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.

Garden recovery

After my last post about the wayward hens, and finding two more eggs in the back garden hidey hole, with a cooler evening, I tackled the back garden mess. One of my garden tools is a handle 15″ or so long with a T shaped end. One side is a 3″ wide hoe blade and a 3 tine digging fork on the other end of the T. It took me several hours of sitting in on the soil or the rock wall to eradicate a ton of bermuda grass and comfrey at the lower edge of the garden and vetch, oxalis, clover, and other invasions at the upper edge. Where the rocks are still piled awaiting removal by placement in the patio or along the wall, vetch was left as it doesn’t pull through the rocks very well. The half barrels on the wall and the potted perennials are going to be scattered through out the weeded bed for now.

Yesterday, in the heat of the day, under full sun, I sprayed the vetch with salted vinegar, donned leather gloves to remove a truly thorny invader, but walked away from it to let the spray do it’s magic. It doesn’t do magic on vetch that is still thriving today. I love the vetch when it isn’t in my gardens, the bees all love it too, but it can’t reside where it currently is.

The mostly finished patio and the transition area between the finished part and the garden part where the vetch is thriving.

As the sun lowered in the sky, the heat rose for some unexplained reason as the night was to be very seasonably cool, but my trusty tool and gloves were taken over to finish weeding the north edge of the vegetable garden behind and in the tall asparagus tops, the fall potato bed that never came up, and some in the tomato and pepper bed. As I work the beds, I am increasingly unhappy that I made two very long 4 foot wide boxes too close together. With tomatoes on one edge and corn behind it in the second bed, it is difficult to get to the weeds and harvest tomatoes without stepping in the beds. That design may be revisited this fall at the end of the season, breaking the longer of the boxes up and replacing it slightly uphill with 3 boxes that are 4 feet square. To do that, the blackberry half barrels will have to be moved down below the blueberries where the raspberry half barrels are, and if I put thick weed mat down first and line them up along that edge of the garden and mulch heavily around them, maybe the blueberries will stay less weedy.

The efforts in the vegetable garden produced a large compost pile that now needs some dry material on it, perhaps the soiled wood chips from the coop.

While weeding back there, I disturbed a bumblebee. They have never bothered me before, just flitting around where I worked, but this one became quite agitated at my efforts to remove the deadnettle and clover and she stung me three times, once on my midsections and twice under one arm. Bumblebees don’t have a barb on their stinger and can sting multiple times. The more she stung me, the more aggressive she became. I swatted her down with my glove and removed from the area. Today the stings are angry red and itchy. That makes 8 stings from bees and hornets this summer, more than I have gotten in my prior 74 years. So far, the red swelling, a headache, and three days of itching have been the only reaction. I truly hope it doesn’t develop into a more serious reaction, though a talk with a volunteer rescue squad member told me they do carry epinephrine on their trucks.

Today we have rain, so I’m off the move the pots and barrels around and pick tomatoes. This afternoon while it rains, I will can another batch of pizza sauce and use some of it on tonight’s dinner.

Oh those Wily Chickens

I started raising chickens a decade or so ago to provide us with eggs. With new chicken syndrome, too many ended up here and too many young randy roos, so Son 1 and I learned to dispatch them and put them in freezer camp. I find them too tough to eat but for a few years, he would take frozen ones home occasionally. His situation doesn’t provide the facilities for that to happen at this point and there are several still in the freezer. Over the years, fewer chicks were purchased at replacement time, but last time, they were purchased in February and half died, they were replaced and several died, they were replaced again, thinking I would end up with only the few I started out to get, but ended up with 15, two were roos and dispatched that summer.

With more hens than are necessary, I found a friend that would gladly take a couple dozen a week off my hands. Daughter also welcomes some, but I have found that my priority for the eggs has shifted from producing them for our use to hoarding them all week so friend and daughter get what they want. The current 13 hens are going on 2.5 years old, molt is starting for the first time as last winter they hadn’t yet had a winter as adults and didn’t molt. Their age has also slowed laying. One has taken to becoming an egg eater, though I haven’t caught her in the act to isolate her, just finding evidence later. And I hear egg song, go look in the coop to remove the egg to stop her and there isn’t one there, so they are hiding them.

This morning, I heard egg song from this thicket.

There were three hens in there and rooting around from two sides, I couldn’t find where they might have laid their eggs. Only 4 have been in the coop today. A few minutes ago, I heard egg song again, right behind the house. The walled garden built last summer is pretty overgrown due to patio construction and rocks being tossed aside out of the way until it is finished, so weeding has been sporadic and the vetch and comfrey have taken over. The herb part I have tried to keep clearer, but the deer were eating down a tall flowering plant against the tall wall, so I leaned a piece of old fence there to protect them and the weeds had grown up under the leaning fence. I found this:

Six eggs hidden. There must be another cache somewhere else also. So it seems that they are laying them in the flowers and thickets instead of the coop. I guess they will have to lose their free range time except for a few hours each late afternoon. As they think nothing of going over a 4 foot fence, using electric mesh that can be moved through the orchard to give them fresh grass ever day or so won’t work.

Since my priority has gotten skewed, when these hens are replaced, there will only be 5 or 6. I will stop providing eggs for my friend (she can buy free range eggs from the Farmer’s Market) and will give daughter extras, but our household will come first.

On the plus side, while rooting around in the thicket, I spotted peaches. We didn’t plant a peach tree on that side of the yard, but there must be a volunteer, I have seen it bloom in the spring, but never followed up later in the summer. Maybe the thicket needs to be cleared back so the peaches on that tree can be accessed, giving us two peach trees and more fruit than we can possibly use.

This is the plant the deer eat back, the butterflies love it.