Last night at midnight, a team competition for spinning began. The competition is called Spinzilla and the team that I am on is sponsored by Strauch Equipment Co. and the Knotty Ladies. I know that I will not be the strength of this team, but also, I don’t want to be the weak link. With grandchildren duties and transport, trying to keep up a level of fitness, household chores, and life in general, I know that I won’t be able to spin at an obsessive level that some of the spinners will do, nor will I be a total slacker. I am an early to bed, early to rise person, so I won’t spin 20 out of 24 hours a day, but I am challenging myself to spin every day. Most of my spinning will be on my Kromski Sonata spinning wheel, but on Thursday, she will be loaned to a friend to try out, and the friend will in turn loan me back the Ashford Traditional that I learned to spin on and I will use it for a while. When not at home, I will carry one or the other of my drop spindles and some fiber to do some portable spinning as well.
So far, I have spun two skeins of Leicester Longwool from Sunrise Valley Farm, a spinning friend and vendor at the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market. I love her fiber and love that it is local. The little Turkish spindle has a Pohlworth, Mohair, Silk blend that will later be plyed with a Dorset, Alpaca blend. That won’t be measured until the end of the week and I can see how much I was able to spindle spin.
After yesterday, I decided that I should indeed have a period costume for spinning demonstrations. I do sew, but did not want to take the time to make my own. I found just what I was looking for on the internet and though I will likely make myself an apron to wear with it at times, the basic part of the outfit will be shipped in time for the October festival at the Smithfield Plantation House.
The pastoral setting of son’s families house, is eerily quiet when they are at work and grandson is at school. The road is not a busy one, with only a few vehicles passing each day. Most of the land surrounding this scattered complex of 3 houses owned by the landlord is the holdings of one family. On Sunday morning, I walked up the road more than a mile and all of the No Trespassing signs on both sides of the road, have the same family name on them. Though they have cattle, the pastures are too far away to hear them calling to each other as we hear at home. There are horses in the other direction, but I have not heard any whinnying from that direction either. Mostly the sound is the burbling creek, the cicadas, and an occasional bird call.
Late last night, some critter got into the recycling on the back porch and rattled cans and bottles around for a bit, but it was chilly last night, so that noise was muted through the closed back door.
Other than daily household chores, such as dishes, and laundry, I have had quiet idle time to read (currently, A Brilliant Death, by Robin Yocum), knit (hats), or spin. Yesterday, I finished a 208 yard skein of Shetland breed wool that I had dyed in Buttercup and Ripe Tomato color dyes. It didn’t come out with the longer runs of singles colors that I expected, but it is bright and interesting. It attracted a local hummingbird as it hung on the clothesline to dry. My camera isn’t good enough to catch a hummingbird zipping around.
This skein is dk weight, enough for a hat or cowl with interesting color mix, reds, yellows, salmons, and orange.
I can’t decide whether to spin more of the fiber that I brought, or finish knitting the hats with the yarn that I brought.
The old man Opossum finally showed up this morning. He walked slowly down the hill across the road, wandered that side of the road for a bit in the sun, like an elder warming his bones. He ambled across the road to this side and I lost sight of him, so my photo is zoomed on my phone. He is a scruffy old character.
I still have not seen the raccoon family.
Mostly, I want to be slow and lazy like Mr. Opossum.
A few short days at home between the visit to Shrine Mont and leaving for a week of being Grandmom in charge for eldest grandson have been busy. The first night back, when I went to lock up the chickens, my reluctant pullet managed to fly over the fence into the garden. The lower un-planted part of the garden was literally chin high to my 5’8″ frame. The lawnmower was fueled and with much effort, about half of that area was mowed down in an effort to remove the cover for the chick. As it got too dark to see what I was doing, a decision was made to leave her to her fate, hoping that she would just find safe cover in the remaining weeds or up in the tomato jungle. She did survive the night and greeted me the next morning outside the gate. The mower was still in the garden, so in spite of the heat and threatening thunder storms, the rest of that area was mowed and hand weeding commenced on the area around the cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and the dozen or so volunteer tomatillo plants. By the time I finished, my stamina was gone and I quit, tossing half a dozen overgrown, yellow cucumbers to the chickens. No harvest had been done in our absence.
Today, with the temperatures only a few degrees lower, a determined effort was made to weed the upper garden, thin the tomatoes and sunflowers, and harvest as many tomatoes as I could. A 4 gallon feed bucket was filled with mostly plum tomatoes, a dozen heirloom slicers, and peppers.
After a long cold shower to refresh and renew me, I tackled the haul. There were 19 pounds of tomatoes, which I divided into 2 one gallon bags of diced tomatoes each almost 5 lbs.; 2 one gallon bags of whole paste tomatoes, several slicers to take with me tomorrow; 3 pints of jalapenos pickled, a pint of mixed hot peppers in salted vinegar that will be made into hot sauce once a quart has been gathered. Another pint or so of jalapeños were too large to pickle whole, so they will be diced and frozen. Another couple of dozen tomatoes were split and rotting and were tossed to the chickens.
I will be away from home for another 10 days, so I’m sure with the persistent heat and daily rain, a repeat of the past few days will be in order once I return. Hopefully it will be a bit cooler by then.
Yesterday, in anticipation of my absence, I dyed a half pound of Shetland roving to spin.
With these two braids, another that I did of Romney to learn the process, and my monthly installment of the Tailfeather’s Club from Unplanned Peacock, I will have plenty to spin while sitting on the porch while grandson is in school. I will arrive home with about 2 to 3 hours to unpack and repack to leave for a few days at a spinning retreat. I may have to spin all undyed fiber there and dye the yarn later. I will also be teaching salve making and be a vendor at this event, so I have to be organized before I leave to babysit.
Tonight, Jim will be taken out to dinner and to buy a couple new pair of jeans as an early birthday. I will not be here to celebrate with him on his actual birthday.
I finally shredded the three remaining cabbages from the earlier harvest. They were salted, rubbed and tightly packed in two clean quart wide mouth jars. Two quarts of kraut are fermenting on the kitchen counter.
The tomatoes from the other day and an apron full of paste tomatoes harvested today were chopped, seasoned, and made into 4 pints of tomato sauce and a quart and a half of marinara sauce. The tomato sauce was canned and is cooling on the counter. The marinara sauce is earmarked for a huge lasagna that I will make on Wednesday when we have a house full of 9 people. The lasagna will be served up with a salad of Farmers’ Market lettuce, our cucumbers, beets, and onions. If there is a slicer tomato ripe, it will also be added to the salad. Lasagna is generally well received and will feed many at one time.
The hens are beginning to lay more eggs each day. We are back to getting 4 or 5 each day. With 7 laying hens, I am hoping that we will start again getting half a dozen each day. It will be Thanksgiving before this spring’s chicks begin to lay.
I love this time of year, with the fresh produce, fresh eggs, and flowers. It is a lovely few months to savor each year.
In a few more weeks we will be harvesting Asian pears and cooking apples. With jars of chutney left from last year’s harvest, most of the apples will be made into sauce. Some of the pears will become Ginger Pear Conserve and the ones not eaten fresh will be made into sauce as well.
We live outside of a very small village in the mountains. Nearby is a university town that has many small independently owned shops and restaurants, a few chain groceries, pharmacies, and restaurants. Between our village and the town is a major east/west thoroughfare that carries many cars and semi trucks and that thoroughfare bypasses the town to the northwest. Off of this thoroughfare are two roads to the town that are accessed by a turn lane, one with a stop light; and two flyover interchanges. The road with the stop light is near the university football stadium and basketball coliseum, so much to do was made because of the periodic weekend traffic due to those sports, and it is being converted into a third flyover interchange. It is moving east of it’s present location by about a quarter of a mile and is resulting in lane closures on the main bypass and also on the feeder road. This makes travelling east to “generica” as my son calls it, very difficult right now. Generica, the next town east has every big box store you can think of except a wholesale club store, so if you want to shop a mall or department store, a huge hardware store, or eat at any of a dozen big chain restaurants, that is where you must go.
To avoid the traffic that this construction has wrought, we have been going through town if we need to go east of the town for any reason. Slower, but a more pleasant drive usually. The brick sidewalks have old fashioned style light posts with hanging flower baskets, the medians all planted with seasonal flora, a slower pace. Right now, the town is busy with new students and their parents coming in for orientation. But . . . yesterday, they began a project to pave the main two blocks of Main Street and a cross street, shutting down both directions and requiring a detour a block north or south and two blocks east or west to get around it.
Another alternate route we often take through our village and a loop through the cow fields on a country road and by the creek is also currently closed with first one single lane bridge replacement, then a second one.
For now, perhaps the best solution is to hunker down and stay home, but Gdaughter has a daily swim lesson in town, and thus a daily trip each way is in order. Soon the bridge work and the Main Street paving will be completed. We are looking at another 18 months to 2 years on the flyover, and already there is discussion on how to make the other access road with a turn lane safer.
Today dawned cool, clear, and calm. Once all of the animals were fed, pooper scooped, and set free for the day, I parked myself on the porch swing with a mug full of coffee and the newest edition of Taproot magazine.
To the east there were tractors mowing and baling, to the west a single tractor mowing. If the weather holds for a few more days, the tractors will be here, mowing our farm and baling the hay for winter.
Today was the beginning of the two day hatch for Mama Hen #2. At dinner time tonight, she had 4 healthy fluffy active chicks, one just hatched, still wet and trying to find it’s legs, and one pipping. The rest of the eggs were put under her on day two, so perhaps there will be more tomorrow. Without the grandkids here, I am leaving her alone, hoping not to have the loss we had two weeks ago. The Memorial weekend chicks will be 2 weeks old tomorrow. They are beginning to get the tiny wing feathers that come in first. They are in and out of Huck’s coop with no trouble now, feeding and scratching where the hay bale sat before I erected their little pen. This morning, I finished putting a base on the second nest bucket for the newest littles. They will be moved with the hen late tomorrow and I’m sure she will keep them inside the coop for at least a few days. Most of today’s hatch look like mixed breed birds, all but one have some darker feathers, so they will all be culls, raised for 16 to 18 weeks for meat. I am hoping for at least 3 Buff Orpington pullets out of these two hatchings to increase my laying flock.
Today has been a crafty day. My favorite denim skirt has been getting threadbare. Each time I put it on, I realized that I shouldn’t be wearing it, but I didn’t want to discard it, so this afternoon, Icut the bottom 5″ off to make a strap, sewed the bottom together and squared the corners and now I have a new denim tote bag with pockets.
Late last winter, eldest son, who wears a knit hat from fall to late spring, lost one that I had made for him to go with a Moebius scarf. Not having any more of that yarn, I used some of my handspun yarn to make him a hat to wear as it wasn’t warm enough to go without one yet.
It is a nice warm hat, but just a tad big on him. Also, it has to be hand washed. I promised him at least one more before next winter, that can be machine washed. One of the installments from my monthly fiber club from Unplanned Peacock, was superwash merino. It is called Candied Violets, but the colors are complementary with gray, so I have spun most of it up since yesterday.
It is mostly a creamy white with hints of gray, yellow, violet, and blue. I ordered a slate gray superwash from her yesterday and will spin it and ply it with the white to make another for him.
The last of my May Spinning Box was spun into a mini skein that reminds me of a box of crayons. It will probably be added to my shop, though it is only 69+ yards of sport weight yarn. Maybe I will use it to knit trim on a hat made of the cotton candy pink merino in the shop and sell the hat instead.
Toward the end of the month, I am going to spend an afternoon with 7 to 12 year olds at a summer camp to teach them a bit about spinning. They will see a spinning demonstration with the wheel, but before that, they will each be given a drop spindle that I made today. A bit of fiber to teach them how yarn is made. Once they play with the spindles for a while, each will be given a chance on the wheel to spin a bit of yarn to take home. Each of them will leave with a spindle, a couple of ounces of fiber, and a piece of yarn that they spun on the wheel.
Yesterday, I harvested the garlic scapes and made garlic scape pesto with half of them. That was frozen in an ice cube tray, the rest chopped and frozen to use as garlic when I begin to make pasta sauce later in the summer. Last night, I harvested edible pod peas and chard and we enjoyed them with a chop for dinner.
Today was cool and windy. A nice respite from the hot humid we have had. The dry week following the weeks of hot, rainy weather, has the hay ready to be mowed and baled.
I walked out to where I planted the two little pines after Earth Day to see if they were still alive and to mark their location with lime green flags if they were. It reminded me of the first June we visited our land after our January closing. We had been coming up every month, clearing trash and old tires, but always staying in a motel in town on our visits. That month, we planned to camp on our land. The car was loaded with the necessary camping gear and we arrived to find all of the fields were literally chest high on me. I am not a little gal, standing at 5’8″. Hubby took many photos of me walking through the tall grass, though I can’t find one now.
We had no way to cut a campsite on that trip except swing blades, which did nothing, so we again headed to town to a motel, but also found a neighbor to be, who was glad to cut the fields for the hay. We had no concept then of what the value of that hay would be.
As the spring warms and the spring rains fall, I begin cutting a lawn around the house, coops, and the orchard, leaving the rest of our 30 acres to grow. Earlier this week, we talked to Jeff when he brought me another bale of spoiled hay for the coop and garden and he said they were preparing to start the mowing season. One of our other neighbors mowed he fields yesterday. Today, Jeff began on the huge fields just to our east. That field is at least twice the size of our farm and is used only for hay for another neighbor that raises beef cattle.
Our farm is also mowed by Jeff, for his cattle and contracting business. In exchange, he keeps our tractor maintained, plows us out in the winter and does other occasional tasks we can’t do for us.
I will miss the wind blowing the tall grass, the light playing on it’s surface, but I will relish being able to again walk the perimeter of our fields and over into the woods without fear of the ticks that I know lurk in the tall grasses. It will also mean that we can see the dogs again when they take off out of the lawn area. The grandkids who have so much area to play in where I do mow, love when they too can explore farther from the house.
If the weather holds, by this time next week, there will be dozens of large round bales dotting our fields until he finishes all of the mowing and baling he has to do each spring, then he will come back with his huge tractor pulling a trailer and will load the bales away about a dozen at a time. It is always an exciting time.
Tomorrow, we begin chick watch #2. The second hen should begin to hatch her brood by Friday. Yesterday, the first brood left the Huck’s coop for the grass, but when Mama Hen gathered them back to the coop, one didn’t make it. She squawked from inside, chick peeped from beneath. The chick was frightened of me and wouldn’t come out, the coop too close to the ground for me to reach under. Mom and chick were finally reunited and she hustled the little to the back of the coop away from me. Today, they stayed inside and big chickens were allowed to free range for a few hours.
One of these days, I will invest in some electric poultry netting and create a movable pasture to put the layers in each day to let them safely forage away from the dogs, both ours and the neighbors.
Yesterday, I finished spinning the fingering weight Dorset, a fairly generous 275+ yards of it and also read an article about dyeing with avocado pits which I thought was interesting. I had half a dozen of them and set them to simmer for an hour or so last night while washing and soaking the yarn.
This morning, I was awake earlier than necessary and curious about the dye. It was much paler than I had hoped for, so I strained the seeds out, heated it up again and added some of the Ruby dye left from the other day. The now washed yarn soaked in vinegar water while the dyes were heating and I draped the skein over a stick, ate breakfast and took Grandson to the bus stop. When I got home, I dropped the rest of the yarn into the dye, stirred it around a bit and went to get Granddaughter ready for preschool and fed. Before leaving to take her, the dyepot was removed from the heat to cool.
An interesting result. Once it is dry, I am going to pull off a few yards and so a sample knit to see what it does.
Once the dyeing process was complete, I decided to make a batch of Goats and Bees Soap, a palm oil free soap with Goat Milk and Honey. With the University kids having all recently left for summer, a quick trip into the thrift store the other day uncovered a great soap pot, about 4 quart, thick bottomed, stainless steel inside and a 1 quart rounded small pot with squat handles on both sides so that it rests nicely on the larger pot to make a double boiler for crafting. I walked out with both for $2 total. The new pot was used to make the soap today as the old pot has become the dye pot as it is larger.
It looks like butterscotch pudding, almost good enough to eat. It is curing in the window sill of the utility room, cocooned in an old towel. It will be cut into bars tomorrow to finish the curing process before the next craft event in about a month.
My spinning has been very, uh, white of late. I have been working on the almost two pounds of California Red which is white in spite of it’s name, and the local Dorset that I started at the Newport Past and Present when I was demonstrating spinning, and it too is white. I decided I needed to spin some color for a while, so I pulled out 4 ounces of mixed fiber that came in my monthly Spinning Box installment and started on it.
It is spinning a very smooth, soft single that should make a beautiful fingering weight yarn when finished.
For you followers, yesterday when I got home from taking N to preschool, I had bought some starter feed. When I went over to put some in Huck’s coop, Mama and her littles were exploring the inside of the coop. I moved the food and water to where Mama could see it and she immediately showed the littles how to drink and began breaking the starter into smaller pieces and dropping it in front of her brood. Last night when I went out to lock up the chickens, collect eggs, and check on the Mama and her littles, figuring she would have gathered them and nested in the straw on the bottom of the coop, I found this.
She had gathered them all back into the 5 gallon bucket and three of them were peeking out from under her wings. They are cute.
Each day is partly a sunny day and partly a cloudy day, even afternoon thunderstorms with torrential rain at times.
Today I debated whether to try to get the yard that was knee deep mowed or the peppers and tomatoes planted in the garden. I decided that the mowing was more critical as tomorrow there is a much higher chance of rain and I could plant between rain storms, but couldn’t mow the grass as tall as it was if wet. I started off this morning, trying to get around the house with the gas powered lawn mower, getting where I can’t go with the tractor. Good idea, but I only did about a third of it and ran out of gasoline. I intended to go get some after lunch, but the clouds were building, so I just got as close to the house as I could on the tractor and mowed a lawn around the house in the encroaching hay field. We are still about 6 weeks from haying here and it is getting seriously tall. The grands need a place to play, I need to be able to get to the chicken pens and I don’t like the orchard to get too tall as the trees are too close to the chicken pen fence for the sickle bar hay cutter and too close to each other for the big haycutter. I did beat a terrific thunderstorm by only minutes.
When I went out to let the flock out for the day, I found this . . .
Broody Mama giving me the evil eye for trying to move her two days ago. She is sitting firmly on yesterday’s 6 eggs. I will try to slip 4 more under her tonight from today’s lay. If all goes according to schedule, we will have chicks in about 3 weeks. She chose the box nearest the pop door, not the best one to raise a family in when there are 5 others that are safer, but it is where she is.
With the ground so wet and haying season upon us soon, the burn pile finally got lit off. The Christmas tree made a good starter fuel and most of the pile is now gone. In a day or two, I will move the debris to an area we don’t mow after sorting through for nails and screws. One day, there will be a permanent place and an incinerator in which to burn before the piles get too large.
One of my commitments to my shop is to make a more environmentally friendly soap, removing palm oil from all of my soap recipes. There are only going to be 4 soaps in the store, Goat milk with honey, Lavender Goat milk, Citrus Shea, and Cedar/Rosemary/Thyme. All of them are going to be made with Organic Shea Butter, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Castor Oil, and extra virgin olive oil (organic when available). The liquid will be either coconut milk or goat milk and if scented, with pure essential oils. Yesterday, I made two batches of the Lavender Goat milk soap with Shea butter and Organic Moroccan Red Clay for sensitive skin types. It was the most beautiful dark caramel color when hot and today when I unmolded it to cut and cure, it looks like fudge. It is such a pretty soap.
There are 18 bars of it curing for the next 4 weeks before it can go in the shop. That makes two of the 4 soaps Palm oil free so far. I will be making another batch of the Cedarwood and the Goat milk Honey soap in the next day or so, both also Palm Oil free. The Shea butter makes such a nice rich soap and it is not responsible for rain forest deforestation.
With the coming of warmer weather, short sleeves, and air conditioning, today I added 3 mini shawls to the shop to throw over shoulders instead of a jacket or sweater when in the office or dining out. They range in price from only $15 to $25 and fiber from Seasilk to Wool with Mohair.
Tomorrow, after taking N to preschool, I hope to get in a walk with a friend and then finally get back to the garden. I still need to get gasoline and mow outside the garden and around the chicken coops. That may have to be done with the gas trimmer as it has gotten so long and thick. Maybe I can get son-in-law to do it this weekend.
A three day break from the cold wet sprwinter we have had instead of spring. Today is another beautiful one. Yesterday, I ventured off on another walk to a different path I had never taken. Though it proved not quite long enough to get in my daily step goal, I did get it by adding more erect and less sitting time afterward.
The spotted wintergreen is growing, but not yet blooming. Yesterday’s walk did not have the views of the previous day, but it was a beautiful day to be out and a great chance to chat with the owner of the cows. She was out checking on one of her girls who is due to calf any time now. I think I will walk down and see if there is a new baby in the field.
Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family