Bits and Pieces

An old song, but the song of this summer. Everything seems to be happening in bits and pieces.

We are entering August in a couple of days and we still have half of the big south field in standing hay. That has never happened since we moved to this farm. Usually the hay is down, baled, and hauled away by the end of the first week of July. This year they finished part of one field, were threatened with rain so teddered, raked, and baled that part. Then another window opened and they finished the upper fields. Last week, the older farmer (a decade my junior in calendar age, a decade older in physical age) came and worked alone as the younger farmer workers hold day jobs and usually work late afternoons and early evenings when the storms threaten. He started mowing the south field, got maybe half done before he had to quit for the day, then it rained on it. He teddered it two days in a row and with pending rain, he raked and baled 19 more 5 X 4′ round bales alone yesterday afternoon.

And more rain is due, so the rest of the field won’t get done anytime soon. Fortunately, all the fields they work and have been able to get done are producing higher yield, quality hay, so if they lose the remaining 19-20 bales down there, they may be able to at least sell it for contractor’s work.

The garden is providing in bits and pieces, too. There has only been one canning session, a batch of Spicy Bread and Butter pickles, though another of them may be in the near future. The cucumbers are loving the heat and rain showers and I bring in a basket every couple of days. Two half gallon jars of quick brine dill pickles have been made and put in the refrigerator this week, two quart jars of fermented dills are working on the counter, and there were at least a dozen finger sized cucumbers last night that will be ready in a couple of days. Two huge ones were missed in my earlier searches through the sticky vines and they were broken in half and tossed to the hens.

Not yesterday’s basket, but typical, cucumbers, a small handful of jalapenos, a tomato or two, a couple of tomatillos that are about egg sized, and last night, a huge bunch of basil to dry. The tomatoes and tomatillos are popped into gallon bags and tossed into the freezer until there are enough to prep into sauce for canning. The jalapenos quick brined a pint at a time when there are enough to fill a pint. I am making the brine a half gallon at a time and keeping it in the refrigerator to heat up what I need per pint, though I may switch to quart jars soon to save the pints for canning tomatoes and later applesauce. Because it is just two of us at home, quarts are used for dry storage and not for canning except for quick brine jalapenos. Hubby will go through 8 or 9 quart jars a winter.

Yarn is being spun in bits and pieces this summer too, a tiny spindle full at a time. When the spindle is full, the singles are wound off onto a bobbin, when a second spindle is full, the two are wound together into a ply ball. When the ply ball gets about the size of a baseball, it is plied on the spinning wheel with each ply ball being added to the bobbin as it fills. When the bobbin is full, there is enough yarn to be a decent skein and it is wound off, tied, soaked to full it and set the twist.

Today or tomorrow, the second tiny spindle that I am getting in a trade for a larger spindle should arrive. Tracking showed it arrived at the local distribution center in the middle of the night. The spinning in bits and pieces has been a conscious choice to center me and to slow down the rate at which I create items that would likely end up in my shop, as craft events are not happening and as people are out of work, nothing is selling. Yesterday, I received back several skeins of yarn that had been for sale on consignment in a friend’s lovely little yarn shop that she has closed, so it too will be added to my shop. If you are a knitting, weaving, or crocheting reader that doesn’t spin, be sure to check out the new listings in the shop, there is a link at the top of the blog. I have added about 8 new yarns this week and will add more soon.

Each morning as I am heading out to do chores or sitting on a porch to enjoy the cool morning with my breakfast, I find webs. The one in yesterday’s blog was gone by afternoon and back this morning. This one was in the tiny plum tree that though it is about 4 years old can’t get a good start because the deer keep clipping off the new growth. I have put temporary fencing around it and they still manage to get to it.

My fig that I bought last year in a big pot had a couple of figs on it when I purchased it. It was only about 18″ tall then. Of the figs on it, I got 1. It didn’t appear to have survived the winter, so in the late spring, I mowed over where it was planted and the next time I went over to mow the orchard, I saw new growth. It is a variety that will die back each winter and regrow each spring. It is a much more vigorous plant than I brought home, but alas, no figs. I will give it more protection this winter, perhaps build a mini greenhouse shelter around it with the corrugated plastic panels that are coming off the rotting chicken tractor.

Last year, my only remaining peach tree produced fruit, but every peach was small and had tiny holes that oozed a clear sappy goo, and they rotted before they were ripe enough to pick. This year the peaches were large enough to be good, but again, each peach has the tiny holes and are rotting on the tree. I tried picking a few that seemed intact, but once in the house, they too started oozing and rotting before they ripened. I don’t know what is causing it, I don’t like to spray. Maybe peaches that I don’t purchase at the Farmer’s Market are just not in my future. It is keeping the deer fed and right now smells fermented, so I may see staggering critters on the farm.

The grape vine that I was sure would not do anything this year after I sharply pruned it and tied it up off the ground is very vigorous and full of fruit that is just beginning to turn from green to Concord blue/purple. There will be grape jelly.

Now I need to learn how to properly prune it so we get fruit again next year.

Take care out there everyone.

More Olio – July 28, 2020

Years go by faster as we age, but this year has flown by, locked in and frustrated that simple measures that would have slowed, possibly contained the virus are not being heeded by many. Frustrated that basic simple procedures are being pushed back on as “violations of my rights,” a false claim, when they don’t think twice about heeding the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” messages, or the wearing a seat belt when driving or helmet when riding a motorcycle laws.

It is so hot and humid that outdoor activities are not inviting. The pick your own berry patches are either not opening or hours are so limited that instead of spreading out the crowds, it concentrates them. The garden is supplying us with good nourishment, but the items that require my attention in the kitchen for more than a few minutes are still maturing, so there has been only one canning session. Cucumbers, other than the first batch, are being fermented or quick brined. A half gallon jar of dill wedges were started in a refrigerator quick brine a few days ago.

Mornings are still mostly pleasant enough to enjoy my breakfast and coffee on one of the porches. This morning it was the front covered porch where I watched the Hummingbirds and spotted the web in this photo, stretched from the spider plant to the porch post.

The hens production is up again finally. All three Olive eggers are laying again, so I’m getting blue, green, and pink eggs from them. One of New Hampshire Reds is laying very small rough shelled eggs. We are back to getting 5 or 6 eggs most days instead of 2 which is nice.

Because we still don’t have a brush hog, there is a section of the yard that has not been mowed all year. It winds through the evergreens that we have planted between the end of the lawn and the barn. When I walk to the mailbox, it is interesting to see the deer paths and deer lays that are in the tall grass.

I finally finished spinning the Sea Glass green fiber that I was spinning during the Tour de Fleece and the mini challenge the following week. It adds 96 more yards that I can include with the nearly 400 yard skein that I spun with it. Now I’m trying to decide which braid to spin beginning in August for that month’s challenge. One choice is BFL/Silk Redbud color, another is an unknown fiber that feels like Merino called Baltic. I ordered an Elderberry colored braid of Shetland and Silk that will be spun at some point. In the meantime, I’m spinning a Merino/Bamboo blend of yellow, blue, and white called Sky Flower.

The mobile vet made her visit and drew blood from the pups to check for heartworm and other parasitics and they both are ok, but the big guy is showing signs of his age. We will try some supplements recommended for his joints and his tummy upset. It is hard watching him slow down, he is such a big lovable gentle giant.

We see many of our friends doing some travels, hopefully safely and socially distancing. Maybe some day we will feel safe enough to do so. Stay safe everyone, wear your masks and lets get through this together.

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.