And Then There Were 11

The hen flock was a baker’s dozen. Not planned that way, but the way it was. This morning when I let the pups out for their morning chores, I saw a big pile of yellowish white feathers on the front porch, no blood and gore, just a pile of feathers. I swept them off the porch, watered the porch plants, and went over to let the hens out for the day. Curious, I stayed in the run and counted heads as they came out, 1, 2, 3,…9, then from outside the pen came two wet scraggly Buff Orpingtons. One with all of her tail feathers missing. But no more. So 11 in all, missing is a Marans and a Buff Orpington. After our walk yesterday, we were home all afternoon from about 2 p.m. on except for a brief sojourn down to the village store for a quick ice cream bar, only gone about 20-30 minutes at dusk. I never heard a commotion, but when we got home last evening, I went out to harvest some herbs to dry for a new batch of herb salve and the neighbor’s two hound dogs were by the back garden. This morning, our old Mastiff was very curious about various spots in the yard, going much farther afield than his weary old body usually takes him, so something happened, probably while we were out. It frightened the two Buffs enough that they hid and never cooped up last night.

If I had realized all of this before letting them out today, I would have left them penned up for a few days to discourage a repeat performance by whatever got the two. I guess I need to walk the areas they frequent and see if I can find evidence the the melee or remains that need to be more properly disposed.

Last week, before I left for my weekend fiber retreat, the bees were tended. Three of the hives had little to no brood, no eggs, no queen cells. Two had low population, one with good stores, the other without. The third with moderate population and decent stores, so Son 2, the official beekeeper suggested I combine the two weakest hives and try to get local queens. I did the combine and arranged to pick up two mated, marked queens yesterday morning. Their cages have been installed in the two hives with hopes that in the next 7 or 8 weeks until our first expected frost, they can rebuild the hives enough for them to survive the winter. I will make syrup and take it down to those two hives today. The last hive is thriving. So now instead of 4 hives, there are 3, all with marked mated queens, if the two new ones are accepted and freed from their cages by the workers. This has definitely been a learning curve for me, but one I am enjoying.

The retreat was a wonderful respite, even with the couple hundred men and their sons also at the conference center. We have a large room with tables and chairs to convene into each day. Snacks provided by the group, meals in the conference center, and assorted vendors of fibery goodness to play with. I didn’t take my wheel, just spindles and knitting needles, and spun about 28 grams of wool, started a pair of fingerless mitts, and won a door prize of 4 ounces of roving. My Yankee Swap gift is three small skeins of hemp yarn for making spa cloths. Two great gifts. I limited my purchases to 4 ounces of wool from my friend, Debbie, at Hearts of the Meadow Farm, some yarn from another friend, Louise, at Only the Finest Yarns and Fiber to make two pair of fingerless mitts requested by family members for the winter, and a metal insulated mug for my tea and coffee there as I feared breaking my pottery one.

The chaos that 30 women and 1 man can create in a room
My spinning and the start of the mitts
We sat around the fire pits out front at night

It was tough to say goodbye to my friends, old and new, but it is nice to be home.

The Garden is winning

Usually in July and August, it is fairly dry, the grass doesn’t need mowing often, the weeds in the garden slow down and most of the bugs are gone. Not this year. We have had lots of light rain, not enough to fill the creeks, but enough to stimulate weed and grass growth and with it, the bugs. Yesterday evening and overnight, it rained enough to fill the 5″ deep round tub in the chicken pen and our driveway looks like it has canyons.

To add to this, the line trimmer has been acting up and either catching the line or “eating it” so with the wet grass and the malfunctioning equipment, the grass in the paths of the garden was higher than my garden boots. In some places it is easy to pull, not in others. I finally took the gas push mower over and mowed as much as I could, crawled around on the wet ground and hand pulled as much more as I could until my hands were cramped and it was time to come in and prepare dinner. Four of the tomato plants were done producing, so they were pulled. The others trimmed back of branches with no fruit and no leaves, the deadnettle, clover, and other invaders pulled from around the peppers and basil to give them a chance to continue producing, and about 2/3 of the blueberry bed was again hand weeded. I need to finish that job. I don’t know what the insidious creeping weed in that bed is, but I really need to find a solution to rid the garden of it. I don’t like plastic, but I’m really toying with using a roll of black plastic weighted down with rocks to kill it off around the edges and in the paths and then pull it back up and put down new cardboard and several inches of wood chips. I’m also considering transplanting them in late fall to the bed I was going to reconstruct, putting the berry barrels at the other end and filling it with wood chips, then shortening the garden by 6 or 7 feet on the south edge as it has just gotten to be more than I am willing to deal with. There will still be 3 squares about 4 feet each, three 4 X 6 or 7′ beds, and one that is 4 X 14′. Plenty of space for a garden for two. Plus the garden behind the house with flowers, the fig, and herbs.

Finished at dark.

It is going away

Slowly, piece by piece, the cottage business is departing. Still there are 5 spindles that get used regularly, the spinning wheel from my friend’s estate sale, the rigid heddle loom and stand, my knitting needles, and of course the great wheel that was never part of the business. I’ve kept the re-enactment folding table and period folding chair as I will still participate at events for fiber arts in history, and though they were sometimes used as part of displays, they aren’t part of the business. The remaining baskets and crates can be repurposed here at home. The two small tobacco style baskets can be made into door or wall decorations and may be made up in that style for the last event just before Christmas.

Next week, I will attend a fiber retreat and vend wares that were already in stock. One grandson asked for a pair of soft, dark fingerless mitts, so a skein will be set aside for that. There are 3 more events before the end of the year and no more stock will be made for them.

As the spinning is a stress relief for me, it will continue to be a hobby, but what I spin will be done with purpose as something that can be woven or knit as a gift. And as I reverted to spindles during the beginnings of the pandemic, most spinning will continue to be on spindles as it gives me pleasure and slows the production to a useable pace.

Batches of soap were made this week to be used at home, to be given as gifts, and to share with family members and friends that desire them.

It took me a long time to come to the decision to end this venture, but there is actually a sense of relief that it is coming to an end. I will move on to other adventures in my retirement. As long as family wants mitts, scarves, hats, and the occasional sweater, and friends want soap, it will keep me happy.

The online shop has already been shut down, so it is just moving out stock at events, trying to get to a manageable amount that can be used here or as gifts.

The blog will continue as it deals more with life on the farm. Keep watching for more posts as the seasons change.