Category Archives: Farm Life

Week on the Farm – 1/13/2019

With winter, not much goes on outdoors here on the farm.  The pullets have a usual routine of venturing out into the pen each day and back at night, they still won’t come when I shake the treat cup, so they can’t free range yet.  They have to be able to follow me back to the pen when the dogs are out.   There have been five days in the past couple of weeks where they remained cooped due to the very cold temperatures and for the past three days due to the winter storm and its coating of ice that has us encased.  We were in a winter storm watch awaiting several inches of snow.  It began as snow Saturday, getting a few inches then turned to a messy wintry mix overnight that melted most of the snow and left us with about a half inch of ice.

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With the cold hanging on, the ice is still here.  An attempt to check on the chicks on Sunday was a hazardous walk.  Monday, I chipped the ice off the car and carefully made my way to the cleared paved roads to get to daughter’s house so she could go to work and I stayed with the “snow vacationing” kids.  I left at dawn and returned near dark, so the chicks were left alone in the coop.  This morning it was time to go deal with them, though it was a very cold mid 20’s.  First order of business was to break up some of the spoiled hay bale outside their fence and get enough of it on the ice for them to venture out.  Ice chipped off their ramp so they didn’t slide out into the cold.

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They are busy exploring what seed or bugs they can find in the rotting hay while I tackled the inside of the coop to undo several days of confinement.  Their food was low, the water dispenser nearly empty, and the straw a fouled matted mess.  It is too cold to do a complete coop clean, but the old straw was forked out, new straw piled in, feed filled, and the water dispenser brought to the utility sink for a scrub down and refilling with warm water.  If it gets above freezing, I will go out and fill the black tub seen in the above photo with warm water also.  They went straight to it when I let them out, but I had dumped the ice disc out of it and not refilled it.

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They have clean dry quarters and a few warmer days ahead.

We did drive to the Edith Bolling Wilson Museum in Wytheville on Friday to see the exhibit and the living quarters that they plan on restoring, and to look at a great wheel that I am trying to restore as she kept sheep on the White House Lawn during the war and the museum promotes sheep and wool in the display.

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It is an intact, including spindle, old wheel that doesn’t line up quite right.  I have reached out to restoration experts and to an Antique wheel group to try to resolve that situation.  Later this week, I will return to put leathers and a drive band on it and see if I can make it spin wool.  Prior to that though, I am going to Wilderness Road Regional Museum to give spinning lessons to a couple of adults who are interested.

Today though, I am working on kettle dying some Merino top using Wilton Icing Color, a food safe dye that with a vinegar bath will dye animal fiber.  If I am successful with this batch, I will try more.  If not, daughter will get several little pots of the concentrated color for her cake decorating.

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This batch is cooling and I think the colors are softer than I wanted, so maybe more dye needs to be used in the next pot once this one has cooled.

The featured photo today is the ridge to the south, ice encrusted trees, the clouds lifting, and the sun trying to peek through.  That was short living, it is again thick and gray, but nothing wet or frozen expected for a couple more days.  Sunshine would be welcomed.

A Month on the Farm – 12/20/2018

Tomorrow marks the first official day of winter and the shortest day of the year here on the farm, though the meteorologic winter began weeks ago.  I’m ready for the days to lengthen.  Being much a creature of natural light cycles, I awake each day around 5 or 5:15 a.m., but don’t want to get up and disturb the household until the sky starts to lighten in the east.  By sundown and full on dark, I am ready to snuggle in for the night, trying to stay up and awake with night owl hubby at least until 10 or 10:30 p.m., often to fall asleep in my chair before drifting off to bed.

The month has been a whirlwind with 5 craft markets in 5 weeks that require loading and unloading the set up and product from the car.

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This Saturday is the last one for the year with no more until spring.

The month also has included 3 Christmas celebrations, two in costume at Wilderness Road Regional Museum for their music, Christmas treats, and evening lighted tours as I spun on a beautiful old Walking Wheel that with a tiny bit of TLC by me, now works.

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I love this photo with the shadow of the wheel on the wall.  This one is credited to April the organizer of the events.  There will be one more on Old Christmas that I will also attend in costume.  The third celebration was with the spinning group to which I belong.  I have not been a very good participant of late with everything else going on, but made a point of joining them for that as many folks that don’t get to come regularly come for this event and I enjoy seeing my friends.  I hope to get back to the weekly spin days after the holidays.

The month provided another challenge as I bought a dozen winter chicks about 4 1/2 weeks ago.  They were fortunately already 2 weeks old and beginning to feather out.  The “brooder” I use is a huge 110 gallon flexible plastic stock tank with a heat table for warmth.  Not a fan of having the birds in the house, the stock tank is in the garage on a carpet covered platform about 4 inches off the ground.  It was cold when we brought them home and ended up adding a 250W red heat lamp and covering half of the top with a mylar sheet to help retain the heat.  This was functioning okay until we were threatened with and received more than a foot of snow.  Wet snow this time of year often results in loss of power, so the brooder was dragged around the back of the house and into the walk out finished basement where there is a wood stove, before the snow began.  The stove was kept going until we were sure the power was not going out, about 3 days.

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The snow was beautiful and before it was totally gone, the brooder was loaded onto a sled and dragged back to the garage.  By Monday, the littles were 6 weeks old, fully feathered and too big for the stock tank, so the thoroughly cleaned coop was layered with about a foot of straw and they were moved to tough it out without the benefit of supplemental heat.  We have had several very cold nights and all is well in the coop.  The basement then received a deep cleaning to remove the dust from having the chicks indoors for a week.

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I am working on teaching them to use the adult no waste feeder and no waste waterer, while providing the hanging feeder as well.  They are beginning to get their adult colorations.  By mid week next week they should know that food and water are in the coop and that is where to return when hungry and at night and they will be let out into the run.  I fear they are still small enough to get through the holes in the fence though and I don’t like to panic them by trying to catch them but until they will follow me back to the run for treats, they can’t free range.

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This view if you have followed the blog for long, often appears.  The end of that ridge in the distance drops to a gap to the New River.  That view is one of my favorites from the farm and it was just over 13 years ago that we saw this property for the first time in early December.  By January, it was ours to plan and build on.  If you can love a property in the bleak of winter, you can really love it anytime.

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The deck progressed in the past month as well, with a Thanksgiving weekend being spent by son and daughter in law preparing it for the decking, rails, and balusters.  Those materials are to be delivered tomorrow and by the first of the year, hopefully, we will be able to safely step out of the French doors of the dining room onto a solid surface, not a one story drop.  It is deceptive as the stairs come down on a flat created and held in place by a gorgeous stone retaining wall.  The deck itself is one story up from the grade below.

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With the prep for Christmas, the various events, cooking for family for Thanksgiving and preparing to cook for Christmas, little knitting or spinning have been done except for two pair of wool socks for a tiny farmer, the toddler son of one of the regular vendors at the market.  They have been knit this week after she asked last Saturday.  I hope they fit the little guy and can be passed down to his baby brother in another couple of years.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas or other seasonal holiday of this time of year and a Happy New Year.

Wind down, wind up – 11/24/2018

The first craft show is done.  It wasn’t a bust, but not a great success either.  There were many vendors with holiday decorations made with artificial flowers and purchased craft store doodads, a few nice country furniture makers, and too many vendors of body products.  My spot, though on an inside aisle corner was toward the end of the path though, so many other soap makers had already tempted the buyers.  My hand spun, hand knit wearables were out of the price market for most of the buyers.  It was an experiment and probably won’t be repeated.

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Additional hats and mitts are being knit to further supply the upcoming three weekend holiday markets.

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Two new 3 step displays have been purchased for the soaps, lotion bars, and salves.  They need to be stained and poly finished before next weekend.

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Their footprint is about the same as the crates, but raises the product to a more visible position.  As most of my soaps are vegan, I have purchased some organic soy wax and will make vegan lotion bars and salves as well and will have a vegan display and a soy free display.  They will be raised above the table height enough that men’s grooming boxes and beard/body oils can be displayed below.

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Each of my children were given a crewel work Christmas stocking that I made when they were infants and which they still use.  Each grandchild has been given one, either quilted or knitted intarsia.  Our 7th grandchild was born this past summer and she will get her stocking this year.  It still needs to be lined and some add on ornamentation sewn on and each stocking has a tag sewn inside that is a cross stitched message that says “Made with love, Mom or Grandmom, year” that needs to be stitched and added.

The afternoon of the craft show, our eldest son arrived on a bus to continue working on rebuilding our deck and reinstalling the Direct TV dish.  Toward the end of summer, he and his wife set in concrete, a metal post off the corner of the house for it to be mounted on, but it needed to set.  In the meantime, they had a medical emergency now ok which delayed further work, but he came to get more done.  His wife and son came Wednesday after work to celebrate Thanksgiving.

On one of our excursions out to get supplies for the deck and dish, we went to Rural King and they had chicks.  We came home with the lumber and hardware, set up the big rubber brooder tub and heat table with plans to go back the next day to get the chicks.  Instead, we had to go back out that afternoon as we realized that something had been left at one of the shops, so bedding, feed, and a new water base were purchased and a dozen two week old chicks were brought home for spring laying.

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The Buff Orpington and Welsummers that are almost two have not resumed laying since they molted and we have not gotten a single egg in a month.  Eggs had to be purchased for the family staying here and for Thanksgiving cooking.  We got 3 each Welsummers, Mottled Javas, New Hampshires, and Olive Eggers.  Being almost three weeks old now, they are feathering out and will soon try to fly out of the brooder.  A screen is over the top and the heat lamp that had to be added with the heat table because of the cold in the garage will hopefully thwart that attempt.  The hens will be moved to the cull coop as soon as the fence is fixed there and the coop will be scrubbed and sanitized so the chicks can be relocated out there when they are 6 or 7 weeks old.

Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated with two of our children and their families.  The almost 17 pound local turkey was spatchcocked by eldest son, the sides assembled and a delicious, hearty, mostly local meal was group prepared and enjoyed by all.  The left over turkey enjoyed again for lunch yesterday, and gallons of turkey broth made and frozen for cooking over the next few weeks.  Eldest son went home with some.

Today is our local granddaughter’s 7th birthday and we will be celebrating her birthday and her Mom’s tonight as her Mom will be away for hers.  That will end the November birthday’s for our family. Jim took me to my favorite local restaurant for my birthday last week and I had an awesome risotto with pumpkin, mushrooms, cranberries, and pecans.

During evening hours after a day’s work and knitting have worn me out, caused joint pain, or just stress from the day, I have turned to the calming, meditative art of Zentangle.  The two tiles below are the efforts of the past week, never spending more than about 20 minutes a day of refocus and calming.

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He came and conquered – Nov. 2, 2018

The day after our mower quit, the hayman returned with his big tractor and 10′ mowing deck and made short work of the rest of the big south hay field.  The spring bales are still there, but he said his young helpers were going to come pick them up and cut up the downed tree and the dead standing tree, leaving us with part of it for our winter warmth and enjoyment.  His return allows us to delay the purchase of a new mower deck until spring, the old one to be sold off as parts and scrap.  There is probably a farmer out there with the equipment and skills to weld on some plates on the deck, rebuild the trailing wheel support, and put on a new blade.

Our county is noted for it’s rocks.  The joke around here is that the county’s main crop is rocks.  You can mow an area one year without an issue and the next year hit a rock where the soil settled or the frost pushed the rock up just enough to clip the blade.  It is hard on the blades and the play in the blade then hitting the deck housing is hard on the housing.  Brush hogs are workhorses, they take a beating keeping the Autumn Olive and blackberries from the edges of the fields and mowing tall weedy hay.  They aren’t neat finish mowers used on golf courses and large lawns.  Our mower is more than a decade old now and wasn’t a heavy duty one in the first place as our tractor is only 28 hp.

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The farm looks so neat right after the haying or fall mowing.  One benefit of our smaller tractor and smaller deck is that we can get much closer to the rock piles scattered throughout the farm, keeping the brambles from escaping out into the fields.  Since our deck is no wider that the tractor’s rear tires, if they clear without hitting rocks then the mower deck clears also.

In the couple of days since I was mowing, the woods turned autumn colors, almost overnight.

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The top picture was two days ago, the lower one a zoomed one of the same area.

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Two maples, one wild, one planted.  The wild one in back is huge and turns a beautiful shade of golden orange, the planted one a vivid yellow gold.  As you see, both have lost about half of their leaves already as have most of the other trees in the area.  The wind storms of the past few weeks have stripped many leaves before they turned colors.  Soon the woods will be bare and we can voyeuristically peek at the wildlife in the edges of the woods as they seek nourishment from the evergreen scrub, acorns and other wild nuts that have fallen.

The fields were done just in time for several cooler, rainy days.  We have yet to build a fire this year, but maybe we will this weekend.  Maybe the sack of frozen tomatoes will get cooked down into sauce and canned or frozen as sauce.  Maybe a good book, some knitting or spinning, and for sure, lessons for a new spinner.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever the weather.

A week on the farm – Oct. 26, 2018

Today was to be the Spirit Trail event at Wilderness Road Regional Museum, a fund raiser for the education program there.  I was to be in the old kitchen serving hot cider and playing with kids as they made corn husk dolls or besoms.  The event has outdoor actors and a horse drawn wagon ride.  The weather had other ideas.  The day started at 43ºf and heavy rain.  Both have held all day and the event has been postponed until Tuesday afternoon and evening.  Some of the characters won’t be able to reschedule, but it will still be a fun event.

After two days of garden and fence work earlier in the week, followed by a couple hours wrestling the huge  Stihl line trimmer to beat back areas that have been neglected most of the summer, I was beat.  Yesterday, chest muscles and lower back revolted and said take a day off.

 

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Yesterday morning was spent knitting on an Asymmetrical scarf from some of my hand spun merino/bamboo, followed by a grocery run and dinner prep of a cold weather treat of Stout Beef stew.  While the stew simmered, enough energy was rallied to do a bit of mowing and bush-hogging.  Hubby had started at the top of the property and worked his way down to the house while I was fencing.

Last evening as we sat down to enjoy the stew, our hay man arrived and began bush-hogging the fields.  About a quarter was done before it got too dark and today too wet.  We will work areas that he can’t do with his 10′ machine and once done, the mowing will be done for the winter.

There are still two sections of fence to be taken down and one to erect when the weather improves this weekend or next week.  Most of the creeping charlie was covered with tarps, cardboard, and paper feed sacks to try to kill it off.

My favorite jam from this year’s prep was Asian Pear Orange Marmalade.  The recipe only made a few half pint jars and I knew it wouldn’t last the winter, even using it sparingly and interspersed with raspberry, wildberry, or grape ones I kept.  As pears are still available, a couple pounds of Bartletts were purchased and another batch this time Bartlett pear orange marmalade was made today for the shelf.  It again only made 5 half pints, but so delicious.

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The chicken molt seems to be ending, the coop and pen no longer look like daily pillow fights, but egg production hasn’t picked back up.  The daily count is zero to 3.

Now is time to sit back with the garden plan, the seed catalogs as they come in and plan next year.  It is also time to get more knitting and spinning done for Christmas gifts and for holiday craft shows.

 

Summer is Gone – 10/17/2018

The thermometer on the front porch is sheltered under roof and protected from the wind.  The sensor indoors indicates it is 47ºf outside this morning, but tonight’s forecast is for our first frost.  A frost tonight would be right in the average.

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Yesterday’s high on the porch was 62, today’s is predicted to be about the same, but the nights are getting progressively colder until Monday night when they will warm slightly.  It is the season.  We will have some warmer days, some milder nights before true cold weather sets in, but it is time to pull out the heavier quilt and replace the summer quilt on the bed.  Last night my feet were cold.

A frost will mean the end of the garden.  This is always a time of mixed emotions, glad to be done with it for the year, sad that there won’t be more goodness from it.  It could be extended if I covered the peppers and lettuce tonight, but the tunnel that was purchased this summer to cover the fall veggies deteriorated very quickly.  The cabbages will be okay tonight.  The lettuce will be picked once my hands rewarm.  After feeding the chickens and setting them to roam for the day, two baskets were filled with jalapeños, seranos, and Anaheims.  The baskets would hold no more, though there are many peppers still on the plants, and my fingers were numb.

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All of the Anaheims were harvested, all of the red seranos and red jalapeños as a batch of homemade Sriracha sauce has been planned since they were planted last spring.  The large fat green jalapeños were picked to pickle another jar or two, maybe try Cowboy Candy with a jar or two.  Hubby would hate it and likely it wouldn’t appeal to me, but son the elder loves hot peppers and pickles and would probably like it.  It was cold harvesting them, colder than the thermometer registered, windy and damp.    Later more will be harvested, the rest still on the plants will go into the chicken run for them to peck, along with the tomato plants and the last of the bean plants after mature beans are picked to dry for next year’s seed.  The barriers will be relocated around the cabbages and the chickens will have the run of the garden for the winter, scratching for bugs, weed seed, and turning the soil as they dig.

This fall’s hay never got cut due to the rain.  The hay man said he would brush hog it with his 10′ mower and larger tractor.  Though he can’t go everywhere that our smaller tractor and 5′ mower can go, it will save a couple dozen hours of mowing for us.  The driveway needs to be regraded, again after all the rain, then the brush hog put back on the tractor so that the parts he can’t get, can be mowed before winter.  The brush hog will then be stored, the blade reattached to the tractor to plow us out if we have deep snow.

The neighbor’s cows have serenaded us for the past couple of days.  She may have separated out the young ones to wean before market time, but they are calling back and forth.  That is one of the pleasures of living out away from towns, hearing the cows, turkeys, screech owls, watching the deer and the occasional bear or fox.  The coywolf/coydog howls are interesting, but unwanted.  There are too many with no real predators and they are predators of chickens, calves, fawns, barn cats.

The days are shortening, the nights are chilling.  Soon it will be time for fires in the fireplace and woodstove to take the chill off and for the ambiance of sitting mesmerized by the flickering flames and close enough for the warmth.  Sitting with a good book or knitting, a cup of hot tea, and a warm sweater.  The season of more leisure.

Peace and calm until next time.

Changes noted – 10/7/2018

As we were doing our weekly grocery run for those items that can’t be purchased at the Farmers’ Market or grown at home a trend was noticed, not for the first time.  After picking up a couple of items that were lighter than they used to be, I noticed this.  Rather than keeping food products the size they used to be and raising the price as needed to keep the business afloat, they decrease the package size and keep the price at the old level, or only slightly more expensive.

You used to buy a pound of coffee but now the packages are 8 or 12 ounces, sugar for making jams used to come in 5 pound sacks, now they are 3 or 4.  We buy an inexpensive cat food to supplement the diet of our barn cat and you could buy it in a 4 pound jug that could be refilled with bags until the jug dried out to the point of having to be recycled.  Then I noticed that the bags no longer filled the jug and when I needed to replace the jug, they were no longer available.  The kibble is now in a 3 pound bag for the price the 4 pounder used to cost.  These are just a few of the items, look at jars of nut spreads and mayo, most are fewer ounces than just a few years ago.  Some of these items are available in bulk at the natural food store, so the price is reflected by the ounce and you buy what you need, but it has made me notice when the foods are prepackaged, even items we don’t purchase.

Our grocery budget reflects this as the items must be replenished more often, so there isn’t a saving and the illusion that prices haven’t gone up is purely that, an illusion.

Time was spent in the garden a couple days ago, the corn is down and tossed to the chickens to peck for bugs and ears too small to harvest.  Much weeding was done, but the Creeping Charlie is taking over and must be eradicated somehow.  The asparagus ferns were attacked with hedge clippers that didn’t begin to cut through them, so a stalk at a time being cut with a small cross blade clipper.  They are only about 1/3 down and the pile of dried ferns is huge.  They have to be dragged over to the burn pile and not composted because of the threat of asparagus beetles.  Some people burn them in place, but my asparagus are in a wooden box, so no fires in my garden, plus it is only feet from my main chicken coop.

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More walks this week, one along an old now paved rail grade.  I love the cut through the hillside, it is always cool and damp no matter how hot the afternoon temperatures.

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Sumac and wild asters lining the trail.

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And another evening harvest and canning session.

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The beans harvested that night for dinner were tough and tasteless, that season is done.  The tomatoes are ending, but the peppers continue to overwhelm.  The rest will be left on the plants to ripen to red for drying and fermented hot sauces.

The chicken molt has taken its toll on the egg business, In 3 days there have only been 5 eggs from 15 hens.  There are no pullets ready to replace them as the schedule didn’t allow for raising day old chicks for 5 weeks this summer.  The old girls will be replaced before next summer and will be culled  before next molt season.  Usually at least part of the flock is replaced each year so some hens continue to lay, but the entire flock were raised at the same time and are 2 1/2 years old.  Laying will probably be scarce after the molt due to age and cold weather coming on.  This may be a winter with no hens.  Rural King can order me chicks now and they could be ready to lay by spring.  Something to consider.

It is done . . . 8/7/2018

. . . and so am I.  This week has definitely not gone as planned.  Saturday, I had a wonderful time playing at being a Revolutionary War re-enactor.  I got to sit in the shade of a friend’s canopy in front of his tent and spin and vend some soaps, yarn, and salves.  We had lots of visitors watching me and then Mark as he demonstrated scrimshaw work on cow horns that he makes into period powder horns.  There were many vendors of other goods and demonstrators of various skills.  I came home with a new apron and the shallow crowned straw hat that the ladies of the period wore.  It needs to have ribbon added around the crown and to tie it on so it doesn’t blow away.

Sunday, we had invited our daughter and grandkids over for dinner.  I bought a pork shoulder on Friday, put it in the Instant Pot on slow cook for 10 hours with Carolina style vinegar to make barbecue.  This was done before I left on Saturday morning.  When I got home, it still had an hour or so to go and we left together to go to the street festival in Blacksburg to look around and buy food from a street vendor.  We came home with a signed copy of a book by a local author, Michael Abraham.  We had read most of his other books and this is his newest where he followed the path of the Powhatan  Arrow train that I used to ride from Norfolk to Farmville when I was in college.  I also found some beautiful pottery plates and purchased 3 to replace several of ours that have broken in the last couple of years.

When we got home, I checked the BBQ and it was cooked through but wouldn’t shred, so I left it in the Instant Pot, set it for pressure cook for 40 minutes, and it was perfect.  It was stored away in the refrigerator until time to reheat it for dinner with the family on Sunday.  We ate too much and enjoyed each other’s company until they left for home.  With about an hour and a half of daylight left, I set out on the riding lawn mower we bought new in May to try to get some of the yard mowed.  With the hot dry it wasn’t growing much, but then the rain returned and it grew with a vengeance.  I was about a third done when the mower’s engine cut off and wouldn’t restart.  That require Jim and me to push it uphill from behind the house to the garage.

Monday morning was spent in a series of frustrating calls trying to figure out whether it had to be returned to Lowe’s or taken directly to a repair shop and which one did warranty work for that brand for Lowe’s.  Neither Lowe’s nor the repair shop would pick it up without an exorbitant fee, so we moved our trailer down near the house, pushed the mower up the driveway hill until we were above the trailer, tilted the trailer bed and used gravity to help us get the mower up onto the trailer, then drove it the hour plus to the town with the repair shop, unloaded it with them, and returned home.  Monday was shot.

This morning, knowing that the rest of the week is going to be disrupted, I put on work clothes to try to finish the deck cleanup.

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The wood that was salvageable for chicken coop and barn repair jobs was cleared of nails and brackets to be stored in the barn.  To do this, a long pry bar and a framing hammer were used to remove the sharp metal.  This morning after a couple of hours of clearing nails and brackets, I managed to pinch the tip of my right index finger between the pry bar and an old nail and bracket, breaking the skin and bleeding a lot for a tiny cut.  It had been 7 or 8 years at least since I had had a DTAP shot, so the work was stalled for a while, the cut costing a few hours work, a $38 copay, and a sore arm after I got a load up to the barn, then Jim helped me get two more up.  The Pharmacist warned me that my arm would feel like she beat me tomorrow.  Since we were out for that, a trip to Wilderness Road Regional Museum was made to deliver a tray of my products for them to sell.

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While there, a possible date was set for me to teach the first of maybe several classes.  The first on selecting herbs and wild plants, infusing them, and making salves.  Once home, it was back into work clothes to see if more of the bracket and nail removal could get done today, and with much persistence and many hours of work, all the boards are free of sharp objects, and only two doubled joists that I can barely turn over, much less pick up have been moved to storage in the barn.

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The last long board that I could handle alone ready for it’s trip up the road.  The remaining two are in the grass in the foreground.  They will be moved with help later this week.  After all of the clean up, I used the carefully adjusted brush hog to finish the mowing from Sunday night while we await the diagnosis and hopefully warranty repair on the 10 week old riding mower.

Tomorrow, I am leaving alone to go to Shrine Mont.  My brother and part of his family, my sister and her granddaughter, and a cousin are there.  I see those members of the family too infrequently to not make the 3 hour drive.  I will spend one night there and visit.

On Friday, the Newport Agricultural Fair begins, it is the oldest Ag fair in Virginia.  Between 4 and 8 p.m., I have to get the knitted items that I am submitting for judging delivered.  We will enjoy some of the events on Friday and more on Saturday and pick up my items after judging and display.

I am glad that the deck destruction is done.  Now the reconstruction can begin.  We will be leaving in a little more than a week to go to Hawaii with our youngest and his family and our daughter in law will farm sit for us.

Tonight I am tired with sore muscles, back, finger, and arm.  I am done.

The Calm Between …8/2/2018

the storms that is.  We got over two inches of rain last night and another 1 to 3 predicted for this afternoon and overnight.  Don’t get me wrong, we were approaching drought conditions and need the rain, but it makes our daily health walk, gardening, and deck destruction clean up difficult.  Playing in a rain shower occasionally is fun, working in downpours with distant thunder and sometimes visible cloud to ground lightening is not.

We ventured into town for a few groceries as there is a huge two day street festival in town this Friday and Saturday, thus rendering the Farmers’ Market nearly inaccessible and few vendors even try because of the difficultly in getting their goods in and back out, the festival surrounds the site. While there, we scored 8 cabbage and 8 broccoli starts that were locally started, and the 6th desired blueberry bush, an early producer of large sweet berries, 20% off.

When we got home, the sky looked threatening, but no rain was falling, no thunder heard, no lightening visible, so the plants were hustled over to the garden, the fat Buff Orpington hen that insists on “flying” to the top of the fence, balancing precariously, then dropping into the garden to peck any tomato that is even slightly reddening was ushered back out of the fence.  It frustrates me that she is getting in, there are so few tomatoes this year because of the blister beetles, that I am cherishing each one.  Enjoying a fresh sliced one each day and only freezing the scarce extras for sauce later.

A spade and hand trowel gathered from the garage and a few short minutes work in the wet soil and the Blueberry bed is ready for mulch.

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The 16 young starts were set in two parallel rows, spaced far enough apart to allow growth.

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That bed then covered in a tunnel that was long enough to cover half the spinach and lettuce rows planted a few days ago.  The tunnel will help deter cabbage worms that love to feast on the cole crops.  The cover will also extend the season for the lettuce and spinach hopefully.

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On my way out, it appears that the 3 lonely pie pumpkins are turning orange, probably another attractant for the hen, so some protection will be needed, but we will at least have pumpkin pies for the holidays.

 

Back in the house, there is some distant rumbling of thunder, the rain will soon begin again.  Hope the power stays on until dinner is prepared.  This is the first year of my garden that I have actively sought to extend the growing season into the fall instead of enjoying the spring harvest and quitting.  This is also the first year that the weeds haven’t totally discouraged me by now.  Though there are some in the aisles, the raised box beds have been easier to maintain and the cardboard between the boxes has made the weeds easier to deal with in the aisles.  I just need to obtain the mulch for bedding it down at the end of the season.

Back to rainy day pursuits of spinning and knitting.  I am not happy with the length of the fingerless mitt and will remove the top ribbing and add another cable repeat before the ribbing.

Rest Day/Garden Day – 7/30/18

The garden has been neglected except for harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers of late.  I did get a second planting of bush beans in a couple of weeks ago and they are sprouting nicely.  The garlic needed to be pulled and cured.  It went in so late it isn’t a good crop, but hopefully will provide enough to allow a fall planting so next year we will have a good crop and some to enjoy this winter.  So the now cured onions were trimmed, the odd double ones, ones with still green necks, and ones with soft spots were culled and moved to the kitchen to be used first.

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Then the pulled garlic was laid out on the hardware cloth shelves to cure.  Once cured, they will be trimmed and used this winter except for the ones used to plant for next year’s crop.

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After spending part of last weekend traveling home  from visiting our youngest son and his family, last Sunday on deck destruction with eldest son, part of the week on Historic Camps and destruction clean up, and Saturday on the remaining destruction, I needed a break from pulling brackets and moving heavy lumber.  Part of Sunday was spent in the fruit and vegetable garden.  Tomatoes and cucumbers picked early in the day, a few blister beetles picked and killed, and while out there, the remaining bean stems pulled and tossed to the chickens.  This was a reminder that a couple of beds needed to be worked on and some fall seed planted.  A couple of afternoon hours were spent weeding where the beans had been, pulling and hoeing the few weeds that had come up in the bed where the peas had been and half of that bed was seeded with spinach and a leaf lettuce called Drunken Woman.  I had to get that one just because I liked it’s name.

The bed that had been the tree nursery was turned and rocks removed, a good thick layer of compost and some bone meal turned and raked in and the blueberry bushes moved into it.

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Cardboard was put down beside that bed and the half barrels were moved onto it.  The cardboard will kill the weeds under it, leaf mulch will be laid down on top of it and except for an aisle wide enough to keep chicken heads from pecking berries through the fence, that will be the edge of the garden once we have a frost and the pumpkins are harvested.

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The pumpkins vines were already spreading to that area so I put them back in place after the cardboard was down.

Layered over that piece of cardboard is the other half of that huge box which may get more half barrels.  They are great for growing potatoes and herbs or flowers in the garden.  That sheet is being held down by a couple of bags of mulch that are just serving as weights and will be used in a flower bed around the house once leaf mulch or straw is obtained.

Hopefully, this week cabbage and broccoli starts will be available and they will go in the bed with the lettuce and spinach.  Perhaps a 6th blueberry shrub will be purchased to add to the blueberry bed.  They will hopefully thrive in the enriched deeply dug bed.  Once the last one is in place, a thick layer of straw or leaf mulch will placed around them to keep the weed load down.

That will leave only the 4 X 4′ bed that contained the garlic unplanted, and it will be sown with oats that will serve as a cover crop and the seed head given to the chickens, the oat straw can be used as mulch or coop bedding next spring.

I still need to tackle the raspberry bed now that the berry season is over and the Japanese beetles have moved on.  I still have a large cardboard box, but will need more to try to smother the wild geraniums and the raspberry volunteer shoots that are encroaching on the aisles and vegetable boxes.

This week between the rain, the rest of the salvageable deck wood will be moved to the barn until it is needed for another project.  Eldest son suggested adding a low dry stacked wall off from the existing tall dry stack retaining wall as a means of using some of the tons of rock that were under the old deck.

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The chalk line will mark the new wall, eliminating an area that is very difficult to mow because of the steepness and contour that really don’t show well in the photo.

The new deck will stop at the corner you see with steps coming down to where all the rock is, a path of flat stone will cross where the old deck stood over to the stoop where the old steps came down into the yard.  A small stone patio will eventually be worked into part of that area, the rest the new garden bed.

Once the new wall is build and backfilled with leaf mulch, the mints, lemon balm, thyme, and rosemary will be planted there.  The stones will help keep it warm and they will be allowed to spread and thrive as a perennial herb garden.

Today’s header is a picture we rarely see.  Though the pups are best buddies, the Mastiff owns that spot.  He used to sleep beside our bed on Jim’s side, but decided he liked the Shepherd’s bed or space.  We tried putting both beds there, but he stands over Shadow until she vacates even if he only takes one bed.  They were caught sharing the space, each on their own bed.