Category Archives: Homesteading

Another Day, Another 16 pints – 7/14/18

Of canned goods.  Saturday mornings are Farmers’ Market morning and breakfast out.  For the past 3 weekends with the farm apprentice here, we have gone to our local diner that is open only for breakfast and lunch.  For the past two Saturday’s, that breakfast has not sat well with me.  I don’t know if they have changed cooking oil or brand of bacon or whether I have just become intolerant to anything with oil in the morning, I have been eating whole grain toast with homemade jam for several weeks.  Today however, after a couple of hours, grandson said his stomach hurt too, so something wasn’t right.

Since I had just been to market Wednesday evening and with him going home tomorrow, I only got pickling cucumbers and zucchini to make pickles, along with a bit of salad greens.

Son arrived around lunch time and daughter had asked him if he would put is stone masonry skills to work to reset a huge rock in her driveway retaining wall before her homeowner’s association got after her about it.  Once I had fixed him a sandwich, we loaded the Xterra with mortar mix, sand, lime, the metal wheelbarrow that doesn’t go in my garden, and the tools.  A stop at Lowe’s to get a bit more sand and an afternoon of his toil and labor while daughter and I sideline supervised and the wall is repaired.

IMG_20180714_172041

Before he arrived, I had cut the cucumbers, onions, and peppers and salted them to put in the fridge to wilt and drain.  The zucchini and remaining cucumbers were made into dill spears and zucchini pickles and canned.

IMG_20180714_121445

 

Tonight after dinner was prepared, enjoyed, and cleaned up, he installed the replacement burner for my glass top stove.  My preferred small burner, due to being a lefty, is the front left and it has burned out twice in the eleven years we have been here.  I had ordered a new one, but didn’t get brave enough to install it myself. After the stove was cleaned up, repaired, and put back in place, the cucumbers that had been sitting in salt all day were drained and rinsed and the bread and butter brine made.  Eight pints of spicy bread and butter pickles were made and canned tonight.  A total of 16 pints of pickles made today.

IMG_20180714_212601

Tomorrow, daughter and grands are going to come over to pick wild berries so that I can made and can a batch of wildberry jam for her household.

Grandson spent the afternoon and evening still dealing with a tummy ache.  Hopefully, he will be better tomorrow before they have to drive back to their home with a box of jams and pickles, as well as the poster and basketball he got at camp.  It has been wonderful having him here for the past 3 1/2 weeks.

Farm Apprentice-7/13/18

My farm apprentice goes home on Sunday.  We have had 3 1/2 great weeks with our eldest grandson.  His first full week here he attended basketball camp at Virginia Tech.  His stay has been a blend of fun and work and I am going to miss his help on the work days.

This morning, before anyone else arose, I did get three more of the saplings planted.  It was still cool outdoors.  Using the tractor bucket, I scraped off the grass in patches the width of the bucket and about 3 feet across, then hand dug holes in the bare soil.  After delivering eggs in town, we purchased a few more bags of hardwood mulch and my farm apprentice was given another opportunity to drive the tractor as he delivered the bags to the newly planted trees.

IMG_20180713_131238

I wouldn’t trust him alone, but he can drive it slowly with reminders.  He did have a glitch with stopping once and almost took out one of the new saplings, but he got better as I let him move it around as we moved mulch and water to the new trees and the extra mulch to the garden.

IMG_20180713_135946

They are tiny now, but hopefully will grow to continue providing a wind barrier on the west side of the house.

I took over to mow a path through an area that is outside of the hayfields and repeated the removal of the grass layer to make spaces for the two sweet gums trees.  We didn’t want them in the lawn area, having had several in our yard when we lived in Virginia Beach.  He helped dig holes and plant the two remaining trees.  We then spread two of the bags of mulch in vegetable garden aisles over thick paper layers.

Last evening, when I went out to collect eggs, I also collected a hand full of Jalapeño peppers and two pickling cucumbers and started a ferment of them, a half onion, some fresh dill, dried dill seed, bay leaves, and sea salt.  They will be refrigerated once ready and enjoyed later.

IMG_20180712_195646

The rest of today I will rest and knit. Tomorrow, my apprentice’s Dad will come and Sunday, they will return to their home.

Good Intentions Foiled – 7/12/18

I planned to rest today, especially since the guys didn’t get home until after midnight and then I had a sleep is optional and restless night, but when I went out to plant the bean seed, I attacked the last aisle of weeds that was hidden by the asparagus ferny tops.  While doing so, I realized why the egg production has been down recently.

IMG_20180712_124152

There were 11 eggs in a neat nest hidden between the asparagus and the peppers.  Those eggs aren’t fertile, there is no rooster, but can’t be sold because I don’t know how old some of them are, but I hate to throw them away, so I cracked each one into a bowl individually, scrambled them and put them in an ice tray.  They freeze nicely and can be used for baking later.  It takes 2 cubes to equal one egg.  I haven’t figured out how the chickens are getting into the garden.  The Welsummers can fly over the fence, the eggs aren’t Welsummer eggs, but the Buff Orpingtons are too heavy bodied.  There must be somewhere they can get under the fence.  One solution I can think of is a taller fence and an edging they can’t get under.  I want them to be able to free range, though even with 30 acres to wander, they select my flower beds to scratch in and get into the garden even easier.  I have considered the step in movable electric fencing that would allow me to give them a new section of grass every few days, allowing the section they had been in to recover.  That way, they are getting pasture but not creating a wasteland or ruining my flower beds.

After weeding the area, I tackled the the tree nursery bed.  It had been weeded a few days ago and I realized the size they were getting. The first young tree I tried to transplant a few weeks ago was a failure.   It had gotten to be about  5 feet tall in a year and had too extensive a root system.  The other trees were smaller and I hope to be able to move them successfully.  I also made the mistake of not removing enough rocks from the bed when I made it and trying to dig around rocks that range from golf ball to hard ball size made the digging the saplings up more difficult.  There were two sweet gums, a hawthorn, a dogwood, another maple that was smaller than the first one, and an oak.  They were dug with decent root systems and put in a bucket of water.  The hawthorn was put in the ground before the heat wilted me, it got 10°f hotter than the forcast.  I will get up early tomorrow and try to get the others in the ground before it gets too hot.

Over the rest of the summer, I will continue to sift rocks from that bed, amend the soil and build the bed higher.  In the fall, the blueberry bushes are going to be moved into that bed and mulched heavily.  The garden fence is going to be moved to make the garden area smaller, it has just gotten to be more than I can handle.

IMG_20180712_162356

The empty box just above the barrel halves will become the blueberry bed, the barrel halves moved to the left and up. and the new fence will be just below that bed.  The pumpkins, now in the lower left can be grown in the prior year’s compost pile as that pile rotates from the north east corner to the north west corner each year.  After the compost has been dug to enrich beds, the remaining soil is the older compost and is still rich and deep.

I did get the beans planted and watered.  Now hopefully they will come up and provide us with more beans before the season ends.

IMG_20180712_162508

This is aimed south and shows the asparagus greenery with the cucumbers and sunflower volunteers to the left of it.  It was between those beds that I found the eggs.  The beans are just to the right and down one row of boxes.  This year’s compost pile is to the right of the asparagus, so next year the pumpkins will go there.

In picking beans, I realized that none of the sweet potato starts took, so there will be no homegrown sweet potatoes this year.  I will buy some at the Farmer’s Market when the season is ready.

The first harvest of cucumbers and jalapeños was made today.  Pickling will commence.  Today I ordered some fermenting weights and fermenting tops for jars so fermented dill pickles, kraut, and maybe some fermented tomatoes can be done too.

I don’t know what the header flower is, it was in one of the Seedles that I planted in that barrel, but it is pretty on it’s thin stems that bob and weave in the slightest breeze.

 

 

Wonder Woman is worn out – 7/11/18

A lot can get done in two uninterrupted days.  Today was another very physical day, got my 10,000 steps just working here.  There aren’t any cool pictures from today though.

After dinner last night, 6 half pints of wild berry jam were made and canned.  A couple of hands full of beans were picked and made into two more pints of dilly beans and canned.  The shelves are filling, such a nice sight.  What’s not to love about the beautiful jars of jams, pickles, beans, and grains when you walk into the kitchen.  It is so earthy and soothing with the wooden bowls above and the pottery below.

IMG_20180711_204148

Today started with errands and the delivery of the other daylily division, then home and into work clothes.  More hand weeding was done around the pumpkin vines and the blueberry bushes, then the  Stihl weed monster was started and the edges of the garden, the two empty chicken runs, and areas that really need to be covered to kill the weeds in the unused area of the garden were mowed down.  I came in dripping wet and worn out about mid afternoon.

The garage door needed some repair and I had been putting it off because it required drilling two new holes through metal and into the wood to remount two screws that had stripped out, but I even tackled that.  Our evening visitor didn’t seem bothered by my drilling and putting the door up and down.

IMG_20180711_201435

A cool shower to refresh, I decided to treat myself to some time at the Mingle at the Market 2 at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market.  I was hoping for some pickling cucumbers, but not tonight.  They had live music, Virginia made beer and wine, and the Till and Grill food truck there, so I enjoyed my dinner sitting on a bench listening to the band.  That was topped off with locally made ice cream, also from the Farmer’s Market and home to put up my feet.

Until it got too dark to sit outside and knit, I worked on the shawlette I am knitting with the gradient yarn that I spun.

IMG_20180711_195754

I know I posted a photo of the bees in the sunflowers, but as I was weed wacking today, I got close enough to see that they are native bees, lots of them.  See the header picture.

Tomorrow I am going to plant beans and lettuce and rest, I promise.  The guys will be home late tonight and they will likely be too tired to do much.

When the Cat’s Away… 7/10/18

The mouse will work her rear off and eat the things that aren’t usually served here.

My morning began early as Jim and eldest grandson took off for a history tour of eastern Virginia.  Though grandson has spent all but a few weeks of his life in Virginia, it has been mostly here in the mountains or in the northern part of the state.  The eastern part of the state is ripe with history with Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, as well as a Busch Gardens, so off they went.  Today was to be the history tour with granddad narrating and tomorrow a fun day at Busch Gardens.  I stayed home with the farm to deal with the critters, the garden, and work on the flower bed that has been evolving over the past couple of years down the east side of the garage and around the back on the south side.

After seeing them off, I donned long pants, long sleeves, boots, and sprayed myself generously with Deep Woods Off, and headed out with a metal sieve to pick berries, the blackberries are just beginning to ripen and the wineberries are ripe and the canes heavy.  Enough of a mixture of them were gathered to make a batch of wild berry jam tonight.

IMG_20180710_091338

The first pick of the day

Once they were rinsed, crushed, and sealed in a container until this evening, I took off to a friend’s farm with some daylily divisions to trade with one she was dividing.  I won, not only did I get daylilies, but I came home with kale and zucchini, plus some coreopsis divisions and Columbine seed.  Tomorrow, I am taking her a division of another daylily that I had and she did not.

A trip to Lowes and a trunk full of bagged mulch set me up to finish what I started yesterday and continue the flower bed another 15 feet across the back of the garage.  The new daylily starts were planted in two spots, the coreopsis divided with some in the ground and some in the last barrel that had not been planted this spring and the Columbine seed along with some poppy seed joined it in the barrel.

The entire bed from the front of the garage, down the east side, and continuing across the south side were mulched down with dark brown hardwood mulch.

IMG_20180710_163041

IMG_20180710_163103

The beast overseeing my efforts.

IMG_20180710_163124

The upside down flower pots are chicken deterents, but a better solution must be found or all of the newly spread mulch will be in the grass and there will be dustbaths in the beds.

When I met Jim more than 4 decades ago, I was a vegetarian and he is a Texan, meat and potatoes preferred.  He likes some vegetables, tolerates other, and refuses some.  In deference to his tastes and so I am not preparing two different meals, I eat a little meat and limit the vegetables to the ones he likes and occasionally one he will tolerate. Kale and summer squash are in his tolerate occasionally list, so with him away tonight, the gifted kale and zucchini were cooked along with an ear of corn and I am feasting to my delight on vegetables.

IMG_20180710_171208

 

And I have left overs for tomorrow night as well.

It is wild berry jam making time.  The header shot are bees busy at work on the two volunteer sunflowers.  Not a single one that I planted came up.  I think this fall, I will just throw a handful of sunflower seed around the perimeter of the garden and let the volunteers happen in the spring.

Love our mountain farm.

Garden and Prep

Late yesterday afternoon I went out to pick the last of the peas and enough bush beans for dinner.  I ended up picking the peas and pulling spent vines for the chickens to peck through.  The bean patch was full of ripe beans and a whole basket was brought in, some enjoyed with dinner, the rest blanched and frozen for winter meals.  There was now a 4 by 8 foot bed empty from the peas and another planting of beans will be made there, the local natural foods store carries the Southern Exposure seed that I prefer and they still had the beans in stock today.

IMG_20180708_172547

My plan for today was to make fermented horseradish mustard for eldest son and one for me.  Going over to dig the horseradish root ended up with a major weeding in that corner of the garden that is my compost area every other year.  It was full of tall lambs quarters, some plant from the mint family that doesn’t smell particularly good, and other intruders.  That done, I could get to the horseradish and dug a good handful to soak, scrape, and grate.  Two pints of mustard are fermenting on the counter.

Each time we have enjoyed sweet corn this summer, bought at the local village store (I don’t grow sweet corn), I come home with three because they always have it priced at 3 for $1.59, but we usually only eat two, so the third one has been cooked and cut from the cob and frozen.  Today, it was turned into 4 half pints of corn and tomato relish, a slightly spicy one with a chopped jalapeño in it.  The peppers are beginning to provide in small quantities.

IMG_20180709_163040

While I was moving through the aisles to get to that corner of the garden, I realized that the onion tops had toppled, the clue to harvest them, so a wheelbarrow full of onions was brought into the root cellar and they were spread out on the shelves to cure.

IMG_20180709_133312

 

In the midst of all of this, a friend texted and asked if I wanted part of a daylily she was dividing and I never turn down perennials, but my bed was in need of some work, so grandson and I got it weeded, a new edge cut in, divided two of mine that needed it and planted them.  She will get a division of the peachy colored one in the header.

IMG_20180709_170011   IMG_20180709_170029

And just because they are pretty while blooming, the barrels of herbs and flowers are included.

IMG_20180709_170046

It is a good time of year, with produce to put by, flowers to enjoy, and fresh herbs for cooking.

Still love my life on this mountain farm.

Jam session and soon in a pickle-7/8/18

Not music, canning.  As the raspberries ripened a cup or two a day, they were enjoyed fresh, but most frozen.  Once enough had been accumulated, the first canning session of the year was conducted.  Realizing that I should have crushed the berries prior to freezing so that the amount I had was accurate.  The first batch was made and canned in tiny quarter pint jars, there are many of them in the house and they don’t have much other use, though I think I may just freeze herbs and pesto in the rest of them this year.  The lesson to crush before freezing was heeded and the next week or so of berry collection was frozen crushed and batch number two made when enough were accumulated, this time canned in half pints.  At yesterday’s Farmers’ Market, we purchased several pounds of blueberries.  We had planned to go pick them, but each time we planned to go, it was either blazing hot or raining.  Also  peaches and plums that were brought in from far enough away but still within the 50 mile limit that they survived the mid April freezes and snows. Yesterday before we took off to go see a play at Blackfriars American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, I made a batch of Blueberry Double Ginger jam, this morning, a batch of Blueberry Maple Jam, and this afternoon, a batch of Peach-Plum-Ginger Jam.  That shelf is filling for gifts, family sharing, and our use.

IMG_20180708_150630

 

IMG_20180708_150643

The wild raspberries and blackberries are just beginning to ripen.  We will gather them and depending on the quantity, batches will be made into either individual jams or a mixed berry jam.

Soon the cucumbers will begin and the peppers will develop and pickle making will commence.  The only pickles made so far are a few jars of dilly beans.  There aren’t enough of our beans to make too many jars of them.  I will be freezing as many of the remaining ones as possible for our enjoyment when the season ends and we can no longer pick them from the garden or purchase them from the Farmers’ Market.

IMG_20180708_150650

The pickle shelf will begin to fill soon.  I generally store the canned goods other than jams in the root cellar, but I love the look of the pretty jams and pickles in my beautiful open cabinets, so this year, two shelves will be dedicated to them and the over flow along with the fruit sauces, tomato sauces and salsas will go to the root cellar with the garlic, onions, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins as they are harvested.

Olio – 6/6/2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

The past two mornings have been spent in the garden, trying to catch up and get ahead of the weeds.  It appears that most of the “weeds’ are actually the hay sprouting, but I don’t want my garden to be a hayfield.  This is also Lambs Quarters season and though I know that it can be eaten when young, most has gotten too big and too stringy to be palatable, but still small enough to make pulling it fairly easy.  Another garden weedy problem is a mint family weed, square stem, grows erect initially with a lavendery pink flower, and then the oxalis and wild geranium.  The line trimmer cleared up around the fence edge and the taller bloom in the old compost area that is being over run by horseradish, then hand weeding of all but two beds has been accomplished.  I planted some cucumber starts from the house to fill in what didn’t germinate in the garden bed, erected a trellis for the cukes.  Planted the sweet potato slips and a row of sunflowers. The pumpkins only had about 50% germination so another sowing of them will be made later today and another row of sunflower seeds.

The chickens were providing up to 15 eggs a day for a while, but have dropped back to 8 to 10 and one Welsummer is broody, but there is no rooster in with them so she is just shooed off the nest, eggs under her collected multiple times a day.  If she doesn’t get over it soon, I will isolate her from the coop during the daytime hours for a few days and see if it will break the cycle, nothing else has worked. I am always amused at the cacophony they make when a hen lays her daily egg, wondering if it is an expression of relief or a proud announcement to the flock. Each time I fill their calcium supplement feeder, they manage to dump it with in hours.  As I was mixing up their feed today, I decided that maybe their protein level was too low, so reformulated my mix to up it by a couple percentage points. Nothing better than a child size shovel to stir the mix.

IMG_20180606_085113

As the weather is hot and I don’t like sitting with a heavy sweater in my lap, I am not knitting too much on it, but continue to spin the fiber for it as I realized I didn’t have enough yarn to finish it.  IMG_20180606_095758

And I recently finished this luscious 340 yards of Merino, Yak, and Silk.

IMG_20180606_095833

I have almost 2 more ounces of the Merino Yak spun and am spinning the remaining 2 ounces of Merino, Yak, Silk with my newest spindle, a gorgeous Golding limited edition.

IMG_20180601_141841

Once done, they will also be plied for hopefully another 300 plus yards, enough to make something soft and beautiful.

It is the beginning of daylily season.  I love when the gardens are filled with their blooms.

IMG_20180606_100945

IMG_20180606_100845

Still loving our life on our mountain farm.

 

 

Spring Activity – 6/2/2018

Spring is fully upon us.  Instead of April showers, we had snow and May started dry then turned very wet.  June is still wet, but it hasn’t been terribly hot so the open windows and ceiling fans have kept us comfortable.

Between rains, we have resumed our fitness walks and the lovely weather has brought out the flowers and the critters.

IMG_20180601_124811

A box turtle assisted off the trail, just shortly after a black snake startled me but slithered off too quickly for a photo.

IMG_20180602_195507   IMG_20180602_195726

A very protective goose and her gosling and another goose that seemed to want to make friends.

IMG_20180602_201208

Water lilies.

IMG_20180602_201404

Mountain Laurel.

Some evenings produce beautiful sunsets like the header above.  Next week is supposed to be cooler and drier and hopefully the much needed weeding in the garden will commence.

 

Back to the earth – 5/17/2018

Monday was the only day this week that we didn’t have at least a 50% chance of rain and I finished mowing.  Rain with slightly cooler temperatures seemed like a good recipe for planting seeds, but I didn’t get out there then. Tuesday it wasn’t raining when I got up, so I held to my 30-60 minutes of weeding plan and got a lot done, later in the day I got the monster line trimmer going and got around the house and started on the thigh high grass in the two currently unoccupied chicken runs, but I saw a lightening strike less than a mile away and wisely quit, getting back in the garage just as the first of a series of gully washers descended on us.  Wednesday it rained all day long and we took another 7 hour road trip finally finding a route for the Harley Chapter to do that didn’t have drop offs on narrow poorly paved roads that haven’t seen civilization since Moby Dick was a minnow.

Today was forecast for thunderstorms beginning around 2 p.m. so I grabbed the popcorn, beans, pumpkin, and cucumber seeds, my hoe, my gloves, put on my muck boots and finished planting all the seeds except the sunflowers which I had failed to purchase.  Just as I got back in the garage, it started raining, a nice gentle kind that settles the seed in.  As there was no chicken feed for tomorrow and herbs still had not been planted, a quick trip into town and sunflower seed, chicken feed, and herb starts for the half barrels were purchased.

IMG_20180517_150036

There are actually 4 barrels there, the front two are planted with wildflower and edible flower Seedles, around the corner is one with Rosemary, Parsley, Globe Basil, and Lemon Thyme.  Behind it are two gorgeous yellow bearded iris blooming profusely in spite of that being the chicken’s favorite place to dust bath when they are free ranging, then another barrel with Sage, Parsley, Globe Basil, and Golden Thyme.  Also purchased were two more pepper plants and Sweet basil that I got into the ground in the garden.

IMG_20180517_150129

The Day lily bed that has a large clump of Dutch Iris in it is showing many buds.

IMG_20180517_150025

IMG_20180517_150051

This clump has grape Bearded Iris and blue Dutch Iris and needs to be moved as it is where the deck deconstruction is underway.  After the deck is finished, the area where the large low section is now will be a poured patio and the muddy front of the house will receive a walk at the same time.

Before tackling the barrel planting, flower bed weeding and extending the rock edge down (I didn’t finish that), I did finish going down the side of the garden and the two chicken runs with the line trimmer.  It didn’t like the really tall grass, but it is a manageable height now.  It is now after 4 p.m. and the forecast thunder storms have not arrived.  I wore out with a bit more work to do, but there will be another day.  There is still another barrel that is full of volunteer Hyssop that needs to be moved away from the deck deconstruction and a decision on whether it is going to be allowed to just stay Hyssop or be planted with flowers.

The rapsberry bed that is overgrown with wild geraniums, volunteer raspberry shoots and old canes that didn’t get cut still needs my attention too, but other than that bed, planting the sunflowers, and moving the nursery trees, the garden is in maintenance mode.