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.

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.

Always more tasks this time of year

Two days of tomatoes were cooked down to pizza sauce and canned yesterday during the rainy afternoon. It made 6 half pints, but I didn’t waterbath one, instead used half of it on last night’s pizza and froze the rest for next time. The red and a handful of green Seranos and Jalapenos were chopped up in the blender and started as a hot sauce ferment while the sauce was processing.

Though I don’t grow as many tomatoes as I used to and don’t can nearly as much as it is just the two of us, it does my heart good to see the shelves beginning to fill.

It is nearly time to add applesauce, apple/pear sauce, and a few jars of pear marmalade to the shelves, and more hot peppers as they mature.

Yesterday morning, the pots in the back garden were scattered around the bed I weeded, the sprinkler set up on a pedestal, but we ended up with a couple inches of rain between yesterday afternoon, over night, and into this morning, so no watering was needed. More of the smaller rocks were moved from the work area to the back edge or top of the wall to clear them. And every pot of boiling water left from cooking pasta or canning goodies is taken our and poured on the vetch. Slowly, it is dying off and the edge of the work area and remaining rocks will be visible.

This afternoon was to be used to make soap and instead, I got involved in closing down the shop business. Much of my equipment that I only used for vending has been sold. Today, a small loom that was beautiful, but didn’t get much use was also sold. By the end of the year, hopefully, there will not be much stock left and what is left can be donated to the museum or given as gifts and my fiber arts and soap making will be for family and close friends. Though I enjoyed the years of being Cabin Crafted, the tax ramification were just too stressful for a cottage business that broke even each year at best.

Somehow, we manage to get our walks in each day, around the rain showers, or sometimes in them. Since my wellness check, and the report of slightly elevated cholesterol, we have both picked up the pace and extended the distance by about 3/4 of a mile. My already healthy, low meat diet has been tweaked more to totally eliminate dairy products except for cheese in Mexican food and on pizza. My morning smoothie is made with plant milk, whey protein, flax, peanut butter powder, and frozen berries. Most mornings, it is like eating a cup of ice cream it is so thick. Ice cream has been reduced to a single scoop once a week. Starches limited to whole grains and fresh vegetables that contain starch like corn and potatoes, and then prepared steamed or boiled. It isn’t terribly different than I was eating, except I was using homemade whole milk yogurt and real peanut butter in the smoothies, a slice of sourdough bread with it, often buttered with avocado, more cheese, and butter on many vegetables. I was put on a low dose statin, though I didn’t react well to one about 14 years ago and hope that maybe the diet changes and exercise will allow me to not take it after a while.

All of the garden work aggravated the arthritis and trigger finger in my hands, so crafting has been minimal for the past few days, but I did finish two more Sashiko panels and used one to decorate a small canvas zip bag to hold the Sashiko supplies and unfinished small panels in.

There are 8 more of these panels, 1 finished, 7 to stitch. Maybe they will become a tote bag, or a table runner. Time will tell. Spinning happens mostly in the car, a bit at night as I continue to work my way through the 5 ounce braid. It has lovely colors in the sunlight, greens, purples, golds, on a gray background, but in the house, those colors seem to hide so it feels like spinning gray. After a whole year of spinning only natural colors for the breed blanket, more color has been needed in my craft this year. I think it will weave on my rigid heddle loom into a lovely, drapey shawl once it is done. It is a smooth spin so it shouldn’t grab while weaving as long as it is strong enough to not break the warp threads. Maybe a commercially spun silk will be the warp as the braid is 25% silk.

The mornings, feel that summer is edging away, the daytime temperatures in the 70’s. This morning, herb and salad greens were sown in the hydroponics as the frost will take out the herbs and I never plant lettuce outdoors. We will enjoy salads all winter with the hydroponic garden and the salad greens will be refreshed as needed. For now, there are some greens and radishes being harvested from the garden, lettuce from the Farmer’s Market as needed, the cucumbers just starting to produce and new green beans about ready to harvest. Pumpkins this year will have to be purchased, they never did come up or at least didn’t produce vines and fruit. The peas are gaining size, strings need to be added to the posts for them and they should produce before we have our first frost. The greenhouse cover needs a minor repair before it is needed outdoors. Summer is moving on to a close, and it is raining hard again outside.