Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

I finally gave up on trying to contain the mature hens. Ms. Houdini and Ms. Apprentice could get out no matter what I did to prevent it and the small area in front of the Palace was getting dug up to a hazardous state for my old bones. I took the plastic fence “gate” and put it on two step in posts across the front porch opening. The shorter pieces of plastic fence that had been protecting flower gardens but had to be removed to put the scaffolding up are being used to block the holes under that same porch to prevent the hens from going underneath. Those two hens will probably hide their eggs, but the production from the hens fell sharply when I stopped them from free ranging.

Yesterday, the wild birds had no feeders up. Today we went to Lowes to replace the Niger seed feeder and the suet feeder and instead I found a large tube feeder that was divided similar to the one that was destroyed by the bear, so again the three favored feeds are hanging from the double shepherd’s crook pole and they will be brought in every night. The Finches, Titmice, and Woodpeckers have already found them and started visiting again. The Chickadees which I favor, quit coming to the feeder in spring and summer and will rejoin the other small birds in the late fall and winter.

A couple of days ago, I finished my May spindle challenge spinning and plied the yarn on my wheel, gave it a wash and hung to dry. It is a pretty 4 ounce skein of turquoise Falklands dyed wool, about 485 yards. I haven’t measured it’s WPI since it’s bath, but it was about 18 prior.

I haven’t decided whether to knit it or sell it as yarn. Falklands is a nice spin and very soft.

Last week, I purchased a destashed Jenkins spindle that was in Sweden and figured it would take at least 3 weeks to arrive here. According to tracking, it has already been processed in Chicago, so I may see it by the middle or end of this week. It is a size that I don’t currently have and a weight that is within my preference.

This is a photo that the seller sent. It is Birdseye Maple, a very pretty spindle. It is only 9 grams, so it will be my lightest, though not my smallest spindle.

One of hubby and my walks is a section of an old paved over railgrade through part of Blacksburg and into Christiansburg. Since I moved here, it has been expanded from the original 7 miles to more than double that. There are two sections that we often walk, in both cases going out and returning on the same trail. The one at the origin point takes you to right across from the University stadium and last night we left the trail, took the sidewalk up a known road and picked the trail back up at the bridge that crosses that road. In doing it, we saw another trail that appeared to go along the edge of Stadium Woods, so once back to the car, we drove back toward the facilities buildings near the stadium to see if we could find it’s origin. In doing so, we discovered three streets with a cross street paralleling the one we had been on that we didn’t even know were back there and the trail and decided that the trail that we had seen from the stadium must be the origin. Today, we again walked out the section of the railgrade to the stadium and took the paved trail we had seen the night before. It wasn’t the same one. The one today took us on the other side of Stadium Woods parallel to the one we had found last night in our exploration, but it eventually brought us out near the same termination point and we walked back through the neighborhood to our car. I had hubby drive back to were we had seen it last night near the facilities building and let me out while he drove around back to the stadium parking and I walked it toward the stadium to see where it originated. I beat him to the parking lot as it seems that where he let me out was less than 1/10th of a mile from the origin and I walked out to the lot to wait for him. It looks like it will be a nice walk to do on another day. It will give us some variety, making an out and back walk into a shady loop.

Unwelcome visitor

And unhappy birds. I had become complacent about bringing in the bird feeders at night. This morning as I sat down to my yogurt and looked out to watch the flock of various Finches that gather there, the scene was off. From the back deck, it was obvious that we had a strong visitor in the night. The half barrel of rocks and soil was tipped over and it is so heavy I can barely move it, the feeder that had small mesh on one side and larger mesh on the other for Niger seed and black oil sunflower seed was crushed and destroyed. The suet feeder tube was torn to pieces and crushed out in the yard.

It had to have been a bear and it came in under the scaffolding, took down the bird mesh around the walled garden that keeps the chickens out, damaged a few plants in the processes.

You can see how close to the house and deck it came. It is disappointing that the feeders were destroyed. Upsetting that a bear has found them and will come back looking again. The feeders were perfect for the double shepherd’s crook pole as it allowed the three favorite feeds to be put out. The birds will have to fend for themselves for a while. The feeders replaced and brought in every single night from now on. We enjoy watching them from the kitchen window and from the dining table.

I love seeing the bears here on the mountain, but I don’t want to contribute to them coming to homes to seek out food. Our garbage is secured inside the garage and the compost pile is inside the garden with electric wire around the top, so neither of them are attractants. I don’t leave chicken feed out in the open, it is inside the two coops as is their water. We don’t raise bees so there are no hives to attract them, but obviously, a hungry beast took advantange of my complacency. And the dogs that bark at even us coming down the driveway, didn’t make a sound.

Let putting by begin

There is a feeling of success when harvest begins to provide for the table, but more so when some of it can be put away for future use. Lettuce and asparagus have been coming to the table fresh for a couple of weeks now, but they must be eaten fresh or in the case of the asparagus, lightly refrigerator pickled. I don’t care for frozen or canned asparagus, so they are enjoyed in season, then replaced with other green vegetables.

In the fall, the garlic is planted. Last fall’s planting was a block of an unknown variety of soft neck and an unknown variety of hard neck, plus some Romanian Red and German Hardy hardnecks. The unknowns are because I didn’t save the tags from the prior year, but they were good flavorful garlics, so I planted from last year’s harvest. Yesterday afternoon when I was moving the blackberry barrels to the garden, I noticed that the hardnecks were producing the scapes. Scapes are the flower bud of hardneck garlic and though pretty if left to open, they take so much energy from the plant that the bulbs don’t produce well. I would rather have good bulbs of garlic than the flowers, plus the scapes are good eating. Last weekend, a friend who’s garden is always ahead of mine, gave me a handful and we enjoyed them chopped on the pizza I made on the weekend and the next night in stir fry. When I first started growing garlic, I read to remove the scapes when they curl over, but didn’t know you could eat them, so they were sent to the compost. Now I await them almost as anxiously as the first asparagus tips. This morning in the cool, drizzly early day, they were clipped off and brought into the house.

Thirty six garlic scapes found this morning, fresh and plump. They were snipped into 1 to 2″ pieces and put in a container for the freezer. They can be used anytime I would use garlic, roasted, in a recipe, or to make pesto. They are the first food put by from the garden.

While doing some weeding last evening, I noticed that the older blueberries are full of fruit. I should probably get some bird net and tent it over them before the berries ripen. It looks like a good harvest from the original bushes. The two new ones, planted this year have put out good foliage, but they won’t fruit until next year or the year after. It will be great to have a succession of berries coming from the garden where I don’t have to fight the ticks and thorns and where the deer can’t help themselves.

With the onset of late spring showers in the forecast, the hay may still be standing when the wineberries (thimbleberries depending on where you grew up) are ready, they are the first to ripen of the wild berries. Berries will be harvested as they appear and frozen, a single batch of mixed berry jam will probably be made and the rest saved for smoothies and to top oatmeal next winter when berries in the grocer come thousands of miles and cost your soul to purchase. Strawberries are coming in at the Farmer’s Market, but I rarely get there early enough to score any and no one I pre-order from has them.

The grapes have tiny clusters of potential fruit. I will have to figure out how to protect them. Last year, though I got some grapes for jelly, the chickens and the deer discovered them and I had to compete with them for the harvest. I am toying with trying to make some wine vinegar from the grapes this year. Other than the Asian pear marmalade and Fig preserves, I don’t use much jelly or jam so I still have jars of grape and raspberry from last year. Son 1 doesn’t use much, daughter likes fig that I offer, and blackberry but makes her own, and her son will only eat commercial strawberry jam. Son 2 and his wife buy them at their farm market and I think may make some of their own. Some fruit vinegar’s would be a nice addition to the larder.

Soon there will be peas, then green beans, potatoes, onions, garlic bulbs, kale, later tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, cucumbers, ground cherries, and cabbages. Beds will be replanted as harvests are made with more beans and peas, and the potato bed with it’s deep sides will be a fall garden that can be covered and protected from frost to maybe extend this year’s garden into early winter. Hopefully, the hydroponic systems will provide herbs and salad through the winter. I’m working towards a year round system of fresh food in our home.