Category Archives: Homesteading

Damage wasn’t too bad – October 18, 2017

In spite of feeling increasingly poorly as the day went on yesterday, the garden was assessed.  The tomatoes are done and were pulled and dropped in the chicken pen.  The pepper plants looked a bit sad, but the leaves did not burn in the frost and the peppers were unharmed.  An hour of so was spent  pulling corn stalks and weeds and dropping them into the chicken run.  The sweet potatoes were dug and brought in to cure.

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A 22 quart bucket full of Beauregard and Blue sweet potatoes.

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Laid out to cure on the hardware cloth shelf with the onions and garlic in the root cellar.

The sweet potatoes were grown this year in a raised bed that was deep with good soil.  Each vine had at least 4 good sized potatoes growing down into the soft soil, making a good crop fairly straight and nicely shaped.  There will be roasted winter vegetables and sweet potato fries, candied yams for hubby for Thanksgiving, and perhaps a simple baked one now and then.

If we can get the Xterra repaired, a friend has offered a trailer load of sheep manure that will be dug in before the beds are covered with spoiled hay to overwinter.  I need to figure out how to eliminate the nematode that damages the garlic and onions before I plant them again.

The asparagus bed needs to have the ferns cut back and mulched for winter and the raspberry bed needs a lot of fall work, there are too many volunteers and a tall woody mint family weed has infiltrated the bed.  I am thinking of sinking rings of culvert deep into the soil and planting the raspberries within the rings to try to regain control and make the harvest of berries easier.

When we were working on the deck on Sunday, we stirred up this guy.

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He wasn’t happy that his abode was disturbed.  I hope he found another place to settle before Monday and last night’s frosts.

It Happened – October 17, 2017

We did indeed get our first frost.  The trip to the bus stop this morning required a prewarming of the car to clear the windows and so the grands wouldn’t wear their new winter coats when the daytime temperature is going to be in the low 60’s.  The tractor, still sitting out back from the weekend labor was frosted, the hay bales in the fields had the white glittering haze and even the grass, so it was a real first frost.  Unfortunately, as the day wore on yesterday, I realized that I was coming down with my first cold of the year.  Somehow, I have avoided the two the grands have already had, but this one came on anyway.  Therefore, the peppers didn’t get picked.  I haven’t been into the garden to see if they froze or if the plants just got burned, maybe later.

Sunday evening as eldest son was headed back out of town, we took the crew to a local Thai/Vietnamese restaurant in Blacksburg.  Not wanting curry, I ordered a bowl of Vietnamese Chicken Noodle soup.  It came in a serving bowl sized dish, broth with chicken, rice noodles, scallion slices, and a platter of Thai basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, and lime wedges.  I ate about half of it, took the veggies from grandson’s Pho soup that he didn’t eat, and packaged it up for home. This morning, it was warmed and dosed with a hefty shot of Sriracha sauce and eaten for breakfast to open my stuffy head.  Then I remembered having made a homemade version of Fire Cider in July and strained it off and took a shot of it too.  An Echinachea tincture is being taken twice a day, this cold isn’t going to get me down if I can fight it out.  Fortunately, other than stuffy, I don’t feel bad.

There are no photos of the glittering frost, as the sky lightened, thick fog rolled in.

It is that time – October 16, 2017

Facebook reminded me of a post from two years ago yesterday when a frantic harvesting was undertaken as we were expecting three consecutive nights of frost.  Tonight we are forecast for our first potential frost.  Right on time, mid October.  A few years we have gotten an extra couple of weeks, and a few years, it has come a week or so earlier, but our average is mid October.

The weekend was busy.  Daughter and family went overnight camping with their Taekwondo group and one from a near city for their belting ceremony and fun.  Eldest son and eldest grandson came in Saturday to tackle some needed work.  While son did some set up, I headed to the garden and harvested 2 peck of hot peppers for him to take home.  His garden, though productive with some vegetables, did not produce many peppers. The 7 old chickens and the rooster were sent to freezer camp Saturday afternoon.  It is going to take an extra slow cook to be able to chew those old birds, they were tough as shoes.  With early sunsets, that was all that we got done Saturday afternoon, but took a post dinner trip to Lowes to price out deck rebuilding materials.  I actually missed hearing Mr. Croak the past two mornings.

When we built our house, we built a huge deck on the south side, using a new borate treated wood.  Decks have a 10-20 year life expectancy and that one only made the lower end of that.

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Many of my blog photos have been take of or from that deck.  A couple of years ago,  when it was stained, the spindles that had all be hand cut had to be replaced.  They were replaced with pre routed boards top and bottom and new spindles that were pre cut at a top and bottom angle.  Last autumn, someone (maybe our 200 lb dog) put a foot through one of the boards on the decking, and we ended up replacing three boards with new pressure treated.  In the past year, more and more of the deck boards deteriorated until it just wasn’t safe to go on it.

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You can see the three replaced boards and two places where we stepped through it yesterday in preparation to resurface it and put on new railing.  Unfortunately, as son and I worked to remove the old railing, getting the nails and bolts out of the logs holding the balusters and spindles and assessing what would be necessary, it appears that most of the joists under the large part of the deck are rotting too and we just can’t rebuild the whole thing.  The 7.5 foot wide section coming out of the french doors of the dining room has sound joists, so it will be re decked with one of the composite decking materials, that will eliminate the need for the every other year re staining of this south facing deck, and wide steps will come off the side of it to the ground.  Over time, we will try to gather enough flat field stone from the piles on our property to make a ground level patio in the spot where the large part of the deck now stands.  It is disappointing, but because it is south facing and unprotected, it didn’t get the use we had planned for it to get over the years.

In anticipation of the next two very cold nights, the rest of the peppers will be harvested or if the wind dies down today, perhaps just covered with row cover or a tarp.  If the asparagus ferns burn, they will be cut back along with the raspberry canes and the sweet potatoes dug and put in storage for a couple of weeks curing time before we begin to enjoy them.  The garden is shutting down for the winter and the chickens will be given access to it for the winter.  If I can get some seed garlic, it will be planted in a couple of weeks and covered so the chickens don’t dig it up.  Until next spring, the garden is going to bed.  Bye bye sunflowers.

 

Olio, October 12, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

It has been a while since an Olio was posted, actually been a while since much of anything has been posted.

Spinzilla, the TNNA (The National Needle Arts Assoc.) team spinning competition ended Sunday night.  Our team had 25 spinners from across the US, sponsored by The Knotty Ladies and Strauch Fiber Equipment Company.  Most of our team has reported their yardage with a photo, it was due to our team leader yesterday, but mine was turned in before the official end of the competition by about 3 hours.  I was worn out, beat up, and generally over it by then and had finished plying a bobbin full of wool, so I quit.  During the course of the competition as my spinning wheel only has 4 bobbins and 1 of them has some pre Spinzilla alpaca on it that didn’t get finished prior to the start time, I plyed off every bobbin or two bobbins together, wound them off the plying bobbin, measured the yardage, and banded them with fiber, yardage, and weight and put the info in a spreadsheet to make the total tally easier to do.  In the end, spinning every spare minute I could on my wheel and everywhere we went on one of my drop spindles, I spun 5000.57 yards of wool, 2.84 miles in 7 days.

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Though we have often had our first frost by now, we are still experiencing daytime tempertures as high as 90, but the light drought we have been experiencing has finally broken and we have had some rain in the past week, greening up the browned grasses.  The trees are turning orange, red, and gold, some having already shed their leaves.

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The pullets seem to all be laying now, often getting up to 13 eggs from the 16 on a good day.  Only one of the old girls is still laying, though the molt seems to be winding down, it no longer looks like a chicken exploded in their coop and run.

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Normally in the autumn, we spend about 23 hours taking turns mowing our 30 acres with a 5 foot brush hog and our little tractor, but this year, we turned the task over to our retired postman and his helper and let them mow and bale the 3 big fields.  That leaves only from the house to the road to mow and that often gets done monthly anyway.  That was a big relief to not have to face that many hours on the tractor.

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He got 20 large round bales, not too bad for a second cutting of hay after weeks of really dry weather.  His cattle will appreciate it this winter if we get any bad weather.

Each day hubby and I try to get in a good brisk walk.  Even with the rain we have managed most days.  Between our house and Blacksburg, there is a large pond in the  National Forest and it has a nice path around it.  If we park in the upper parking lot, walk down to the pond and around it and then turn around and back track, we get about 2.3 miles.  From the library in Blacksburg to the rec center in Christiansburg is an asphalt trail on an old rail grade, mostly through wooded areas, behind residential areas, and some open fields and it has several access points.  There are two that we choose, from the library to Airport Road and back which is about the same 2.3 miles and from behind the hospital toward Christiansburg, a 2.5 section.  Our 4th walk choice is to go to Radford when we are over in that direction and walk 2.7 miles of Bisset Park on an asphalt trail along the New River.  As we are still seeing various specialists nearly weekly trying to determine what is going on with hubby, we have avoided steep climbs or walks that take us out of civilization where getting help if needed would be difficult.  There is another trail along the New River that we want to check out, but it is one that will probably involve taking along a picnic and making a day trip of it as it is a bit of a drive.

My crafting since the end of Spinzilla has been minimal, but I did get my studio corner cleaned up and mostly organized and used some of my hand spun, hand dyed yarn to repair my favorite pair of jeans.

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And I have read.  The Orphan’s Tale is an excellent historical fiction set during WWII set in Germany and France and set around the circus.  A really interesting read, highly recommended.

End of week 9-16-2017

This has been a crafty week ending with a good session on the tractor to beat the too tall grass back to a reasonable length.  The unused chicken run is going to require the weed wacker and this body is just not up to that this afternoon.  Our house sits on a slope that has the main floor at ground level on the front and on the second level on the back.  To mow with the tractor first requires that the gas powered lawn mower (not self propelled) be hauled out and a couple of swipes around the house along with a couple of areas that the tractor can’t reach, must be done.  The typical mowing is 4 or 5 acres, around the orchard trees, the garden and chicken runs, and the front, back, and side yards.  The area that is hayed and we usually brush hog in the fall is going to be hayed this fall, taking this task from me this year.

The crafting has involved designing two new patterns for fingerless mitts for the shop. The patterns have been shared with a few friends, I am hopeful that if they knit them, that they will alert me to any miscues that might surface.  Also this week,  3 batches of Shea based cold process soap, and a couple dozen tins of salves and balms were made for the shop and the upcoming shows.

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The lower ones are for me, though I will knit a pair or two for the Holiday Markets as well.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I could make a particular hat for her grand daughter who is turning 1 soon and has yet to grow hair.  The project was quick and sent to the friend, who in turn sent it to her daughter.  The photo credit is from her daughter, they were very pleased with the results.

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And then today was Worldwide Spin in Public Day, and my new Spanish Peacock drop spindle accompanied me today as we went to our usual Saturday morning breakfast and Farmers’ Market trips.

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A busy week.  Tomorrow the garden and a batch of pickles will be the focus.

End of Week – 9/10/2017

The cruise obviously did not happen.  We are safely in our Virginia mountains, not at sea.  We will use our credit to try again in the spring when we are out of hurricane season.  Since we are home, we took advantage to make a short trip to Meadows of Dan to supply with Bent Mountain cabbages, Virginia apples, and Ashe County cheeses from the Poor Farmers Market.  This was done after our morning trip to our local Farmers Market yesterday.

Each day we try to take a brisk walk to improve our stamina and help both of us shed a few pounds.  Yesterday was a home football game, bringing thousands of extra people into the small town, making traffic miserable, especially as the main bypass road around the town is in the midst of construction, repaving great sections and a new interchange at the campus.  This has made travel even more miserable.  With no place to park on football days, we missed our walk yesterday but enjoyed getting away from it.

The apples purchased yesterday were processed today to make two batches, a total of 15 pints of spiced applesauce.  It is cooling from the canner to be labelled tomorrow and added to the shelves in the basement for our winter enjoyment.

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Two of the cabbages were slated for kraut.  One of our favorite winter dishes is pork chops seared then topped with applesauce and sauerkraut and slow cooked in the dutch over.

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Two half gallon jars are fermenting on the counter.  If I can stir up another wide mouth half gallon, the third cabbage may also become sauerkraut as one of these jars will be packed in pints or quarts and given to eldest son and his family once it is fully fermented.

Tomorrow, a couple of flats of jars will be purchased for another prep of salsa and an attempt at making Asian Pear Butter.  Once that is done, the fading tomatoes will be pulled and that bed seeded with a cover crop.  The peppers are being allowed to ripen to red before making a batch of Sriracha style sauce and for drying to use in enchilada sauce this winter.  The corn stalks are about to be pulled for fall decoration, the fall radishes and turnips pulled for salads and kimchee.  The sweet potatoes will be left until the first frost is threatened, then dug.

The young hens are now giving us 9 to 12 eggs each day.  The old hens have all but quit laying and some appear to be beginning to molt.  They have had a good life and will be humanely killed soon to be stew chickens.

On the craft front, I have spun little since I returned from the retreat, but I have been working on designing a fingerless mitt pattern.  I think I have gotten it all figured out and written up.  Here is a peek of the finished mitt.

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They should soon be in the shop.

 

Another Busy Day

The day is gloomy, chilly, and very damp as the remnants of Harvey drift over the state.  Saturday we go to breakfast then to the Farmers’ Market and have missed the past two weeks, so in spite of the gloom, we traveled in to our favorite local diner for breakfast, then on to see what the market vendors had in stock today, we were low on meats and there are many veggies that I prefer to purchase rather than grow, partly to support our local farmers and partly because when they are ready to pick, there is more than we can use.

We were then off to a department store at the nearest mall to get Jim a couple of nicer shirts and another pair of khaki pants in anticipation of our cruise that we hope will depart next Saturday, if the next hurricane doesn’t foil that plan.

Back home, the rain had stopped for a bit, so a much needed harvest was done.  The 22 quart bucket was half full of jalapeños, cayennes, and large bells, half full of tomatoes, and a big bunch of second growth basil.

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The tomatoes from the last harvest were removed from the freezer, peeled and cooked down into a nice thick sauce.  While it was cooking down, two strings of extra large jalapeños and the cayennes were strung and hung in the south door to dry for winter use, 5 more pints of jalapeños pickled and canned.  That makes a total of 31 pints of them canned so far, many more than any other year, but eldest son and Jim will eat one with most dinners for the next couple of seasons until there are more next year.  Some of my poblano pepper plants ended up jalapeños and there are many more to be harvested before our first frost takes out the plants.

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The tomatoes frozen today will be peeled and canned as Rotel style tomatoes tomorrow for chili this winter.

As usual, I turned to my two favorite canning books by Marissa McClellan.   She is not a sponsor, but if I ever wanted a sponsor for my blog, she would be one I would seek.

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I still need to find a good canning recipe for the Asian Pears.  There are so many and I don’t need more jam, conserve, or chutneys, my sweet tooth has been curbed and they just don’t appeal to me anymore.

This week, the young hens have come into good production, while the old ladies have all but given up.  Each day there are 10 or 11 eggs to bring in.  We only use a dozen or so each week ourselves, so there are many eggs to share with friends who appreciate me raising healthy, non commercial eggs.

It is time to start the oven to cook the stuffed peppers from today’s harvest.

Away, Far Away – 8/28/2017

Life continues to spiral away, hopefully to slow a bit now that the grands are back in school as of this morning.

The eclipse provided a great science lesson last Monday, with eclipse viewing glasses thanks to eldest son and the grands’ other grandma, reflections caught through the broken clouds in a planter saucer of water.

Daughter having to take a day off so we could do more appointments.

More canning, lots of Jalapeños.  Tomatoes being frozen to peel and process this week after more jars are acquired.

Pullets figuring out the egg deal and thus many to deliver to folks who appreciate their efforts as much as we do.

Relearning an old skill, Tunisian Crochet.  Another way to use some of the yarn I spin, but I am so slow with it still.

And a couple days of R & R away for me, friends and fiber, to my favorite fiber retreat, The Knotty Ladies (though there are a couple of guys that are there too).  It is an opportunity to vend my shop as well and yarn, stitch markers, soaps, and salves sold, though none of the knit wear, but then again, everyone in the room knits, spins, crochets, weaves, felts, or some combination of those arts.   A generous skein of sport weight Hebridean was spun and 12 ounces of the softest Merino/Alpaca blend of fiber purchased and one skein of it spun.  There may be a sweater in my near future.

Finally back home to my family and my own bed.

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The Absent Blogger – 8/10/2017

One day seems like the next.  A pleasant August of temperatures not typical of the month, most days reaching only about 80ºf, nights that warrant at least a sheet for cover.  Each day is a series of doctor’s appointments to try to diagnose hubby’s symptoms and the accompanying stress of not knowing, harvesting from the garden that daughter and grands helped me get totally weeded last weekend, canning the harvest, and refereeing the constant squabbles of the grands who have another 18 days before school begins and are tired of each other’s company and the play options available to them.  Most days ending in thunderstorms, though not filling the creeks, it is keeping the garden watered and the dust down.  The seeds planted in empty beds after our weeding session are sprouting to provide us with turnips, radishes, spinach, carrots, and peas for the fall.  The sweet potato vines are thick, kale, chard, and corn thriving, a few small pumpkins appearing amidst the corn. Several of the pullets are laying tiny eggs now, the hens have all but quit laying.  The Monarchs found the parsley and are chowing down, but the butterflies are welcome. The hay was finally moved off of our fields.  The shelves of salsas, pickles, and sauces are filling.  As the tomatoes begin ripening more quickly, pasta sauce and more salsa will be made.  The Asian pears are ripening and pear sauce or pear apple sauce will be made.

Such is a day in the life of the absent blogger.

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Putting by – July 29, 2017

This is the beginning of the putting by season for the non productive winter to come.  The garden has provided a lot of basil, peppers are maturing, tomatoes too.  Though the peas were a bust this year and potatoes not what I was hoping, the sweet potato vines look healthy, the corn is forming ears, and we are getting enough green beans to eat a few times a week and a bit in the freezer.

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Dairy free pesto for the freezer, pickled and canned jalapeños for the pantry, fire cider for cold season, oregano and basil vinegars, and shelling of field peas for ground cover and chicken treats.  That was one afternoon of work, along with bunches of basil and hyssops drying for teas and cooking.

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Today was our weekly Farmer’s Market visit and breakfast out.  We missed both last week with our music weekend, and next weekend will be the huge street festival that happens in town, so many vendors will not even try to attend the market on Saturday.  With this being the height of the season and with several of the meat vendors having recently gotten cuts back from the abattoirs, we stocked up on some meats.  Peaches are in season as well as cucumbers and we came home with several pounds of peaches and a couple of pounds of pickling cucumbers.  Once home, another putting by session was held.

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Eight half pints of the Peach Sriracha sauce that is a hit here, and 4 pints of classic dill spears were prepped and canned.  The pot used today for water bath canning only holds 7 half pints or 4 pints at a time, so one jar of Peach Sriracha sauce went into the refrigerator for use now.

Though she isn’t a sponsor and I get nothing for this recommendation, if you are a new canner, have limited space for storing, or a small family to prepare for, Marissa McClellan’s books, Food in Jars, and Canning by the Pint are priceless.  The Peach Sriracha recipe is one of her jams that I blend and prepare thinner for a sauce and came from one of her books. She has a newer book on canning with sweeteners other than white sugar that I haven’t tried as I make few sweet canned items.

Right on the 20th week since hatching, one of the pullets presented us with an egg.  It is a Welsummer egg, reddish brown but not as dark as I had hoped they would be.  All 4 of the Welsummers have bright red combs and wattles, so we should start seeing eggs from all of them soon.  The Buff Orpingtons will probably not lay for another month.

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Pullet eggs are so cute compared to the mature hen’s eggs.

Earlier this spring, I bought a pound of raw fawn colored alpaca locks from one of the local vendors.  This week, I spun a bobbin of it and a bobbin of some chocolate brown alpaca roving that had been given to me a year or so ago, and plied them into more than 200 yards of light fingering weight pure alpaca yarn, pictured in the header.  I think it will be knit into a hat and fingerless mitts for the shop, but maybe it will just be sold or traded, especially as more is currently being spun.