He got out

The forecast is for 85% chance of rain today and was low yesterday until late afternoon, so the Big Bad HD was ridden to the city yesterday for it’s annual servicing and inspection. My efforts to repair the driveway were successful enough that he got the bike up the gravel driveway, on to the gravel road, and safely on the hardtop. I followed along in my car to bring him home as the bike was being left until service and a couple replacement parts that had to be ordered come in for installation. The bike had a broken rearview mirror on the left side and the left tail light was out, so I tried to stay close enough to prevent someone from getting between us, but far enough back to not crowd him in case of a problem. Only twice did another vehicle get between us.

The number of COVID cases are much higher in the city and we saw a much better compliance with mask wearing, except at the Harley dealership. I did not see a single mask on a front end employee through the windows and not a customer going in or coming out wearing one. Hubby kept his helmet on with the face shield down until he was back to the car where he donned a mask. You know you have been confined too long when a trip to the city staying in the car followed by carry out from “The Weiner Stand” is an exciting day.

Early in the week, after yet another big basket of cucumbers were harvested, instead of pulling the vines, I pruned them sharply to slow down the volume of fruits being harvested. I still want some fresh cucumbers for salad, but I am pickled out. Day before yesterday, another batch of spicy Bread and Butter pickles were salted and left to sit and weep for the day, another quart of fermented dill spears started. That evening, the Bread and Butters were finished and canned, having wisely started the water bath to heat up while I was preparing dinner. DIL is excited that if we can pass in the night somewhere, sometime, she will get a new flat of pickles for her shelves. The refrigerator is full here with quick brines and ferments of pickles, beans, and kraut. I am seriously considering looking for a dorm size refrigerator to put in the basement, just for those items. I am just starting on pickling the jalapenos and if history is followed, there will be 8 to 10 quarts of them before the first frost. I may can some so they are shelf stable. I have had to purchase 3 quart cans of pickled jalapenos for hubby as we ran out of last year’s before more were ready.

They do make a pretty presentation.

I am jealous of Son1 and DIL’s garden. This spring, their first in their new house, they build several long raised beds and heavily mulched the paths and their garden is gorgeous from the photos I have seen. Their back yard is flat. Since many of my cedar boxes, including ones I restructured this past winter and spring are rotting away, I am thinking about reusing some of the old deck materials to make 4 by 16′ beds which will be fairly easy as most rows are either a series of 4 X 4′ boxes or a 4 X 8′ box and a 4 x 4′ box. This will eliminate the down hill paths and perhaps slow the downhill run off. If I do this, I will invest in a load of mulch to put down in the paths after first putting down another layer of cardboard. The old hay I currently use always has some grasses that sprout in the paths, even with cardboard. With the new walled garden bed, I will not be using the plastic half barrels in the back, so I think I will replant the raspberries in them as the bottoms of the wooden ones have rotted out. If I move them while transplanting, I can extend the blueberry bed another 4 to 8 feet and add more blueberry bushes.

Each day, some time is spent on the spindles, spinning the two fibers currently being spun into yarn. The two make a vibrant bowl of color by my chair.

I recently purchased another smaller spindle from someone and the tracking says it is out for delivery. The one I bought is a better size to carry with me in a small tea tin with a bit of fiber to have when we are sitting behind roadwork or an accident as happened last weekend, or when I am passenger in the car headed in to town to pick up curbside groceries from the Eats, our natural food store.

Stay safe everyone.

Non-venomous, still not welcome

My Facebook memory from this morning was the 6 foot black rat snake that I extracted from my chicken coop exactly a year ago to the amazement of my then 14 year old grandson. Then about 5 weeks ago, another about 5 foot one from the coop, and last night just as a thunderstorm was beginning, I went over to lock up the hens who had wisely gone into the coop to find another 6 footer lounging on the outside of the coop, right at waist height. I walked past it in the deepening gloom without seeing it and spotted it when I came back out. Another 5 gallon bucket with lid grabbed, a call into the house for hubby to put on shoes and grab keys.

When I grabbed the one last night, it wrapped it’s tail around the gate handle that I use to secure the chicken run gate closed and was so strong that it almost pulled it’s head from my grasp. It was stretched out on the trim board above the handle it’s head half way down the length of the coop and it’s tail on the trim piece behind that fiberglass post.

I don’t kill them, but I don’t want them in my coop, eating eggs, feed, or babies when there are any, so they are put in a lidded 5 gallon bucket and taken away from the farm. The first two were dropped off in the wood about a half mile from home. This one was taken two miles away and dumped. I have to admit, that I never handled a snake before these three except for twice. Once when I took a small, 2 foot Hognose snake into my classroom from the adjoining classroom to show one of my Biology classes, the second time to feel, but not hold a python. Snake skin is dry, cool, and smooth, they are not slimy like some people think. They are well muscled and you can feel the muscle movement when they coil or try to.

Hubby is not a fan. He would prefer that they stay in the woods well away from us. When we bought a house in Virginia Beach when our children were young, the air handler was in the ceiling above the family room. The first time I went up to change the filter as it was a crawl on your hands and knees to get to it fit, I found several snake skins. Later that summer, a black rat snake crawled out of the hole in the brick where the condenser tube ran and he commented that if the snake was found in the house, he was moving out. Last night, he was taking the picture above and afterward, I lowered the snake in the bucket at my feet with the lid in my right hand. That snake did not want to be in that bucket and before I could get the lid firmly on, it tried to escape, in the direction of hubby who was standing back about 6 feet with the camera. I caught the snake and secured it, but his reaction before I did was priceless. I thought he had learned to fly, he jumped back so fast and so high (he says this is an exageration).

They have their place, eating rodents, but their place is not in my coop.

It did rain for a little while last evening and this morning, the farm was shrouded in fog. By the time the chores were done, the fog had lifted except at the tops of the trees and the mountain tops.

It was very pretty sitting on the porch with my breakfast and coffee watching it shift and having the territorial little Hummingbirds fly around through the covered porch chasing each other off.

The fog mist had settled on the asparagus ferns in the garden and they glittered like they were covered with thousands of tiny diamonds this morning.

The row of sunflowers are producing more blooms each day, bronze, lemon yellow, and Hopi dye seed varieties. Non of the wild Kansas sunflower seed that my sister sent produced plants this year.

It is going to be another hot and humid day, Roanoke, the nearest city has broken their weather history for the most consecutive days above 90 degrees f. It has gotten that hot here a few times in the past months, but mostly hovering in the upper 80’s. We await the mobile vet to check out the big guy and to administer vaccines possibly and do heartworm tests if the pups cooperate. The visit will be socially distanced on the front porch.

Stay safe, wear your mask. Let’s beat this virus.

Almost free food

The savings from planting a garden is significant, especially if you prefer organic or using organic methods even if not certified, and if you prefer local so you know it is fresh and hasn’t been shipped across the country or from another country. There are some things you can’t grow in your climate, I understand that. I can’t grow avocados and bananas for example, but we like them both. My garden isn’t large enough to provide all of the potatoes, onions, greens, beans, and peas we eat in one year, but large enough to enjoy fresh and put some by through freezing, canning, or fermenting.

Toward the end of winter, maybe early spring, I bought a 5 pound bag of basic organic white potatoes from the grocer. Organic produce is usually not sprayed to suppress sprouting or over ripening, and this particular sack of potatoes began sprouting almost in the car on the way home. We don’t eat a lot of potatoes, so the bag was tucked under the sink where it would be out of the light and each time I took a couple of from the sack, I had to untangle the sprouts and pare the sprouted eyes from the potatoes. I finally gave up when there were 4 or 5 left in the bag, and as soon as the soil was warm enough this spring, I cut those potatoes so that each section had two sprouting eyes and set them on a tray to dry for a day, then planted them in a 4 by 8 foot bed in the garden. I didn’t expect much, they weren’t seed potatoes, just grocery store ones. Every piece I planted came up and the bed was a thick mass of greenery and pretty purple flowers, then the heat came, their season ending and they died back. I had read you should leave them in the ground for a week or so after they die back, but for the past three days we have had some intense thunder storms and a fair amount of rain. I didn’t want them to grow and then rot in the ground, so in a light sprinkle yesterday afternoon, I took the same blue plastic compost bucket over and dug potatoes with a garden fork and my hands. Those 4 or 5 potatoes left to sprout in the sack, produced about 12-14 pounds of potatoes. I don’t know what a good return on potatoes is, but these are basically free food, potatoes that were beyond my use for cooking, providing many weeks of food for our shelves.

I never have to buy pickles. One package of cucumber seed for a couple of dollars will provide plants for 3 or 4 seasons, giving us fresh cucumbers and plenty to make into the Spicy Bread and Butter, Dill quarters, and fermented dill slices.

Generally the 6 to 9 tomato plants I plant will provide tomato sauce for pasta, chili, or other cooked tomato needs, as well as pizza sauce to last the year or nearly so.

Hubby loves a pickled jalapeno with most dinner meals and on some sandwiches, and the plants provide enough for me to can a year’s worth. I never buy hot sauce, instead, hot peppers are ground and fermented to make enough for my cooking and condiments and usually enough to share a bottle or two with Son 1 and his family.

The garlic I grow will usually last the year or close to it. Onions will last for months before I have to start buying them. Peas and beans are eaten fresh and extras frozen for when the fresh foods aren’t available. So the $25-30 I spend on seed and plants provide many meals throughout the year.

The hens still aren’t producing like they did last year, but the three Oliver eggers all started laying again. I have gotten a pink egg and a blue egg this week along with a couple green eggs.

One very dirty hand from digging potatoes.

I hope that by planting a fall garden this year, that we will save even more with carrots, spinach, fall peas, and whatever other short season plants I can put in and protect from fall insects and first frosts.