Life Moves On

The pile of tomatoes on the counter was more than I could mentally and physically deal with the other day, so I bagged them and tossed them in the freezer. There are at least that many out there again that I need to pick, but it was drizzly rain when I went to turn the chickens out this morning, so they are still there. I really like the paste variety I planted this year, the slicer is a nice meaty, low seed variety with decent flavor, but grows flat oval tomatoes with deep stem inset that weigh well over a pound each. I can’t eat one alone at a session and don’t like to refrigerate tomatoes, so I will have to do some research on a different variety for next year’s garden.

Sometime in the near future, I will haul the bags out of the freezer, slip the peels and make a big pot of pasta sauce for dinner and the remaining amount will be put in wide mouth pint jars and frozen instead of canning them. I reread the instructions on the reuseable lids to see that the band needs to not be too tight when they go in the waterbath and tightened 10 minutes after you remove the jars and still I am experiencing failure to seal, but not at the rate I was having. I now remember why I sold off the first couple dozen of them I tried a few years ago. I guess I will use them for freezing and try to get metal lids for next year. I also can’t/don’t want to put them on jars I am making for others in case I don’t get them back. We have a chest freezer, so filling it will jars and the bamboo fiber boxes I bought, of sauces, beans, soups, and stews isn’t a bad idea.

Last night, I taught soap making at a “It Takes a Village” session at Wilderness Road Regional Museum. Because I was on the teaching end and it was more instructional than hands on, I have no pictures except the finished product from cutting this morning. The participants took turns stirring the soap mixture until it looked like time would run out before it turned trace to be able to pour it into the mold, so we cheated and used the immersion blender I use at home to finish the stir process that can take up to an hour or more of hand stirring. I had made a batch a month ago, so they could each take home a cured bar of the same recipe.

Though the cutting box isn’t a necessary part of soap making, I love the ease of being able to uniformly cut 1″ bars with the bench scraper. The rack came in my microwave and never gets used there, so it makes a great curing rack. The wooden box mold is one of two that Son 1 made for me as a gift early on in my soap making. I line it with parchment or freezer paper, the other one I made a liner from a silicone baking mat, so the saponified soap comes out of the box easily. The silicone loaf molds are good too, but I have had the bottom of a batch break out like a cake or bread from a pan that wasn’t properly greased. It may be because it wasn’t as firm as it should have been when unmolded, but the wood boxes with a liner, hold the heat better and unmold nicer. I probably should have waited until this evening to unmold it, but it was firm enough to do. This is a simply Old Fashioned Lye soap with a lemon/mint scent. It can be used for body soap, a stain rub on clothing, or grated and used as laundry soap.

Today is hubby’s birthday, so he gets to guide the day culminating with a dinner of his choice, either prepared by me or out if the weather permits patio dining somewhere. He recently lost his summer version of the Greek fisherman’s hat he wears, so in addition to a new leather belt from the local Street Fair in Blacksburg a couple weeks ago, his hat was replaced. We joked about options to prevent losing it. He had “lost” the other one earlier this summer, but we remembered where it was likely left and it’s return happened. This loss is a mystery, unless he wore it in the restaurant where we had lunch after our long bike ride down the Virginia Creeper Trail and it is too far away to go back and retrieve it. Maybe this one needs his name and phone number put in it.

Tomorrow, I will dress in my Revolutionary War garb and set up as a spinner and vendor at the Montgomery Museum Heritage Day event in Christiansburg. Ever since I began vending at events and craft fairs, I have struggled with a method to haul the most stuff in the least trips. I have crated and carried, bought a RubberMaid flat cart that promptly had a wheel failure the second time I used it inspite of the advertised weight load. I don’t think it was the weight, but rather the terrain, plus my load wouldn’t stay on the flat unsided surface. Daughter owns a folding wagon that she loaned me to try. With is larger wheels, deep sides, I have managed to test load everything needed but part of my ladder rack that I think could be strapped on top and my spinning wheel.

Next week when I go to my fiber retreat, I don’t need the table or the chair, so it should hold everything for vending and spinning. I probably will only take spindles, as that is what I have used mostly for spinning the past year and a half, and knitting to it.

A friend from that group is getting into pattern designs as Mountain Legacy Designs. I am test knitting one of her patterns at the moment and since I can no longer force myself to spin worsted weight yarn needed for the pattern, I purchased a skein from another friend, Sunrise Valley Farm . They can be found on Etsy in the link or at the Blacksburg Farmer’s Market. The test knit is progressing nicely, though I am taking my time on it.

I hope that Gail from the farm who is also a member of the retreat group can attend with me next year as a participant and maybe a vendor. It would be nice to travel together and room together at the retreat.

The test knitting has slowed my spinning this week, but earlier in the week, I posted 84.34 g of spun singles, and 41.70 g of plied yarn for the prior 7 days.

Another dry summer day

None of the predicted rain has found our farm in weeks and weeks. The grass is brown and crispy to walk on. Last weekend the temperature was mild for summer, but the heat is back. Today was HOT. We packed up the grand and headed for a location less than an hour from here that has a natural swimming hole at the base of a falls area. Depending on which sign you passed, it was either Dismal Falls, or the Falls of Dismal. The falls were so dry they was very little water going over. This is the image we were expecting.

This is what we saw.

I waded to upper thigh deep, Grandson 1 went all in. There were two pools deep enough for him to dunk all the way under by squatting down, but it was a nice walk in and back out, though the GPS took us well past where we should have been.

This morning before it got hot, I did a garden harvest, bringing in Cape Gooseberry (Ground Cherries), Tomatillos, Tomatoes, and a few cucumbers. After our trip, I decided to make a batch of Ground Cherry Jam. The recipe called for 3 cups of fruit, I had only harvested 2, so back out into the heat, I harvested another cup. I expected 3 cups of fruit, a cup of sugar, and the lemon juice to make at least two cups of jam. It only made 1 1/2 cups.

After dinner tonight, since the pot was still on the stove and still hot, I pulled out the tomatillos from the freezer, added enough to today’s harvest to make a pound and made 3 cups of Tomatillo/Jalapeno/Lime jam.

I hope the reusable lids sealed better this time.

They say, “you are never too old”…

I beg to disagree. The summer chore list was long this year. Many major projects needed to be done to preserve the integrity of our house, to have a garden that required less maintenance, and to get a coat of stain on the coop to try to extend it’s life. Spring was spent getting the garden ready with new boxes from reclaimed wood, filling them with soil dug from old beds, compost, and some bagged soil. Paths were lined with weed mat or cardboard and about an inch of mulch placed over it. The beds are fine and fairly easy to maintain as most are sturdy enough for me to sit on the side to weed. The paths needed several inches more mulch, but buying it by the bag is neither economical nor environmentally friendly, I need to find a load or two of woodchips from a tree service and have it dumped to move by wheelbarrow.

The house needed all 4 sides of the garage, the east wall, the north dormers, and all surfaces of the roofed front porch powerwashed and stained, as well as staining all the raw wood from the deck rebuild two years ago. Son 1 and grandson 1 got it all powerwashed and Son 1 stained the east wall, the walls of the garage, and the dormers. Hubby and I got the garage doors done, but the porch was still in need. Thursday, we decided to try tobegin to finish everything but the railing and floor which take a latex stain, probably a mistake years and years ago. While hubby stained the posts, I did the ceiling. Friday, we set up again, and got the front porch log wall, the windows and door frame done. Today we started on the deck. Hubby did the upper work while I did the frame underneath and outside parts from an 8 foot ladder. Most of it has been done, but there are still the joists under the floorboards that were not on outside edges that probably should still be done, but it is going to have to wait for a few days. Our arms, necks, shoulders, and backs are screaming.

We still need to get the floor done, the railing also. I guess in a few days, the remaining joists under the deck floor will get a coat of stain too. The chicken coop has had wood repaired, but it still needs to be stained too. The list is getting shorter, but isn’t done yet.