Another year gone by

Seventy Three years ago today, I was born not far from where we now live in retirement. I didn’t grow up here, and visited only once until we bought our farm acreage here in the mountains. My maternal grandfather was born a few miles from our farm and grew up in this county. There is a community that bears his family name. He grew up to become a physician and opened and worked in a hospital a little farther west in West Virginia, where my mother was raised.

I woke this morning to a beautiful fall day that will warm to almost springtime temperatures later and my dear hubby is doing all he can to make this a great day in spite of the isolation from family. As it was getting light outside and doggie and chicken chores were being done, I saw our little deer herd that has been staying near the house as they moved into the thicket to hunker down in safety from the hunters. I will be glad when hunting season is over.

Knowing that I love the Jenkin’s Turkish spindles, he reached out to them and purchased me a gorgeous Ambrosia Maple spindle as a gift. The Jenkins make beautiful spinning equipment and every spindle comes wrapped in fiber from various vendors, many near them. This is my birthday gift from him, a very loving offering.

As Saturday mornings are Farmer’s Market mornings, he got up early and we were at the market as it opened to pick up our pre-ordered goodies. He sits in the car safely as I masked and dash through gathering the vegetables, meats, breads, cheese and butter to add more to the freezer and for the week’s sustenance.

Every year since our first year together in 1977, we have purchased an ornament for our Christmas tree. In years that we had a new child, there would be a baby’s first ornament to add as well. Early years, they were usually a dated Hallmark ornament, but in recent years, we have purchased ones on a vacation or at a craft show. This year with no craft shows, but with the Holiday Markets, I did a quick stop at her stand, and added another one from my potter friend, Bethany, at Dashing Dog Studio.

After it warms a bit more, we will go to my favorite hiking spot and take a walk in the woods together, and later this evening, a curbside pick up of dinner from a restaurant we like, though this year’s birthday dinner will be eaten in the car.

I am fortunate to enter this year still in good health and good physical condition. I hope to see many more, still healthy and young at heart.

Ready to Hunker Down

We spend each summer supplying the freezer with goods from the Farmer’s Market and from the garden, as well as canning jams, salsas, sauces, and tomatoes from food we grow. In the fall, I add more beans, rice, flour, and other dry goods to the grocery list each week and fill half gallon and gallon jars to have on hand for the winter. With the limit on cleaning supplies and some personal hygiene items, they usually get added to the grocery list each week until some is stockpiled, though not obsessively. We have been using curbside delivery from the grocer since last spring and at times find it a life saver and other times a total frustration. When you build your order online, you have the option to allow substitutions and if a product is out of stock, you receive a notice asking if X can be substituted for Y. At that point, you have the option of accepting or declining the substitution. We have two Kroger grocers within a few miles of each other and though we generally go to the nearer one, I have gone in the larger other one when a product was unavailable and been able to get it there. This week I decided to just do the curbside from the larger store and 3 of the items on my list were not available. Now, you can’t tell me that they had no ketchup of any brand on the shelf, I understand not having the one I listed, but no substitution was offered. The same with hubby’s sodas, if they don’t have Pepsi, they usually have Coke or vice versa, but again no substitution was offered. That has never happened at the smaller store, even if I decline the offer. This week proved to be one of the frustrating weeks, it means I am either going to have to go in one of the stores and get it myself or try to order from the other store.

To add to the frustration, I created my order for Eat’s Natural Foods and the computer ate it. They have two formats you can use, so I switched to the other format and submitted it last night. This morning, I got an email that the form was blank and asked to resubmit it. I had enough trouble remembering it the first time, so I asked them to fill the bulk items I needed as you aren’t allowed to do it yourself during the pandemic, but that I would just come in and get the other items I could remember. I got more cheese than the original order, but forgot two other items. Oh well.

The pantry shelves are vacuumed, wiped down, reorganized so that I can find items when ready to prepare the meals. The freezer was de-iced over the weekend, the goods sorted, inventoried, and arranged so that I can find what I need.

The putting by is done for another year. We are ready to hunker down from Covid or snow if we get any this winter. Last night’s hard freeze did in the peas without ever getting a harvest. I guess when I plant the fall garden I need to allow more time and count on an early frost. There are spring peas in the freezer, we will just enjoy them. Other veggies that can be obtained at the Farmer’s Market will continue to supplement the freezer. I am thinking about trying to grow some window sill lettuce and spinach too.

Strange Season

November started off too warm and dry. Then a few days ago, it switched to still warm and wet. The difference between the daytime and nighttime temperatures has only varied by less than 20 degrees, staying in the 50’s at night. That is going to change tonight. Today won’t reach 60 during the day and for the next 10 days the highs will be 40’s and 50’s and lows as low as 24. The fig I nursed with a ring of wire wrapped in translucent plastic and covered with mylar when necessary never ripened the dozen figs on it. It is a young bush, this was only it’s second year and I thought I lost it last winter. The leaves have mostly dropped along with the unripe figs, so this morning, I prepared it for winter hibernation. The branches were pulled together and loosely tied, a deep mulch of hay placed around the base, 3 long garden poles placed as a tripod and tied together with a long run of paracord then the sheet of plastic was wrapped around several times, wrapped with the paracord and tied. Spots that looked like they might pull up were anchored with rocks or garden stakes. With any luck, it will be better protected than last winter and maybe the upcoming summer will produce a crop of figs. I learned this year that it should have been planted on the south side of the house close enough to benefit from the protection and solar warmth. Maybe a second fig will join the orchard trees next year and be planted in a better location. This one is small enough still that it is possible to transplant it toward the end of the season next year if I prep it correctly, but I don’t want to stunt it’s growth and production.

Last evening during dinner prep, I went to the garden to see if any of the pea pods had filled out enough to provide us with some fresh peas for our meal. When I planted the garlic which in in the box uphill from the peas, I covered the straw mulch with plastic erosion fence and laid metal garden stakes on top to hold it all in place. The erosion fence was a few inches too short on one side and I discovered that the hens had found that and with an entire garden to scratch and dig, they had dug an 8″ deep trench along the inside edge of the box, uprooting several cloves of garlic. The trench was refilled and more garden stakes laid over the top until this morning. I found another piece of erosion fence that was idle and added it to the bare edge and anchored it with a couple of poles. A few minutes with a hoe cleaned up the asparagus bed and around it and it was fenced in with more fencing and a thick layer of hay dumped inside to mulch the asparagus for the cold. To try to distract the hens from their intense focus on how to get to the hay, I tossed a foot thick layer near their water in the run for them to dig through.

The near box with the garlic is the one that will be moved after the garlic harvest and that corner will again become a compost area. I think a real compost bin is going to be built there. The asparagus will mark the end of the growing bed there.

The molt seems to be mostly over, there are fewer feathers flying and only a couple of the hens look motley. For several weeks, two of the Oliver eggers, the two that lay green eggs have been providing. Last night there were two eggs and one was brown, so production seems to be on the upswing.

Tomorrow is two weeks since Halloween and all of the unmasked Trunk/Trick or Treaters in the county. Today there are 13 new cases of COVID since day before yesterday and 2 more hospitalizations. It’s getting ugly out there, but people here still won’t wear a mask.