Category Archives: Homesteading

Away, Far Away – 8/28/2017

Life continues to spiral away, hopefully to slow a bit now that the grands are back in school as of this morning.

The eclipse provided a great science lesson last Monday, with eclipse viewing glasses thanks to eldest son and the grands’ other grandma, reflections caught through the broken clouds in a planter saucer of water.

Daughter having to take a day off so we could do more appointments.

More canning, lots of Jalapeños.  Tomatoes being frozen to peel and process this week after more jars are acquired.

Pullets figuring out the egg deal and thus many to deliver to folks who appreciate their efforts as much as we do.

Relearning an old skill, Tunisian Crochet.  Another way to use some of the yarn I spin, but I am so slow with it still.

And a couple days of R & R away for me, friends and fiber, to my favorite fiber retreat, The Knotty Ladies (though there are a couple of guys that are there too).  It is an opportunity to vend my shop as well and yarn, stitch markers, soaps, and salves sold, though none of the knit wear, but then again, everyone in the room knits, spins, crochets, weaves, felts, or some combination of those arts.   A generous skein of sport weight Hebridean was spun and 12 ounces of the softest Merino/Alpaca blend of fiber purchased and one skein of it spun.  There may be a sweater in my near future.

Finally back home to my family and my own bed.

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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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Putting by – July 29, 2017

This is the beginning of the putting by season for the non productive winter to come.  The garden has provided a lot of basil, peppers are maturing, tomatoes too.  Though the peas were a bust this year and potatoes not what I was hoping, the sweet potato vines look healthy, the corn is forming ears, and we are getting enough green beans to eat a few times a week and a bit in the freezer.

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Dairy free pesto for the freezer, pickled and canned jalapeños for the pantry, fire cider for cold season, oregano and basil vinegars, and shelling of field peas for ground cover and chicken treats.  That was one afternoon of work, along with bunches of basil and hyssops drying for teas and cooking.

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Today was our weekly Farmer’s Market visit and breakfast out.  We missed both last week with our music weekend, and next weekend will be the huge street festival that happens in town, so many vendors will not even try to attend the market on Saturday.  With this being the height of the season and with several of the meat vendors having recently gotten cuts back from the abattoirs, we stocked up on some meats.  Peaches are in season as well as cucumbers and we came home with several pounds of peaches and a couple of pounds of pickling cucumbers.  Once home, another putting by session was held.

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Eight half pints of the Peach Sriracha sauce that is a hit here, and 4 pints of classic dill spears were prepped and canned.  The pot used today for water bath canning only holds 7 half pints or 4 pints at a time, so one jar of Peach Sriracha sauce went into the refrigerator for use now.

Though she isn’t a sponsor and I get nothing for this recommendation, if you are a new canner, have limited space for storing, or a small family to prepare for, Marissa McClellan’s books, Food in Jars, and Canning by the Pint are priceless.  The Peach Sriracha recipe is one of her jams that I blend and prepare thinner for a sauce and came from one of her books. She has a newer book on canning with sweeteners other than white sugar that I haven’t tried as I make few sweet canned items.

Right on the 20th week since hatching, one of the pullets presented us with an egg.  It is a Welsummer egg, reddish brown but not as dark as I had hoped they would be.  All 4 of the Welsummers have bright red combs and wattles, so we should start seeing eggs from all of them soon.  The Buff Orpingtons will probably not lay for another month.

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Pullet eggs are so cute compared to the mature hen’s eggs.

Earlier this spring, I bought a pound of raw fawn colored alpaca locks from one of the local vendors.  This week, I spun a bobbin of it and a bobbin of some chocolate brown alpaca roving that had been given to me a year or so ago, and plied them into more than 200 yards of light fingering weight pure alpaca yarn, pictured in the header.  I think it will be knit into a hat and fingerless mitts for the shop, but maybe it will just be sold or traded, especially as more is currently being spun.

And So It Begins Again – July 12, 2017

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The big pots and canner brought down from the high shelves where they rest between seasons.  At the end of the growing season last year, I ran out of jars and energy to can any more tomatoes, so 6 or so gallon bags were frozen.  Instead of using them first, which would have been the wisest thing to do, the canned jars of sauce and tomatoes were used and all winter and spring, the bulky bags of little frozen orbs were shifted around the freezer.  When the last jar of pasta sauce was opened, I decided to make a big pot of sauce from the remaining tomatoes, but chose to only use the spaghetti cooker and ended up using only a few bags of the tomatoes.  That sauce was frozen in wide mouth pint jars and most of it has been used as it takes about 3 pints to feed the 6 of us and 3 pints to make a large lasagna.  This morning, while looking for some chops to thaw for Jim’s dinner, one of the bags of tomatoes fell out of the freezer.  It was time to make them go away, but in a useful way.  After swim lessons, a roving dyeing session, some computer help for Jim, the tomatoes were tackled.  As they had been frozen whole in their skins, I knew that the skins would be tough, but I didn’t want to water thaw and peel 3 1/2 gallons of tomatoes, so they were just dumped into a huge pot to thaw.  The food mill was hauled down and the thawed tomatoes run through a fairly coarse blade to rid the pot of skins.  The remaining sauce was thickened slightly and 9 1/2 pints of sauce processed.  Most of it was canned so it is shelf stable, but the canner only holds 8 wide mouth pints, so the remaining pint plus will go in the freezer, a much smaller space consumer than the bags of frozen tomatoes.

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The new fresh tomatoes are just beginning to come in for this year, so far only a handful of small slicers, but the plants are heavy with fruit, so canning of tomatoes, sauce, and salsa will soon commence.

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The roving dyeing session was done as the camp that I will teach begins soon and the kids find the colors more fun than plain white roving.  Three pans were dyed, blue and purple, blue and yellow, yellow and tomato red.

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A dozen drop spindles have been made for them to each have one to keep.  Last year’s version was a bit too light for the beginners, so this year, I sought larger wooden truck wheels and slightly larger shafts so they spin longer.  My friend that works with me, bought small weaving looms for them as well.  We will take our spinning wheels and each child will be given the opportunity to make a strand of singles which we will double back on itself to make them a strand of yarn.

I still need to go through some of my commercial  yarn to help warp the looms and for them to use as weft to weave a small project.

The other prep is for the other day that I will work with them on herbal medicine.  The plantain leaves and the calendula flowers have been brewing in oil for many weeks now, the handout for the plant walk and instructions on how to use various wild and cultivated plants for food or medicine has been prepared, but still needs to be printed out for them.

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Whew, what a week – July 10, 2017

What a whirlwind the past week.  The garden has been neglected as the only time I was home to work on it, it was either raining or too hot to want my fair skin out in the sun.

Last Monday, eldest continued on the high lifter, staining high parts of the house while I worked on removing screens, staining the windows that tilt inside, passing supplies out the window from the upstairs to him on the lifter bucket.  We moved the lifter as night fell up to the gravel of the driveway before the predicted rain was due.

Tuesday, being Independence Day in the USA, the historic house, Smithfield House, where I go to spin in costume, held a 4 hour celebration of the day with hourly cannon fire, apple pie contest, reading of the Fincastle Resolution and the Declaration of Independence, re-enactors, the blacksmith, weavers, spinners, tours, and fun by all.

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Wednesday it rained and we stayed home with the grands, getting them to their evening Taekwondo classes.

Thursday, they were loaded in our car and off we drove east nearly 3 hours to meet youngest son and his family who drove west about 3 hours and met in Charlottesville to let the cousins play, us to get some snuggle time and to visit with our son and his wife for a late morning, lunch, and early afternoon before the trips were reversed back to our respective homes.

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The car time allowed knitting time as I rode passenger and good progress was made on the fingerless mitts to go with the Fiesta hat from the playful handspun yarn.  The second mitt was finished yesterday.  The set has been uploaded to my shop for sale.

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Friday was laundry and get my act together day as Saturday, Jim and I were taking off in opposite directions for the weekend.  He left on the BBH for a very long ride with his club.  They went way west in the state to various sights and parks and to overnight in a hotel in Norton, Virginia.  I got the groceries for the week purchased, brought home and put away and then took off north to eldest son’s house.  They were not home when I got there, though their car’s were, so I settled in the cool quiet and knitted on the second mitt and spun on a drop spindle.  Finished a novel I had been reading, but it wasn’t worth a review or the time spent reading it.

Sunday, their young one had archery day at the Isaac Walton League facility and I went with daughter in law to watch that while son went with another group from the league to pick up trash from the road into their community.  Sunday afternoon, son, young one, and I drove south about an hour and a half to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriar’s theater to see Love’s Labors Lost in that wonderful setting, the second one that I have had the opportunity to see this summer.  We were fortunate to be seated on three of the Gallants’ stools, the 12 stools on the side edges of the stage.  It was such a great experience, being right there in the action, seeing the facial expressions, having lines spoken directly to you.

After a couple of days and nights away, a drive home early this morning to help with the summer’s swim lessons for the grands and back to the “normal” routine here, I am worn out.  As I went out to secure the hens and pullets near dark, my one little pullet that wants a nightly hug awaited me outside the coop.  In the several years of raising chickens, she is the first that wants to be handled.

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Though the rest of the week is supposed to be record hot, I hope to get the yard mowed, the chicken runs trimmed with the string trimmer, the garden weeded, the onions and garlic pulled and cured and perhaps some other veggies that may have matured in our week of travel and chaos.

Blue Skies and Garden Firsts – 6/27/17

The past week went so fast having eldest grandson here for a visit.  He spent his first years here as we watched him grow from 9 weeks to Kindergarten before they moved for schooling for Mom and Dad.  I see him more often than Jim as I will go up for days or a week or so at a time to help out with care.  He is so big now, soon to be as tall as I and he just turned 12.

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Many activities were planned, a day trip to Smith Mountain Lake Dam, a play day at the Frog Pond (a local pool with slides, basketball, and shallows for tiny people), basketball, ping pong , and a movie with dinner evening with Jim, lunches out, books to read, and lots of good food at home for a growing kid.  His Dad, our eldest, came Saturday in time for dinner and ping pong with the young one, and Sunday, son climbed the 28′ extension ladder and got a good portion of the very exposed west wall of our log home re-stained.  They left after dinner Sunday to return to their home for a work and camp week.  Son is returning alone this weekend with hopes to finish that wall and the south upper dormer.

Friday night, daughter’s family returned from their vacation and resumed their house hunting, possibly finding one that will allow their kids their own bedrooms and a start of the school year in their new home.

For the next few of weeks, the grands are in our care during the day with some swimming lessons scheduled soon, transport twice a week to Taekwondo to meet parents.

The weather has cooled and dried out for the past few days.  This morning, a much needed garden session was done with some tomato brutality as I cut suckers that should have been cut before now and the plants tied to their stakes.  Last year there was a huge mess as a new support structuring was tried and failed miserably with many lost tomatoes as they were on the ground for the pill bugs to attack and hidden for purposes of harvest.  This year, there will be only one main stem per plant, determinate varieties, and tied regularly to garden stakes until they reach their full height.  The process revealed many small green tomatoes and one that is already ripening.

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Tied and before the cut stems were removed.

Today there was a first sunflower set against the prettiest blue sky.

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I’m not sure that any of the sunflowers that I planted are going to produce.  The two volunteers may be all we get unless I can get some seedling going soon.

Last night, preparation for the two days of camp that I will be teaching was begun.  One day will be a plant walk, herbal medicine discussion, and making of an herbal salve to take home.  The other day, with my friend that worked with me last year, we will again teach some fiber arts with homemade drop spindles that they get to keep, a chance at using one of our spinning wheels with help to make a necklace with “their” yarn, and a chance to weave a few rows on a rigid heddle loom.

The haying for this year is done and the hay scattered around our fields like big sedentary buffalo.  Farmer Jeff came by as I was mowing a few days ago to pick up a piece of his haying equipment and it always amuses me to see his behemouth tractor with my tractor beside it.  Mine looks so small, though it is a full size, but small tractor.  Pictures of them together in the header.

I love summers in our mountain home.

Olio – June 9, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

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Today was the last full day of the Harley Davidson 5 State Rally in Roanoke and the third ride that Jim was the ride Captain.  Grandson had his last day of school and I picked him up at 11 and we drove to the covered bridge in our community and sat for a few minutes until the 15 or so bikes rode by us on the way up to Mountain Lake Lodge to see the Dirty Dancing display, it was filmed there, and to have lunch.  We hurried in to town, picked up granddaughter from Preschool and back up the mountain where we joined the big group on the porch for lunch.  They were a really nice group of folks and the kids were well behaved and hungry.

Back home, my ride, the tractor was brought out and the yard mowed, showing the clear demarcation between the lawn and the hay.

It was such a nice afternoon that the new wheel and I adjourned to the front porch and a funky skein of yarn was plyed.  Daughter named it “Seussical” as soon as she saw it.  I am now spinning a yellow and orange skein that will be used with “Seussical” to make a hat and mitts for the Holiday Markets in the fall and winter.

While sitting there, the distinctive buzz of a hummingbird was heard and soon, the little emerald green hummer was feeding right in front of me. I have tried for years to get a photo of one and if I sat still and stopped spinning, it returned repeatedly to the feeder.

While I was prepping tacos for dinner, the haying team arrived and the area where the photo of the short grass and the tall hay along with most of the rest of the area in front of the house were mowed with a sickle bar to be raked and baled tomorrow or Sunday.  The big 15′ mower will arrive tomorrow and take on the big fields that have fewer obstacles and longer straighter runs.  The sickle bar will go around the rock piles and along the edges of the fields.  Soon the farm will be neat and mowed.  Farmer Jeff is right on schedule, he always gets to us in the second or third week of June.  The grands will be glad to have more area to play once the hay is all in.

 

My Corner Looks Empty – June 6, 2017

In the past week, two of my three spinning wheels have gone to new homes.  The Louët left by mail last Thursday for Connecticut and arrived safely on Saturday.  The old Amable Paradis was driven by me about halfway to it’s new owner in North Carolina late this afternoon. The corner only contains the great wheel until tomorrow.

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If the tracking is right, the new Ashford Traveller arrives tomorrow. The oils and waxes to finish her are awaiting her arrival.  She needs to be stained with the tinted Tung Oil mix at least twice and be dry by Sunday when I will need her at the Smithfield House Flag Day Ceremony.  I really would like to get a good coat of wax on too, but don’t want to rush the drying process.

The delivery of the old wheel this evening was at a location chosen by the buyer’s husband.  He was to meet me without her and I had to drive to him solo as Jim is in Roanoke for the next 4 1/2 days at his rally.  Meeting a stranger in a strange location was a bit scary, but there ended up being 3 State troopers eating in Subway, a gas station, Chinese buffet, and motel all in the parking lot that made me feel better, then he called and said he had missed the exit and had gone miles beyond our designated meeting place in the direction that I needed to go to return home.  A new exit was selected between us and the meeting was uneventful, a pleasant retired Coastie, his wife is a lace maker and wants to spin too.

Prior to delivering the grands to Taekwondo and their Mom, granddaughter and I planted the pumpkin and tomatillo seedlings this afternoon.  The corn is several inches tall now.  Before leaving to babysit eldest grand next week, the Anasazi beans will be planted in with the corn and pumpkins.

Arriving home just before sundown this evening, the annual hay mowing had begun on our side of the ridge.  Our farmer friend mows and bales several fields around us including ours and the largest field near us was about half mowed.  By the time my week away babysitting and backpacking is done, our fields should be mowed and baled as well.

As it was still light enough to close up the coops and collect eggs without a flashlight when I arrived home, the hens, pullets, and Mr, Croak were secured and the lonely sole egg of the day collected.  The hens are so senior that eggs are being offered in very small quantities.  It will be nice when the pullets are mature enough to start providing.

The walk over to the coop and back revealed the first Daylily of the season bloomed today.  Daylily season is such a joy with the beautiful trumpet shaped, various colored blooms.  If only the season were longer.  Additions of later and ever blooming varieties have been added to the garden to extend the season but it is still too short.

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Though the header is a few nights ago, tonight was another lovely pink post sunset.

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.