with soil in hopes that they will thrive and bloom to later be planted outdoors in the back garden, so they too can bloom again another year. Having the blooms on the table is cheerful in the gray gloom of the short winter days.

As some of the leaves are yellowing, perhaps having them in soil where they can be given some houseplant food will help their health.

I accepted the February DARE TO DO IT spindle challenge, but may have dared myself beyond my capability by trying to spin enough yarn to knit the center square of a traditional Shetland Hap, the traditional shawl of the Shetland Islands. The shawl needs about 6-7 ounces of fingering weight yarn for that part and at my current rate, I’m already behind my goal having spun only 9 grams in 2+ days, I will need to spin about 12 more grams today to be on schedule.

This has put my knitting on my other unfinished shawl on hold for now as I am also trying to knit a ski band/ear warmer that hubby can wear under a billed hat when we walk. It is being knit out of some Coopworth that I spun about 3 years ago and has been sitting ever since as it wasn’t a lot of yardage.

It seems that everything I am currently working on is natural colors in camel, moorit, and dark brown or black. The darker knitting is difficult in the poor light of winter, but I am really dedicated to finishing the two knitting projects.

I took two hours this afternoon to Zoom with the spindle group and that gave me time to knit and spin. Still behind and not finished with the ski band, but much closer than I was when I began this post.

Stay warm, it hasn’t been here today, but should warm back up some by the end of the weekend.