Category Archives: Country living

Wildflowers -4/13/2017

 

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Virginia Bluebells
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Pig Hole
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Wild violets
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Elderberry
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This area was clear cut last spring and summer and is being made into grazing fields.
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House in the hollow.

An evening walk was in order on the end of yesterday’s beautiful day.  This senior body has been too sedentary this winter and is in need of daily exercise to make the garden and fence work a bit easier on it.  More walking, more stretching.  We live in the perfect place to walk.  Our road is .8 miles of dirt and gravel with several steep inclines and declines passing through woods and farm fields that are laced with cow paths through the thickets.  The hill to our west holds a large cave, open at the top (the second photo) with a fence around it for safety.  It’s name comes from the remains of a pig that was found deep in the cave on a ledge.  The cave sinks deep into the hillside and turns east with a second enclosed and locked entrance that I understand requires some agile moves and no fear of claustrophobia to enter.  I don’t want to do that.  The Virginia Bluebells bloom in profusion at the open mouth at the top behind the fence. Up on that hill, you can look down into the hollow and see our farm, our log home, the coops and gardens.  This early in the spring, walking the fields is a pleasure, the grass through growing quickly is still fairly low, the invasive stickweed has yet to show, the ticks still at a minimum.  In another few weeks, the fields will be hard to traverse until after hay mowing in early June and after that, our fields and the fields east of us can be walked again.

The wildflowers and flowering trees abound on this walk.

Today is another beautiful day and my plan is to walk up through the woods to the highest meadow on our cattle raising farm neighbor’s property.  From there the view is amazing, above the tree line miles to the east and to the west.  North and south blocked by ridgelines much closer.

This is a beautiful part of the world.

 

The Winter of the Wind

Each year since moving to the mountains, more than a decade ago, it has snowed on Valentine’s Day.  Sometimes just a couple of inches, sometimes a foot or more.  This time of year has been noted for it’s cold and it’s snow, but this year is different.  There has been very little snow, mountain snow showers, yes, a trace here and there, but only one really measureable snow of about 3 or 4 inches. The temperatures have yoyo’d from parka cold to 80ºf (27ºC), definitely not mid February in the mountains weather.  The trees are confused, already they are budding out, some of the maples have tiny leaves.

But this has been the winter of the wind.  Our log home is in a hollow with a mountain gap to the northwest and the wind at times howls through that gap sounding like a locomotive bearing down on us.  We have experienced that wind many times in the decade, but it seems this year like a constant force.  It howls and rattles.  Our home is a large sturdy structure with a three story west side of logs on a stone faced concrete footer wall.  It isn’t going anywhere, but some days it seems like the whole house is shuttering.  The window choice of the log home company from whom we purchased are not the best, though they are double hung insulated windows, we have hung insulated Roman shades on those windows.  The ones on the west end of the house have been closed more times this winter than most winters in the past.  Opened in the late afternoon to allow in the sun’s warmth, then closed again at night to block the chill from the wind. Today is cold, mostly cloudy, and a high wind advisory again.  Tomorrow it is going to be spring like again and calm, reaching unseasonable temperatures for most of next week.

The Virginia and West Virginia ski resorts are probably fretting this year, having difficulty even making man made snow at night.  On our way home from out son’s house last weekend, when the temperature was rising to 80, we passed one of the resorts, they had two long parallel man made runs with snow in the otherwise very unwinter like surroundings.

The winter has produces some beautiful morning skies.

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Sky

 

“Lions and tigers and bears…”

Well, no lions and tigers, but we do have bears occasionally.  Last night while daughter was putting the finishing touches on dinner  and we were visiting with each other,  looking out the kitchen window we saw a large dark animal moving in the hayfield.  Deer are dark this time of year, but even a good sized buck is not as large as what we saw.  We have an all black coyote, but it too is not that large. Realization that one of the regions black bear was ambling along the tree line a couple hundred yards away.

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This is the best we could do with a cell phones telephoto lens.  A quick shout out brought the whole household out to have a look.  The doors opening at the house, stopped the bear to look up at us taking pictures.  This was the largest bear we have seen on our farm but not the closest.

Littlebear

 

This curious little fellow a few years ago was about half way down the driveway and also curious about us taking photos, but quickly dashed into the woods.

We have seen them in the fields, crossing the roads, but so far, never around the chickens or in the garden. It is fun seeing the native animals wandering in the fields and woods.

Fading of Autumn

This week has been spent away from home, helping out at eldest son’s house.  He works very long days at a university an hour and a half to two hours away depending on traffic.  Daughter in law is working even father away this week on an art installation of a piece in a commercial building that was commissioned by an artist with whom she works.  I have grandson duty, getting him off to school, supervising homework, guitar practice, evening shower, preparing him breakfast and dinner and seeing him off to bed. His Dad hasn’t seen him since Monday, his Mom since Sunday as she is not even trying to commute this week.  This makes for long solitary days in their rural home, lots of time for spinning, knitting, and a little reading, though the book I brought puts me right to sleep, definitely not one to recommend.

Being on the edge of the Shenandoah Park, I had hoped for some woods walks while here, however, the very first night I awoke feeling like I had been hit by a truck with head congestion and body aches.  Grandson was home from school all day Tuesday due to the election, I dragged my achy body to the grocery for some decongestants and a few groceries, fed him lunch out and came back to rest while he played outdoors with the two kids across the road.  Wednesday was cool and rainy and I didn’t want to be out in it, so I stayed in and continued to rest.  Yesterday I was beginning to feel better and it was a beautiful day, but exertion caused me to cough, so again I mostly stayed in and today is chilly and gray, though I have yet to build a fire in the wood stove.  Tonight is predicted to drop below freezing which will put an end to the plants on the deck.

My garden is long gone for the season, they moved in during the summer and did not have time to put in a garden, but there is a tomato on the deck.

maters mums

It is likely the tomato and mum will both be burned off by morning with another below freezing night predicted Saturday.

As I sit in the living room on the computer or spinning and knitting, I see the nearly barren ridge across the road.  A few evergreens and a few leaves, the color gone for this autumn.

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Tomorrow, I will return to our farm, continue to winterize and plant the garlic for next growing season.  We had our first frost the night before I left and I pulled the remaining peppers and plants before I left home.  The cull chickens have another week to fatten, they will be killed and butchered on the 19th and I will be down to my laying flock for the winter.  We are still not getting but an egg or two each day due to molting and the pullets just not mature enough yet to lay.  Hopefully their production will pick up enough for holiday baking and having family in the house for the holidays.  If not, I will buy from a local farmer when I go to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey.  I raise a breed that lays in the winter, though not as prolifically as in summer.

I still have not adjusted to the end of Daylight Savings Time, maybe because of all the time on the road in the past week and the change in schedule here over home.  Maybe by next weekend, my first Holiday Market for the season.  I need to get my stuff organized and decide which displays I plan to take.  I am hoping for a mild, dry day.

I’ll check in again from home.  Have a good day.

 

Bridge Day and Spinzilla

The village that carries the zip code in which we reside, is home to 3 old covered bridges.  Two of them are on private property, but the third belongs to the village and is maintained through donations and volunteer effort.  This year, that bridge is 100 years old and though I have never worked on the bridge maintenance or grounds maintenance, I have contributed monetary donation toward it’s upkeep.  As this treasure is 100 years old now, today we had a birthday celebration and after talking with our local historian at an event in May, we discussed what this celebration should include as far as demonstrations and displays.

 

 

Bridge

 

The celebration was scheduled for yesterday, but yesterday we had cold rain and wind, so the event was postponed until today, a beautiful blue sky, lots of wind and cool.  It was pleasant when the wind was calm and in the sun.  We had our local blacksmith, basket making, chair caning, genealogy, a photo history, commemorative T shirt and sweat shirt sales, music, a birthday cake, and me demonstrating spinning.  The historic house across from the bridge allowed us to park along their long drive, set up the displays along that drive as well and opened their restored home for tours.

Bridge Day 1Quilts

It was a wonderful event, with lots of foot traffic, many questions, much conversation.  Another great time to share the fiber arts and let people see a skill that many have never seen.  It amazes me how many people share that their grandmother had a wheel, that they have a wheel displayed in their house, that they have never seen anyone use a spinning wheel.  Shortly after the above photo was taken, the area where I was spinning was cast in shade and it became quite chilly and very windy.  I spun outside for more than 3 hours, a chance to work on the last of the yarn that I was spinning for the team challenge.  It continues until 11:59 tonight, but I am done.

I came home, had dinner, and finished plying the 8 ounces of fiber that I have been working on for the past two days.  I had 4 ounces each of Targhee and Cheviot that spun very fine and plyed into 350+ yards of beautiful white yarn.  Once it has been washed, it will be dyed and put in the shop.   Yesterday, I finished a lovely skein of gray, blue, rust, and brown yarn that will also go into the shop.  Below are pictures of today’s spinning, the colorful skein, and my total Spinzilla spinning.  For this competition, we measure the length of each ply and the total length of the yarn plyed,  With this formula, in the past week, I have spun 3105.11 yards.  Now I am going to thaw out from today and rest.

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Goodbye Spinzilla 2016 and Happy Birthday Clover Hollow Bridge.  Goodnight all.

Chicken fighting

For the past 3 days, 2 of the young cockerels that are in the cull coop have escaped from their run during the day.  The first day, I was away helping out with my grandson, so gone overnight and Jim didn’t realize that the two chickens perched on the egg door of the coop, outside the runs were culls.  He caught them and stuffed them in the layer coop.  Since I was away until after dinner on the second day, they cooped up on their own in the layer coop, but not on a perch.  I went out to lock up the coops and moved them one at a time back to the cull coop.  Tonight, they were on the egg door again and SIL opened the gate for them and they strutted in and cooped up again.  When I got home from my walk and went over to lock them up, I realized that the cull coop was missing two again, so I decided to move them again, except that the only flashlight I had with me was my smartphone.  Using the light, I captured one by the feet and hung him upside down, set the phone down and grabbed in the dark for where the second one had been a millisecond before and came up with a startled young bird by the upper breast.  He took umbrage at the offence and came up clawing.

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I won’t show you the result, but I am bandaged from the wrist to the elbow to keep from ruining everything that tender forearm touches.  The two cockerels are again back in their coop and tomorrow, a barricade will be installed at the end of the net roof so they can’t fly out again.

Having this type of injury is unfortunate while spending as much of my “spare” time handling fiber and spinning for the Spinzilla contest, thus the bandage.

While away, I only had my drop spindle with me and a small bump of nice fiber and I spun a small ball of a single.  Today, I spun another single of chocolate Alpaca and tonight, spindle plyed it into a pretty little mini skein that I will use in a hat for my shop and the Holiday Markets.  So far for Spinzilla, I have spun and plyed 1472.7 yards of yarn and have a nearly full bobbin of a single.

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Today at spinning, I traded for a couple of weeks with a friend who is a new spinner my Kromski Sonata for the Ashford Traditional that I used to learn to spin and she bought from the gal that bought it from me.  For some reason, I love that wobbly old wheel.  Please note my giant helper with his head nearly on the foot treadle.

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I have used it to ply 460 yards and that is where the nearly full bobbin is.  I still have all day tomorrow and Saturday until 11:59 my time to spin for this contest, then a photograph and record of yards spun will be sent to the team captain and compiled with the other team members for our team total.  I love to spin, but I find these competitions stressful.  I do have nearly enough yarn for my sweater spun though, so that is a plus.

 

 

Spinning On

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.

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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.

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Back to spinning.  See you later.

Quiet on the creek

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.

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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.

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I still have not seen the raccoon family.

Mostly, I want to be slow and lazy like Mr. Opossum.

 

Garden and Crafting

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.

Haul

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.

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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.

More putting by

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.

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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.