Home Again – 9/17/2019

I’ve been away for 6 days helping family as they renovate a house in preparation to move. Being there has allowed the adults to work after their day jobs and on weekends without having to worry about the young teen. I was able to be with him on a day off from school, pick him up on two other days as the bus from this school doesn’t run to his current home, and get him to school this morning. It allowed me to help with daily household chores such as laundry and preparing dinner so they could work longer without having to get home to him.

I also filled boxes. They are true bibliophiles and music lovers. Books were packed and boxes and bookcases moved. Extra linens packed and moved. The kitchen and big furniture will have to be moved once the renovation is complete enough to allow them to function in the house, but they are getting closer.

This was my second trip to help out since they purchased the house just as school began and I know that they are grateful as they repeatedly let me know. On this trip, I was talking about trying to pick the apples when I got home, that the deer had not already pulled down and eaten, being fruit that was all over my reach. The Asian pears also heavy with fruit that the birds were damaging and fruit was beginning to fall. The deer don’t seem to want the pears. Generally I pull the tractor near the trees, stand on the seat and grab what I can. They asked me why I didn’t have a fruit picker tool, I didn’t even know they existed. They showed up on Sunday with a brand new extension pole fruit picking basket for me as a gift.

After arrived home today, getting unpacked, and laundry started, I took my new tool out to try.

What a genius idea. Though some of the fruit is bird damaged, there are plenty of apples to make applesauce, and plenty of pears to make Pear and Orange marmalade, my favorite.

The 8 gallon bucket was half filled with the remaining apples and filled to the top with pears. There are many more pears out there, most very small or bird damaged, but I harvested more than enough to can. We generally have a later frost that kills the early fruit blooms and the later blooms produce enough fruit for our use and the fruit gets larger because it isn’t crowded. We did not have that frost this year and one of the two Asian pears had so much fruit that it broke several branches and mostly the fruit is small. If there isn’t a later frost next year, I know I must thin the pears and once it gets cold, I must prune the damaged branches.

I love my gift. I was safely able to get a harvest and the rest of the week is supposed to be a bit cooler, so I will can applesauce and jam.

Whew, I’m back then gone again-8/26/2019

These few weeks are on the road. Away last Thursday to help out family with packing and as transportation as they prepare to move. Time was spent enjoying their company and some time alone at their house with empty boxes to fill with books, music, and linens. Thursday was hot when I arrived and after picking up grandson, we waded in the cool creek before preparing dinner.

The tiny fish darting around our feet and a few crawdads skittering away if you disturbed their rock.

Friday was rainy but much cooler and the time that everyone was away from the house was used to pack boxes, clean up the garbage that the bear got into and taking photos of the jewelweed with rain drops on the leaves.

Saturday after grandson’s volunteer time at the library, he and I drove to a local State park and walked a trail that his Mom’s Master Naturalist group had done and looked at some of her art used on the signage. It was a beautiful mild day for a nice gentle walk in the woods.

Sunday after a late breakfast out with everyone, he and I used my Lifetime Senior Pass for the National Park system to drive up on the Skyline Drive and hike a couple miles up a mountain trail, mountain goat on a couple of the rock piles, and back down the trail. I guess there were too many people out to see any wildlife other than a few butterflies.

On the way back off the Parkway, we ended up behind this lanky young man skate boarding down the Skyline Drive wearing earbuds, so he probably couldn’t hear the traffic behind him. Eventually the car in front of us, us, and the line behind us were able to go around him. It was a very long down slope, quite steep at some points causing him to do tight S turns to slow himself. I hope he made it safely without causing anyone else injury because of his stunt.

Other down time was spent spinning on one little Turk and plying on the other slightly larger Turk and knitting on a small shawl. I was so enamored with the last issue of Ply magazine that I read it through cover to cover and took it with me to reread. I had two books with me and finished one, but found the second one of zero interest to me.

I’m home for a few days to get laundry done, the house vacuumed of dog hair, the chicken coop cleaned out, then off again later in the week for a long weekend with friends as a vendor and participant at a fiber retreat. When I return from that, again a few days at home to clean up and unpack to repack and return to help the moving family out for a few more days.

The garden has given up on tomatoes and cucumbers. The sunflowers are drooping and need the heads cut. The tomatillos are not really producing anymore, but I am hopeful that there may be a few more to harvest. The peppers are heavy with fruit and there are a few pumpkins, but the chickens got in my garden every day I was gone and destroyed the fall plantings and the cover crop beds. I guess those beds will just be covered with hay for the winter instead.

Signs of Fall – 8/16/2019

The vivid emerald green of spring is fading to a drab green with highlights of yellow and red leaves mostly on the weedy shrub and weed trees, but the Sycamores are yellowing, several trees are shedding leaves already. Putting by is also a sign of impending Autumn season and that has been a task multiple days a week for the past several weeks. Some days it takes many hours and produces quantities of goodies to be enjoyed over the cold, non productive months. Some days a small batch or two of a sauce or jam are made. This morning, the Tomatillos gathered over a couple of days were made into 5 half pints of simmer sauce with the recipe from Canning by the Pint, one of Mellisa McClellan’s books. Some of those recipes are followed to the letter, others are a jumping off point for me as was today when I added several ground Jalapenos to the recipe to kick up the spice level of the sauce.

After lunch, more grapes were picked, giving me enough for another batch of grape jelly from our grapes. That recipe is from Food in Jars, another of her books. It is a low sugar recipe compared to the one on the pectin box, using 3 cups of sugar to 4 cups of juice and requiring about 20 minutes to cook, rather than the 7 cups of sugar to 5 cups of juice and the couple of minutes of cook time. I would rather spend the time and have jelly that tastes like grape, not sugar. The remaining grapes will be left for the resident critters that roam our farm at night.

It is very satisfying to hear the lids pop to seal after they are set on the towel to cool.

The pollinators are busy today, a very hot, uncomfortable day to be out. Native bees on the sunflowers and bumblebees on the Autumn Joy.

The sunflowers are Hopi Dye Seed and I hope to harvest a flower or two to try dying some wool with them. Behind them and on the edge of the Tomatillo bed are mixed sunflowers, some Mammoth, some Bronze, and one smaller flowered variety that produces masses of 6″ flowers per stalk. They are great for cut flowers for the table. Most are the typical golden yellow but one yellow variety produced lemon yellow blooms.

Most of the sunflower heads will be cut off when mature and some given to the chickens to peck the seed, others hung from the wild bird feeder pole for them to enjoy this winter. This year was a good year for sunflowers.

Unless I purchase a box of tomatoes, canning season is drawing to a close for me. I will make a couple of small batches of Asian Pear Orange Marmalade and will can the remaining Tomatillos whole as they mature. The apples are too small to make applesauce but will be pressed for cider and maybe a batch of cider vinegar made. Maybe when apples start appearing fresh at the Farmers’ Market, I will make one canning of applesauce.