Category Archives: Homesteading

Olio – June 9, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

IMG_20170609_114041IMG_20170609_124815

IMG_20170609_175152

IMG_20170609_164740

IMG_20170609_165248IMG_20170609_103029

IMG_20170609_193313

Today was the last full day of the Harley Davidson 5 State Rally in Roanoke and the third ride that Jim was the ride Captain.  Grandson had his last day of school and I picked him up at 11 and we drove to the covered bridge in our community and sat for a few minutes until the 15 or so bikes rode by us on the way up to Mountain Lake Lodge to see the Dirty Dancing display, it was filmed there, and to have lunch.  We hurried in to town, picked up granddaughter from Preschool and back up the mountain where we joined the big group on the porch for lunch.  They were a really nice group of folks and the kids were well behaved and hungry.

Back home, my ride, the tractor was brought out and the yard mowed, showing the clear demarcation between the lawn and the hay.

It was such a nice afternoon that the new wheel and I adjourned to the front porch and a funky skein of yarn was plyed.  Daughter named it “Seussical” as soon as she saw it.  I am now spinning a yellow and orange skein that will be used with “Seussical” to make a hat and mitts for the Holiday Markets in the fall and winter.

While sitting there, the distinctive buzz of a hummingbird was heard and soon, the little emerald green hummer was feeding right in front of me. I have tried for years to get a photo of one and if I sat still and stopped spinning, it returned repeatedly to the feeder.

While I was prepping tacos for dinner, the haying team arrived and the area where the photo of the short grass and the tall hay along with most of the rest of the area in front of the house were mowed with a sickle bar to be raked and baled tomorrow or Sunday.  The big 15′ mower will arrive tomorrow and take on the big fields that have fewer obstacles and longer straighter runs.  The sickle bar will go around the rock piles and along the edges of the fields.  Soon the farm will be neat and mowed.  Farmer Jeff is right on schedule, he always gets to us in the second or third week of June.  The grands will be glad to have more area to play once the hay is all in.

 

My Corner Looks Empty – June 6, 2017

In the past week, two of my three spinning wheels have gone to new homes.  The Louët left by mail last Thursday for Connecticut and arrived safely on Saturday.  The old Amable Paradis was driven by me about halfway to it’s new owner in North Carolina late this afternoon. The corner only contains the great wheel until tomorrow.

IMG_20170606_201930

If the tracking is right, the new Ashford Traveller arrives tomorrow. The oils and waxes to finish her are awaiting her arrival.  She needs to be stained with the tinted Tung Oil mix at least twice and be dry by Sunday when I will need her at the Smithfield House Flag Day Ceremony.  I really would like to get a good coat of wax on too, but don’t want to rush the drying process.

The delivery of the old wheel this evening was at a location chosen by the buyer’s husband.  He was to meet me without her and I had to drive to him solo as Jim is in Roanoke for the next 4 1/2 days at his rally.  Meeting a stranger in a strange location was a bit scary, but there ended up being 3 State troopers eating in Subway, a gas station, Chinese buffet, and motel all in the parking lot that made me feel better, then he called and said he had missed the exit and had gone miles beyond our designated meeting place in the direction that I needed to go to return home.  A new exit was selected between us and the meeting was uneventful, a pleasant retired Coastie, his wife is a lace maker and wants to spin too.

Prior to delivering the grands to Taekwondo and their Mom, granddaughter and I planted the pumpkin and tomatillo seedlings this afternoon.  The corn is several inches tall now.  Before leaving to babysit eldest grand next week, the Anasazi beans will be planted in with the corn and pumpkins.

Arriving home just before sundown this evening, the annual hay mowing had begun on our side of the ridge.  Our farmer friend mows and bales several fields around us including ours and the largest field near us was about half mowed.  By the time my week away babysitting and backpacking is done, our fields should be mowed and baled as well.

As it was still light enough to close up the coops and collect eggs without a flashlight when I arrived home, the hens, pullets, and Mr, Croak were secured and the lonely sole egg of the day collected.  The hens are so senior that eggs are being offered in very small quantities.  It will be nice when the pullets are mature enough to start providing.

The walk over to the coop and back revealed the first Daylily of the season bloomed today.  Daylily season is such a joy with the beautiful trumpet shaped, various colored blooms.  If only the season were longer.  Additions of later and ever blooming varieties have been added to the garden to extend the season but it is still too short.

IMG_20170606_204335

 

Though the header is a few nights ago, tonight was another lovely pink post sunset.

6/3/2017 Beautiful late spring

The past few days have been perfect weather.  Cool, crisp nights, warm clear days, some wind but dry for a change.  We have a rainy Sunday evening and night, but next week is to return to nice weather.

IMG_20170517_203236

 

This is just in time for Jim’s participation in the 5 state Harley Davidson Bike rally to be hosted by his chapter of HOG.  He is scheduled to lead 3 rides, two back to our area for a tour and lunch at Mountain Lake Lodge, the third a very long day ride from Roanoke to the Back of the Dragon, along that 32 mile winding road, and looping back to Roanoke, a total of 275 miles.  He road it on his bike yesterday with his sweeper and got home exhausted last night, having questions that he thought of, so today we repeated it only in the car so that I could be his spotter, looking for things he can’t look for while focusing on the technical ride.

IMG_20170603_123551

IMG_20170603_123557

It is a beautiful area, with a lunch stop at a wonderful little restaurant in Tazewell, Virginia.  By the time we were home, I was tired of being in the car, put away the morning purchases from the Farmers’ Market that had travelled with us in a cooler.  Lamb chops had been part of the purchase and Jim enjoyed 4 small rib chops for his dinner with fresh sugar snap peas.

After our dinner, I took a brisk walk on our hilly road, climbing beyond the state maintained part, farther than I have climbed before.

IMG_20170603_191453

IMG_20170603_191503

You can get some idea of the steepness of this section of road by looking left above the halfway divide of the photo, you can see the lower end of this road.  A walk back down this steep and then back up the other side of this hollow on another steep road, then up into the woods to the top of the hill above our house.  This allowed for a photo of our house down in the next hollow as the sun was setting.   That photo is the heading above.  Though this walk is only a bit more than 2 miles, it was done briskly and is a lot of extreme elevation change, with minimal stopping to allow my heart rate to recover.  I am still hopeful that my efforts will help me be prepared for the upcoming backpacking trip with eldest son and his family.

 

Olio – May 29, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

IMG_20170525_095126IMG_20170525_160009IMG_20170525_183259IMG_20170526_113845

 

Thursday we awoke to flooded creeks after a night of torrential rains.  After taking grands to school, I left hubby in charge and took off for a few days of R&R to spin at Hawk’s Nest with friends.  The New River was muddy, the clouds hung low that day but gave us beautiful weather for the other two days.  There are always critters on the lawn, lizards, raccoons, this time 4 baby groundhogs and their Mom.

IMG_20170528_150256IMG_20170529_082932

I beat the rain home on Saturday night and woke to another nice day on Sunday.  My favorite guy hopped on his ride and took off for a bit.  My ride, the tractor, was driven out of the barn and the lawn was finally mowed.  A lazy dog as usual in the middle of floor for everyone to have to walk over.

IMG_20170529_082415

 

The pullets spent 5 days locked in the hen house and while they were getting large enough for that transfer, the run got overgrown with lambs quarter and this morning when they were finally released to run, they were lost in the overgrowth.  One has already gone over the fence into the garden.

IMG_20170529_154404IMG_20170529_154401

Today another great day and while my guy took off on another ride, the garden was finished except for the climbing beans that must wait for the corn to come up.  The three sisters garden was planted with 10 hills of sweet corn and 5 hills of heritage popcorn.  The potatoes in the barrels got another layer of soil and there are only about 3 more inches till the barrels are full.  The bush beans, tomatillos, and sweet potatoes were planted, bunny barrier installed around the beans, and all the beds weeded again.  The pumpkins are a couple of inches tall in little pots on the deck.  They will go into the garden in a few days. It will only require maintenance now.

5/22/2017 Garden Day

IMG_20170522_200005 IMG_20170522_195951

 

The morning came with light rain after the torrents of overnight.  The morning was dense with fog, but by noon, the sun began to come out and the garden and chicken run fencing called.  The posts were set yesterday for more than half of the second fence.  The first photo shows part of the run fences, but there wasn’t enough extra fencing to finish the job.  A roll of fencing will be purchased and the run completed.

Before leaving for the Spinning Retreat on Thursday morning, the teenage chicks will be moved into the big coop and left cooped up with food and water while I am gone.  The family will just have to make sure that their containers are filled daily, but the chicks will stay inside so that when I return on Saturday night or Sunday, they will be accustomed to their new abode.

Since the fencing job could not be completed and as the days of rain have caused the weeds to thrive, granddaughter and I tackled the garden beds again and weeded them, harvested the first radishes of the season, thinned the turnips.  Still having some energy, the rest of the corn and pumpkin patch, the three sister’s garden was dug in.  It has been pretty thoroughly weeded, but will still need a good raking to get the rest of the weeds and a few more rocks and then the hills made to plant the corn.  Tomorrow looks very rainy, but perhaps there will be a window of decent weather to get that done prior to my departure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the community open house on Saturday, I plied 350 yards of sport weight natural colored Leicester Longwool and began spinning the 8 ounces of Romeldale that I  had purchased recently.  The fiber is very soft, but has such a short staple that it is spinning into an extremely thin single.  That is a dime under the strand.  Because of the short staple, it doesn’t feel very soft spun.  It may bloom after it is plyed and  washed, we will see, but 8 ounces is going to make a lot of thin yarn.

 

 

5/20/2017 Community Fun

IMG_20170520_114102 IMG_20170520_114114 IMG_20170520_122742 IMG_20170520_122750

 

Today was a good day.  The Newport Community Center held an Open House to show off the community and some of the activities that go on at the center.  The 4H barn on the property had pony rides and a baby farm animal petting zoo.  The volunteer rescue squad is right next door and they had one of their trucks on display.  There was softball, a stone carver, a basket weaver, my friend Josh, the neighborhood blacksmith shown above with some of his awesome hooks that he was making.  There was barbequed pork from the smoker/grill, all the trimmings.  The LoCo arts room hosted an anti pipeline banner painting event.  An art sale, a silent auction, used book sale.  The Quilter’s Guild had their gorgeous quilts hanging around the perimeter of the big cafeteria room.  Another friend, David and I had a display of plant and animal fibers, hand spun yarn and handspun handknit clothing items while we demonstrated spinning and answered questions from adults and kids.  My almost 200 year old wheel sat on the table top and was brought down for a few minutes of spinning on it as well.  During most of the event there was live music from families singing to a young man with outstanding guitar skills.

There were many folks from the community that participated and I think everyone had a good time.

5/15/2017 Summer is Coming

The torrential rains of last week are gone with no more rain in the forecast until the end of the week.  The days are near summer like and very breezy.

Yesterday early afternoon, we all piled into the largest vehicle after calling ahead to Outback Steakhouse, one of the restaurants that won’t take reservations, but will let you call ahead to get on their list and drove the half hour to celebrate Mother’s Day for daughter and me.

Mother's Day wait

Somehow, out of the 5 of them crowded on the bench waiting, 3 have their eyes closed.  The wait was less than 30 minutes and we enjoyed a good meal together.

Today, being warm and sunny, Jim took the BBH out for a ride on part of one of the rides he will lead for the 5 state rally next month.  That left granddaughter with me as Monday is her day she does not have preschool.  We ventured off to take the garbage and recycling to the center, then off to have lunch together, and Mommom bought the little lady a 5 year old size purple garden hoe.

Back from lunch, my little helper worked on the bed that will contain the bush beans in a few days, while I weeded the other planted beds and the end of the bed where the sweet potatoes will grow soon, then helped her finish her bed.

Helper

She is the cutest, hardest working little helper on the mountain and she loves the garden.  Note, she left the volunteer sunflower behind her and asked if there would be more planted and would that one get tall and have flowers.  After the beds were weeded and the pea patch trellised, a break for an orange and some juice, a bit of sitting on the front porch swing enjoying the breeze, and we went back out to work some more on the three sisters plot.  The smart weed, lambs quarters, and dandelions are threatening to overtake it.  Working with the hoe and the 4 prong cultivator did little.  Finally just turning it with the garden fork appears to be the only solution.  This tired old body turned row after row while granddaughter picked out the rocks and about a third of it was dug before just wearing out.

Three sisters

Once the 15 X 15 foot block is totally turned, it will be broken up with the 4 prong cultivator to get the remaining weeds and smaller rocks out, raked into the 12 or 16 hills and the corn part of the garden planted.   The pumpkins and tomatillos are going to be started in little pots to be put in the ground in a couple weeks.  The Anasazi beans will be planted with the corn once it is up.

The potatoes are all up and the soil is being added to the barrels as the potato plants reach for the sun.  Once the  barrels are full, they will just be mulched and the potatoes will grow, hopefully to fill the barrels with potatoes for our larder.

During the last few days, the adult hens and Mr. Croak were allowed free range time.  When I go out, I feel like the Pied Piper, as they all come running toward me.

Pied Piper

If I can get the three sister’s bed dug, the beans planted, the chicken run will be altered to make the double fence on the east, south and half of the west sides of the vegetable garden.

5/13/2017 Mother’s Day Weekend

We waited too long to make reservations for lunch or dinner tomorrow, so we will have to try someplace that doesn’t take reservations and just has call ahead service.

Our new phones arrived yesterday and a rainy afternoon was spent getting them set up.  This morning, both us were awake early and with the town mobbed due to commencement exercises at the university, we headed in early to get breakfast and go to the Farmers’ Market.  So many vendors now and so many goodies to buy, meat, vegetables, breads, coffee beans, pasta, yarn, fiber, candles, prepared foods and beverages.  Other errand runs including making sure that the old cell service has been cancelled, bale of straw for the hen house, dog food for the 3 giant beasties that live here were all accomplished, before 10:30, then home.  The next 5 hours were spent in the yard and gardens.

Wood pile before

 

For several years, the woodpile has been up against the vegetable garden fence, leaning against the fence enough to require an extra T-post to keep it from collapsing into the garden.

Wood pile new

Up hill from the vegetable garden are two old cedar fence posts, two other posts that were under the wood were placed on either side of the two verticals, using them as end pieces and the wood was moved and re-stacked there.

Wood pile after

The resulting area will be part of the new flower and herb beds as soon as I get some more cardboard.  Once the wood was moved, the remaining stack of cardboard was toted outside, onions weeded, cardboard laid around two sides of that box where it has not been placed and where the lamb’s quarter was trying to take over, also placed under the fence at the south corner where I had quit prior to the rains.  More cardboard was placed outside of that uphill fence after lots of weed pulling and digging to  clean up around the comfrey and iris and to extend that bed  for two of the perennials that had been residing in pots on the porch. The cardboard was slipped under the fence to overlap the cardboard on the inside of the fence and spoiled hay mulched around them.  Another trip out for cardboard will allow me to carry the bed on around the corner.  The chicken run will just go around the south and west side up to the gate and the electric fencing wire will be reinstalled around the perimeter to stop the deer.

New bed

The inside of the henhouse was hosed down with white vinegar, neem oil, and essential oils and left open to dry.  The bale of straw will be spread in there as soon as it is thoroughly dry.

Something has been nibbling on the baby chard plants so that bed was covered with hoops and bird net.

The chickens have been free ranging since I started working outside today.  they should be put away so the dogs can go out.  We still haven’t gotten them so that they don’t chase the chickens when out.

Perhaps some more weeding and planting can be accomplished tomorrow before we go out for Mother’s Day.

5-12-2017 Olio

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Spring in the mountains brings 80ºf days with or without rain, followed by dull, gloomy 53º days with rain like today.  By the time the garden is dry enough to be worked, the unfilled beds will need major weeding.  This morning, another package of the heritage peas were purchased.  They are going to soak overnight in a bowl of water and be planted in all the empty spaces tomorrow with hopes that we will indeed have peas this year.  Perhaps a tunnel of plastic poultry net will be suspended over the top and sides in case it is critters getting them.

Before the threatened storms last night, I realized that the ten year old peonies finally decided to bloom this year.  The two open blooms were cut and brought inside in case we really got the threatened hail (we didn’t).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One benefit of the cool wet weather is that the planters of herbs on deck are thriving.

20170512_065846

Some of these will go in the ground as a permanent herb garden if the bed ever gets prepared.  There are two more of the barrels with sage, flat leaf parsley, basil, and cilantro started from seed on another part of the deck.  I sure haven’t had to water this spring. The Iris blooms are beautiful.  Two of the ones added from our neighbor last year began to bloom this year, the third one, a reddish color didn’t come up.  I’m sure another start of it can be obtained once his are blooming and we can see which one to dig.  Most of mine and the daylilies  will need to be divided this summer.  Perhaps the divisions can be used to naturalize the driveway bank along with some more Forsythia rootings.

Yesterday was a delightful day.  Smithfield Plantation House had 3 classes of 4th graders scheduled for tour and I was asked to come spin if available.  As my location is in the summer kitchen/slave cottage, the opportunity to be part of the tour excited me.  With one of my antique wheels there, carders to demonstrate fiber prep, several different heritage wools to show off and pulling from the never dying teaching skills, the classes got a lesson in where the food came from, how it was prepared, where the fiber came from and how it was used.

Cabin2

 

With a class at a time, sitting on the floor around me, engaged groups of 10 year olds were questioned, shown equipment, handled wool and yarn, saw two types of spinning wheels, the Appalachian Rocker Loom, old style shears, and a 150+ year old spinning wheel in use, and the iron pots and storage crockery of an 18th century summer kitchen.  A teacher may retire, but the desire to teach stays on.

A busy summer is approaching with fiber retreats for me, HOG rally for Jim, a music weekend for both of us, and ending with a cruise in the fall.  In the mean time, garden  work is scheduled if it will ever dry out.

The coop got cleaned out between storms, but straw hasn’t been purchased to put clean bedding down, and with the rain, the chicks are still crowding on the perches in Huck’s coop each night.  The double fence idea is still lurking if the weather will break to allow a better assessment of the situation.

The painful knee has behaved for the past couple of days.  Hopefully to stay calm and allow the hike with son’s family in mid June.

5/9/2017 Where, oh where have I been?

On the ark, I think.  It has been so wet.  Too wet to weed, too wet to plant seeds, too wet to make the flower beds and get the herbs and perennials planted.  And the wet isn’t over.  Rain today, heavy rain Thursday and Friday with more creek, stream, and river flood warnings.

Tomorrow is moderate, we just missed an end of season frost night before last.  Some of our region got frost and I feared for the tender tomato, pepper, and basil plants, but they did fine.  For some reason, peas just aren’t happening this year.  There have been two plantings, two different brands of the same organic heritage pea and there are only about a dozen pea plants.  There is no evidence that anything is digging them up, nor eating them off, but no peas.  This is a first.  It is time to get the beans and three sisters garden planted.  Maybe it will not rain and be dry enough tomorrow to get the vegetable seed planted and perhaps at least one of the flower beds.

Of late, the idea to use some of the chicken run fencing to create a second row of fencing 4 feet out from the garden to thwart the deer and make a square run that the chickens can use and keep the weeds from encroaching on the garden has been debated.  The issue is the second gate to actually get in the garden from the run.  There is a sturdy wood post that holds the solar charger that perhaps could hold that one, but to enter the garden would require entering the run and walking around to the other side of the run to get in the garden.  That is doable except for taking the garden cart in with me,   Perhaps the second fence could stop on each side of the gate not making a complete loop around the vegetable garden.  By the time I finally get all the beds, runs, and gardens the way I want, I will be too feeble to work them.

double fence

This would be the idea with the chickens between the fences, the coop at one corner and flower beds outside the second fence.

blueberries

Three of the early blueberry bushes are heavy with berries.

Comfrey

The two garden comfrey plants love the cool wet weather.

The chicklets are 9 weeks old and are in need of more space.  It would be a hassle, but if the rain will stop long enough for the main coop to be thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, and dry out, new straw will be placed inside and the young ones will be transferred at night from Huck’s coop where they now reside to the main coop and the culls will be moved to Huck’s coop as there are only 8 of them. They are amusing as they fly and flap around their small run beginning to establish pecking order by charging up to each other, bumping chests, and staring each other down.  It looks like all 16 are indeed pullets, so there should be plenty of eggs come fall and enough for winter even when their laying slows.  There won’t be a break for molting this year as they will not be a year old.  They all come running to the fence when I go over to their run and many will let me touch their chest or back as they leave the coop in the mornings.

Tweens

The knee exercises were started in preparation for the hike and one of them has caused Iliotibial band syndrome, pain on the outer side of the knee joint, especially when going down stairs.  Most of the exercises have been stopped, a compression sleeve usually used when skiing is being worn on my knee, joint support tincture and tea along with Turmeric, Ginger, and Fish Oil taken to try to calm it back down.  I still have 5 weeks til the hike and hopefully will be okay by then.

Like most folks, we rely on cell phones instead of a land line these days.  Jim’s phone is 5 years old and it quit this weekend.  Mine is two and has a cracked screen.  Yesterday we drove to the nearest city to purchase a new battery for his.  The battery was 4 times the price of the one that had been ordered online for mine and it didn’t solve the problem.  His charging jack is corroded and the phone won’t take a charge.  Eldest had told us about Project Fi, Google’s WiFi cell service that allows them service in the deep hollow in which they live.  When visiting, my communication with the world is via Messenger, email, or their landline.  Instead of committing to our carrier for a new phone for Jim, we too are going the Project Fi route.  Our service should be broader, we both will have new phones, and our bill will be slashed by a third even with paying for the phones on installment.  Win/Win.  If their site is correct, they also work overseas in many countries without changing SIM card and without paying international rate.

Thursday, a normal spinning group day, will find me instead in costume at Smithfield House doing spinning demos for school groups scheduled for visits.  It is a good thing that the old Saxony is single treadle with the right foot, I don’t think my left knee would be happy.  Since it is going to be raining, only the one wheel will accompany me, leaving the much larger Walking wheel at home.

Life is good, I just want back in my garden before the weeds take over.