Category Archives: Farm Life

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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Water lilies.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

Away, back, away, and back again 3/2/2018

Finally settled back home from a couple of weeks of flurried activity, first with our cruise and as soon as the laundry was done and the dust settled, I was off to the winter version of the spinning retreat. We enjoyed a couple of weeks of very nice weather, enjoying the western Caribbean toward the end of their rainy season, so not too hot and only a few random showers. There were two nights of heavier rain, but it occurred after we had settled for the night. For the most part the seas were calm, though I tend to motion sickness and had one bad evening when I had failed to take Bonine in the morning, did a water excursion and back on the ship just as we were about to leave port. The ship store sold motion sick bands and a couple of Bonine and I was okay after a few hours. We had a great time on a much needed vacation.  And we returned to spring like weather at home.

The spinning retreat is an event that I look forward to, rejoining friends that I see infrequently, laughing, eating, spinning and knitting. The motel at Hawk’s Nest State Park lacks a restaurant at this time, but Tudor’s Biscuit World is just down the road and Pies and Pints Pizza is only a short drive away, so many of us go out for breakfast and lunch. Dinner started as happy hour and morphed over the years to a grand pot luck. This year the pot luck was so immense that one night we had 5 or 6 crockpot dishes, plus salads, crackers, cheese, dips, and desserts. Though I had not asked prior to the event to vend as I was unsure having been away, I took some soaps, salves, yarn, and knitwear and because there were few vendors, I did get to set up and was able to sell enough to pay for the weekend which is my goal.

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This retreat did take a negative twist though as I awoke each day with a few more itchy spots, unsure if I was reacting to their detergent or if I was being bitten. Sunday morning, I was pretty sure that they were bites, notified the office as I left, washed my bag and clothing in hot water as soon as I arrived home. By Monday, it was apparent, that I had had a bed bug encounter, something I have feared in hotels, but not expected there. I have always been over reactive to insect bites and have broad itchy bands surrounding the rows of bites, characteristic of bed bugs. Now a week out, I am still on antihistamines, anti itch creams, and trying not to scratch. I am hoping that I did not bring them home with me. My spinning, knitting, and vending items remained in the tiled conference room for the weekend, but traveled home in the back of my car with my suitcase, though in a plastic box crate and in trays strapped to the top of the crate.

The week remained delightfully spring like until last night. We have howling wind and woke to snow flurries. The upcoming forecast is more seasonal. We lost our power briefly last night and again this afternoon for a couple of hours. Fires have been lit in the wood stove and fireplace in case of another failure. It is supposed to go down into the twenties tonight and we want the house to stay warm.

I am continuing to knit on the new shawl that is a design on the fly that I will probably never write down.  The yarns are lovely though.  It is a mitered shawl of a Freia Ombre Shawl ball and a craveyarn Santa Fe solid.

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I am nearly to a point where I need to make sure I have a multiple of the number of stitches needed for the fancier lace that will be the bottom lace band.

Also on the needles are Log Cabin squares for a gift blanket in the works.

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The warmer weather and longer days have the hens producing generously again.  My egg buying friends were all grateful today when I was able to bring them the quantities they desire.  Each day gathering 8 to a dozen from the 16 hens.  I’m still unsure whether the two with the pale combs are laying, so I may be getting them from just 14 hens.

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The power has been restored and flickered off and back on again, so I should get our dinner going in case it goes out again.  Until next time.

And So We Endure Jan. 14, 2018

After the nearly 3 weeks of Arctic weather, we were due for a reprieve.  Daughter and family had moved  out nearly all of their furniture that had been moved in for their period of house sharing with us and our furniture that had been relocated to other parts of the house or stored returned.  Jim and I dismantled the bunk bed, storing the full size bottom bunk in the garage until they could pick it up yesterday and the twin size top bunk set up in a corner of the basement to provide another place to put family members if we have too many for the other beds.  The smaller south bedroom was scrubbed down, vacuumed, dusted, and the full size bed, tall chest, nightstand, and rocking chair returned to it.  New Navy blue curtains were hung, but once out of the package, I realized that they are not lined, so some lining fabric will be purchased and I will make the lining and sew it in.

Monday was supposed to be the first warmer day and the grand’s first day at their new school, but Ole Man Winter decided to play a trick and instead of a warmer dry day, we got an ice storm warning.  Schools closed throughout the region in anticipation and we ended up with the grands with us.  Grandson arrived in a too small knit hat that looked like a mouse had chewed it.  He helped me pick yarns and I told him I would trade him a new hat for the one he was wearing

Though initially we thought that it was unnecessary to close the schools, we did indeed get ice.   We got the grands home before it got too bad, but Monday night Jim went out to try to get the two male dogs back in and slipped, landing hard on his hip.  I didn’t hear him calling for help until he had crawled back to the front porch in pain.  As the night wore on, his more intense pain subsided, but he has continued to have a lot of soreness, not enough to keep us from our walks when weather permitted.  Tuesday the schools were to be delayed two hours to give the roads a chance to clear, but by 9 a.m., they again closed.  We were unsure we could get down our mountain road to get the grands, so SIL had to wait for the alternative care program to get straightened out and took the kids there, going in to work late.

The week did finally warm up and we enjoyed a few nice day, enough for the ice on the creeks and the blocks from the chicken watering pan to thaw.  Each day the pan was dumped and fresh water poured in and the yard and chicken run were littered with blocks the shape of the pan or the bucket.  Friday we got much needed rain, and mud.  The dogs come and go through the front door as the deck repair is still in progress out the back.  Late Friday, the rain turned to sleet then to snow and the temperature dropped.  It was 40ºf colder yesterday than Friday.  We got no more than a dusting as the snow blew horizontally until early afternoon when the wind died down, the clouds broke but the thermometer didn’t rise.  Our high yesterday was 21.  Last night to 10.

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The cold, blustery, snowy day encouraged me to continue putting the house together, the front bedroom received the same treatment that the other one got last weekend.  The walls swept down, windows and floor vacuumed and mopped or wiped down, fresh linen on the bed, the heavy quilt that has been stored for 3 years was returned to the bed and new insulated, room darkening curtains hung.

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Friday night when they came to pick up their dog and two housecats, he got his new hat, just in time for yesterday’s frigid weather.

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He had it on yesterday when they came to get the bed and a few more boxes.  I hope it keeps him warm as we endure another week of subfreezing days and bitter nights before the next break.  In the meantime, I am again accumulating blocks of ice from the water pans and buckets and though I thought I only got 1 egg yesterday, this morning when I let the hens out into the yard, I found 4 more, frozen and cracked in a corner of the coop, not in nesting boxes where they could be found.

The Empty Nest

When I moved to the mountains, leaving hubby to work on the coast for a couple more years, we still had one young adult at home and he and hubby shared space for those 3 years.  I was in an apartment for about 15 months, solo except for visits by hubby, son the younger,  or daughter, then moved into the house that we were building with son the elder, daughter in law, and grandson #1.  They shared the house for a couple of years then moved to town as hubby retired and moved to the mountains, leaving son the younger on his own, soon to become engaged and then married.  We had an empty nest for a few years, adding two dogs to the household.  Three years ago daughter and her two kids and their dog moved here while her husband stayed to sell their Florida house and find work here, he joined them in May of that year, bringing their two house cats.  The house has been full of life and energy for the past three years.  We have gotten the kids up  and ready school,  home from the afternoon bus and to Taekwondo a couple days a week for a couple of those years.

In November they bought a house about 18 miles from here in a different school district, but probably 30 minutes closer to work.  They continued to stay here while they got the house ready to move in and while they moved their household furniture and other accouterments from storage  and to allow the grands to finish at the school they started this year up to the Christmas break.

On Thursday, they spent the first night in their new home.  On Friday they got to go to see their new schools and grandson got to meet his teacher.  As their furniture has been removed from two bedrooms, ours has returned.  One room has been cleaned from top to bottom, the bed set up with a brand new mattress, the chest, night stand, rocking chair and lamp that have been stored or relocated for the three years , and that room has been sealed off from the cats.  Tomorrow new curtains will be purchased for that room as one of the Roman shades has been broken and the other two  shades are dirty and faded.

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The other bedroom needed new bed rails and though it has been put back together, their animals are still here until the end of this week to allow floor installers in their house without the dog and cats trying to escaping.  Once they are moved to their new house, that room will be wiped down from top to bottom and the decorations and heavy quilt returned to it.  It will get new curtains soon also as the decade old shades are dirty and faded.

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With them gone, the house looks and seems empty and quiet.  I miss them though we will still see them often, but the quiet is nice.  It is going to take some time to readjust to the empty nest.

Grandson #1 will be happy to have “his” bedroom back when he visits.  For the years he lived here and when he visited until they came, he slept in the south, smallest bedroom that the resident grands have been sharing.  While they have been here, he has slept on a futon in the basement during his visits.  Son the elder and his wife prefer the 4th bedroom in the basement as it is quieter and away from the animals that aggravate allergies.

With the basement, bathroom, two bedrooms, and kitchen cleaned up and reorganized, I need to tackle the loft and our bedroom.  Since hubby got me a nice Dyson vacuum for Christmas (yes, I asked for it), a thorough deep cleaning is in order.  Spring cleaning in the middle of winter.  Come spring, screens need to be repaired or replaced and windows cleaned, but that will wait for warmer weather.

 

 

The Absent Blogger – 8/10/2017

One day seems like the next.  A pleasant August of temperatures not typical of the month, most days reaching only about 80ºf, nights that warrant at least a sheet for cover.  Each day is a series of doctor’s appointments to try to diagnose hubby’s symptoms and the accompanying stress of not knowing, harvesting from the garden that daughter and grands helped me get totally weeded last weekend, canning the harvest, and refereeing the constant squabbles of the grands who have another 18 days before school begins and are tired of each other’s company and the play options available to them.  Most days ending in thunderstorms, though not filling the creeks, it is keeping the garden watered and the dust down.  The seeds planted in empty beds after our weeding session are sprouting to provide us with turnips, radishes, spinach, carrots, and peas for the fall.  The sweet potato vines are thick, kale, chard, and corn thriving, a few small pumpkins appearing amidst the corn. Several of the pullets are laying tiny eggs now, the hens have all but quit laying.  The Monarchs found the parsley and are chowing down, but the butterflies are welcome. The hay was finally moved off of our fields.  The shelves of salsas, pickles, and sauces are filling.  As the tomatoes begin ripening more quickly, pasta sauce and more salsa will be made.  The Asian pears are ripening and pear sauce or pear apple sauce will be made.

Such is a day in the life of the absent blogger.

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6/3/2017 Beautiful late spring

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

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

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

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

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

 

5/20/2017 Community Fun

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

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