Cucumbers and more cucumbers and rain and more rain

I finish one batch of fermented, quick brined, or canned cucumbers and another basket fills on the kitchen counter. I have had years when to have a cucumber or make a small batch of pickles, I have had to purchase them at the Farmers market for $5 a pint which only makes two pints of pickles. This year is a cucumber year. I have canned 5 3/4 pints of Spicy Bread and Butter, 6 pints of Garlic Dill (though one didn’t seal and is in the refrigerator), a gallon of Quick Brined Dills, 3 quarts of Fermented pickles. I will probably make one more batch of canned pickles. The refrigerator is filling.

Slowly, the tomatoes are ripening, but it doesn’t look like there will be a glut of them to can this year. Lots of greenery and plenty of tomatoes, but not huge quantities. The peppers are beginning to produce, except for the bell peppers that are competing for space with the cucumbers that refused to stay on the fence. I am nearing the point like you do with zucchini where I’m ready to cut the vines and give the other vegetables a better chance. We can only eat so many pickles.

The second planting of bush beans is blooming, so soon there will be fresh beans again, and the third planting germinated nicely. It is now August, and I need to think about how to plant a fall garden. The box has still not been repaired and nor the larger one built. It has either been hot as the gates of hell or pouring rain.

Last week, the department of transportation that maintains our gravel road dumped crusher run gravel on the road and didn’t run a roller over it. Night before last, it rained hard for hours. Yesterday we were going in to the library to return a book and pick up a hold for me and discovered that their efforts all washed downhill and filled the ditch at the top of our culvert to road level, totally blocking our culvert and causing the rain to wash down our driveway, destroying the upper third and causing significant gullies all the way to the bottom near the house. I called VDOT first thing yesterday, but they did not come out yet and it rained again last night and we have heavy rain forecast for tomorrow and Monday. Hubby is supposed to take his motorcycle in to the city on Thursday for inspection, oil change, and to see if the dealer is purchasing used bikes as he can no longer ride but for very short sessions. At this point, he can’t even get out. I will try to use the blade on the tractor to repair the worst of the damage, but there is no point until they open the ditch so rain doesn’t run down our driveway. With only 5 houses on the nearly mile long road and 3 more off the state maintained road that have to use it to get out, they will never Macadam surface it. Since they are unwilling to accept that the ditch is on the wrong side for much of the road and no culverts to direct it where it is a reverse swale, the problem will be ongoing. I don’t know the solution. We have graded, had gravel dumped, graded some more, raised a dam along the top edge of the culvert and a directional hump across the top of the driveway and nothing works when it rains hard enough to wash the road into the ditch. The two cars can bump and bounce over it, but the motorcycle can’t, it is tricky on the gravel even when it is well repaired.

The July spinning challenges are done. To end the month, there was a lottery for 18 spindles and because I completed the Tour de Fleece with all 23 scavenger items found and because I fulfilled the 15 minute challenge every day the next week, I got three entries. The winners will be posted this morning, and today marks the start of the usual monthly challenge to spin at least 25 grams of fiber only on Jenkins spindles during the month. I ordered some dyed Tunis for my rare breed credit, and some dyed Shetland with Mulberry Silk for my main spinning and emptied both spindles before dinner last night. I still had about 20 grams of the blue, yellow, and white Merino with Bamboo left and spun half of it last night on a different spindle and will finish the rest on that spindle today before I start my August Challenge. Most of it is plied on my wheel and as soon as I can finish this fiber, it will be plied to the rest and let to set for a day or two on the bobbin then wound off and washed.

Back to spindle spinning to finish the fiber.

Stay safe everyone.

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.