Category Archives: Homesteading

5/22/2017 Garden Day

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The morning came with light rain after the torrents of overnight.  The morning was dense with fog, but by noon, the sun began to come out and the garden and chicken run fencing called.  The posts were set yesterday for more than half of the second fence.  The first photo shows part of the run fences, but there wasn’t enough extra fencing to finish the job.  A roll of fencing will be purchased and the run completed.

Before leaving for the Spinning Retreat on Thursday morning, the teenage chicks will be moved into the big coop and left cooped up with food and water while I am gone.  The family will just have to make sure that their containers are filled daily, but the chicks will stay inside so that when I return on Saturday night or Sunday, they will be accustomed to their new abode.

Since the fencing job could not be completed and as the days of rain have caused the weeds to thrive, granddaughter and I tackled the garden beds again and weeded them, harvested the first radishes of the season, thinned the turnips.  Still having some energy, the rest of the corn and pumpkin patch, the three sister’s garden was dug in.  It has been pretty thoroughly weeded, but will still need a good raking to get the rest of the weeds and a few more rocks and then the hills made to plant the corn.  Tomorrow looks very rainy, but perhaps there will be a window of decent weather to get that done prior to my departure.

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At the community open house on Saturday, I plied 350 yards of sport weight natural colored Leicester Longwool and began spinning the 8 ounces of Romeldale that I  had purchased recently.  The fiber is very soft, but has such a short staple that it is spinning into an extremely thin single.  That is a dime under the strand.  Because of the short staple, it doesn’t feel very soft spun.  It may bloom after it is plyed and  washed, we will see, but 8 ounces is going to make a lot of thin yarn.

 

 

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.

5/15/2017 Summer is Coming

The torrential rains of last week are gone with no more rain in the forecast until the end of the week.  The days are near summer like and very breezy.

Yesterday early afternoon, we all piled into the largest vehicle after calling ahead to Outback Steakhouse, one of the restaurants that won’t take reservations, but will let you call ahead to get on their list and drove the half hour to celebrate Mother’s Day for daughter and me.

Mother's Day wait

Somehow, out of the 5 of them crowded on the bench waiting, 3 have their eyes closed.  The wait was less than 30 minutes and we enjoyed a good meal together.

Today, being warm and sunny, Jim took the BBH out for a ride on part of one of the rides he will lead for the 5 state rally next month.  That left granddaughter with me as Monday is her day she does not have preschool.  We ventured off to take the garbage and recycling to the center, then off to have lunch together, and Mommom bought the little lady a 5 year old size purple garden hoe.

Back from lunch, my little helper worked on the bed that will contain the bush beans in a few days, while I weeded the other planted beds and the end of the bed where the sweet potatoes will grow soon, then helped her finish her bed.

Helper

She is the cutest, hardest working little helper on the mountain and she loves the garden.  Note, she left the volunteer sunflower behind her and asked if there would be more planted and would that one get tall and have flowers.  After the beds were weeded and the pea patch trellised, a break for an orange and some juice, a bit of sitting on the front porch swing enjoying the breeze, and we went back out to work some more on the three sisters plot.  The smart weed, lambs quarters, and dandelions are threatening to overtake it.  Working with the hoe and the 4 prong cultivator did little.  Finally just turning it with the garden fork appears to be the only solution.  This tired old body turned row after row while granddaughter picked out the rocks and about a third of it was dug before just wearing out.

Three sisters

Once the 15 X 15 foot block is totally turned, it will be broken up with the 4 prong cultivator to get the remaining weeds and smaller rocks out, raked into the 12 or 16 hills and the corn part of the garden planted.   The pumpkins and tomatillos are going to be started in little pots to be put in the ground in a couple weeks.  The Anasazi beans will be planted with the corn once it is up.

The potatoes are all up and the soil is being added to the barrels as the potato plants reach for the sun.  Once the  barrels are full, they will just be mulched and the potatoes will grow, hopefully to fill the barrels with potatoes for our larder.

During the last few days, the adult hens and Mr. Croak were allowed free range time.  When I go out, I feel like the Pied Piper, as they all come running toward me.

Pied Piper

If I can get the three sister’s bed dug, the beans planted, the chicken run will be altered to make the double fence on the east, south and half of the west sides of the vegetable garden.

5/13/2017 Mother’s Day Weekend

We waited too long to make reservations for lunch or dinner tomorrow, so we will have to try someplace that doesn’t take reservations and just has call ahead service.

Our new phones arrived yesterday and a rainy afternoon was spent getting them set up.  This morning, both us were awake early and with the town mobbed due to commencement exercises at the university, we headed in early to get breakfast and go to the Farmers’ Market.  So many vendors now and so many goodies to buy, meat, vegetables, breads, coffee beans, pasta, yarn, fiber, candles, prepared foods and beverages.  Other errand runs including making sure that the old cell service has been cancelled, bale of straw for the hen house, dog food for the 3 giant beasties that live here were all accomplished, before 10:30, then home.  The next 5 hours were spent in the yard and gardens.

Wood pile before

 

For several years, the woodpile has been up against the vegetable garden fence, leaning against the fence enough to require an extra T-post to keep it from collapsing into the garden.

Wood pile new

Up hill from the vegetable garden are two old cedar fence posts, two other posts that were under the wood were placed on either side of the two verticals, using them as end pieces and the wood was moved and re-stacked there.

Wood pile after

The resulting area will be part of the new flower and herb beds as soon as I get some more cardboard.  Once the wood was moved, the remaining stack of cardboard was toted outside, onions weeded, cardboard laid around two sides of that box where it has not been placed and where the lamb’s quarter was trying to take over, also placed under the fence at the south corner where I had quit prior to the rains.  More cardboard was placed outside of that uphill fence after lots of weed pulling and digging to  clean up around the comfrey and iris and to extend that bed  for two of the perennials that had been residing in pots on the porch. The cardboard was slipped under the fence to overlap the cardboard on the inside of the fence and spoiled hay mulched around them.  Another trip out for cardboard will allow me to carry the bed on around the corner.  The chicken run will just go around the south and west side up to the gate and the electric fencing wire will be reinstalled around the perimeter to stop the deer.

New bed

The inside of the henhouse was hosed down with white vinegar, neem oil, and essential oils and left open to dry.  The bale of straw will be spread in there as soon as it is thoroughly dry.

Something has been nibbling on the baby chard plants so that bed was covered with hoops and bird net.

The chickens have been free ranging since I started working outside today.  they should be put away so the dogs can go out.  We still haven’t gotten them so that they don’t chase the chickens when out.

Perhaps some more weeding and planting can be accomplished tomorrow before we go out for Mother’s Day.

5-12-2017 Olio

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Spring in the mountains brings 80ºf days with or without rain, followed by dull, gloomy 53º days with rain like today.  By the time the garden is dry enough to be worked, the unfilled beds will need major weeding.  This morning, another package of the heritage peas were purchased.  They are going to soak overnight in a bowl of water and be planted in all the empty spaces tomorrow with hopes that we will indeed have peas this year.  Perhaps a tunnel of plastic poultry net will be suspended over the top and sides in case it is critters getting them.

Before the threatened storms last night, I realized that the ten year old peonies finally decided to bloom this year.  The two open blooms were cut and brought inside in case we really got the threatened hail (we didn’t).

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One benefit of the cool wet weather is that the planters of herbs on deck are thriving.

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Some of these will go in the ground as a permanent herb garden if the bed ever gets prepared.  There are two more of the barrels with sage, flat leaf parsley, basil, and cilantro started from seed on another part of the deck.  I sure haven’t had to water this spring. The Iris blooms are beautiful.  Two of the ones added from our neighbor last year began to bloom this year, the third one, a reddish color didn’t come up.  I’m sure another start of it can be obtained once his are blooming and we can see which one to dig.  Most of mine and the daylilies  will need to be divided this summer.  Perhaps the divisions can be used to naturalize the driveway bank along with some more Forsythia rootings.

Yesterday was a delightful day.  Smithfield Plantation House had 3 classes of 4th graders scheduled for tour and I was asked to come spin if available.  As my location is in the summer kitchen/slave cottage, the opportunity to be part of the tour excited me.  With one of my antique wheels there, carders to demonstrate fiber prep, several different heritage wools to show off and pulling from the never dying teaching skills, the classes got a lesson in where the food came from, how it was prepared, where the fiber came from and how it was used.

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With a class at a time, sitting on the floor around me, engaged groups of 10 year olds were questioned, shown equipment, handled wool and yarn, saw two types of spinning wheels, the Appalachian Rocker Loom, old style shears, and a 150+ year old spinning wheel in use, and the iron pots and storage crockery of an 18th century summer kitchen.  A teacher may retire, but the desire to teach stays on.

A busy summer is approaching with fiber retreats for me, HOG rally for Jim, a music weekend for both of us, and ending with a cruise in the fall.  In the mean time, garden  work is scheduled if it will ever dry out.

The coop got cleaned out between storms, but straw hasn’t been purchased to put clean bedding down, and with the rain, the chicks are still crowding on the perches in Huck’s coop each night.  The double fence idea is still lurking if the weather will break to allow a better assessment of the situation.

The painful knee has behaved for the past couple of days.  Hopefully to stay calm and allow the hike with son’s family in mid June.

5/9/2017 Where, oh where have I been?

On the ark, I think.  It has been so wet.  Too wet to weed, too wet to plant seeds, too wet to make the flower beds and get the herbs and perennials planted.  And the wet isn’t over.  Rain today, heavy rain Thursday and Friday with more creek, stream, and river flood warnings.

Tomorrow is moderate, we just missed an end of season frost night before last.  Some of our region got frost and I feared for the tender tomato, pepper, and basil plants, but they did fine.  For some reason, peas just aren’t happening this year.  There have been two plantings, two different brands of the same organic heritage pea and there are only about a dozen pea plants.  There is no evidence that anything is digging them up, nor eating them off, but no peas.  This is a first.  It is time to get the beans and three sisters garden planted.  Maybe it will not rain and be dry enough tomorrow to get the vegetable seed planted and perhaps at least one of the flower beds.

Of late, the idea to use some of the chicken run fencing to create a second row of fencing 4 feet out from the garden to thwart the deer and make a square run that the chickens can use and keep the weeds from encroaching on the garden has been debated.  The issue is the second gate to actually get in the garden from the run.  There is a sturdy wood post that holds the solar charger that perhaps could hold that one, but to enter the garden would require entering the run and walking around to the other side of the run to get in the garden.  That is doable except for taking the garden cart in with me,   Perhaps the second fence could stop on each side of the gate not making a complete loop around the vegetable garden.  By the time I finally get all the beds, runs, and gardens the way I want, I will be too feeble to work them.

double fence

This would be the idea with the chickens between the fences, the coop at one corner and flower beds outside the second fence.

blueberries

Three of the early blueberry bushes are heavy with berries.

Comfrey

The two garden comfrey plants love the cool wet weather.

The chicklets are 9 weeks old and are in need of more space.  It would be a hassle, but if the rain will stop long enough for the main coop to be thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, and dry out, new straw will be placed inside and the young ones will be transferred at night from Huck’s coop where they now reside to the main coop and the culls will be moved to Huck’s coop as there are only 8 of them. They are amusing as they fly and flap around their small run beginning to establish pecking order by charging up to each other, bumping chests, and staring each other down.  It looks like all 16 are indeed pullets, so there should be plenty of eggs come fall and enough for winter even when their laying slows.  There won’t be a break for molting this year as they will not be a year old.  They all come running to the fence when I go over to their run and many will let me touch their chest or back as they leave the coop in the mornings.

Tweens

The knee exercises were started in preparation for the hike and one of them has caused Iliotibial band syndrome, pain on the outer side of the knee joint, especially when going down stairs.  Most of the exercises have been stopped, a compression sleeve usually used when skiing is being worn on my knee, joint support tincture and tea along with Turmeric, Ginger, and Fish Oil taken to try to calm it back down.  I still have 5 weeks til the hike and hopefully will be okay by then.

Like most folks, we rely on cell phones instead of a land line these days.  Jim’s phone is 5 years old and it quit this weekend.  Mine is two and has a cracked screen.  Yesterday we drove to the nearest city to purchase a new battery for his.  The battery was 4 times the price of the one that had been ordered online for mine and it didn’t solve the problem.  His charging jack is corroded and the phone won’t take a charge.  Eldest had told us about Project Fi, Google’s WiFi cell service that allows them service in the deep hollow in which they live.  When visiting, my communication with the world is via Messenger, email, or their landline.  Instead of committing to our carrier for a new phone for Jim, we too are going the Project Fi route.  Our service should be broader, we both will have new phones, and our bill will be slashed by a third even with paying for the phones on installment.  Win/Win.  If their site is correct, they also work overseas in many countries without changing SIM card and without paying international rate.

Thursday, a normal spinning group day, will find me instead in costume at Smithfield House doing spinning demos for school groups scheduled for visits.  It is a good thing that the old Saxony is single treadle with the right foot, I don’t think my left knee would be happy.  Since it is going to be raining, only the one wheel will accompany me, leaving the much larger Walking wheel at home.

Life is good, I just want back in my garden before the weeds take over.

5/2/2017 Play Day

The hardest worker and the most dedicated slacker need an occasional play day.  One of my friends, the owner/operator of Sunrise Valley Farm is the source of the Leicester Longwool fiber that I love to spin.  This is the time of year where her ewes have recently lambed and she had invited me to come to their farm and see the babies.  After dropping grand daughter at preschool this morning, I ventured out to a part of the adjacent county that I had never visited before to their beautiful farm, a mixture of animal pastures for their 3 alpacas, the flock of sheep, a flock of myotonic goats with babies, turkeys, guardian dogs, chickens, and a sole noisy Guinea hen and wooded hillsides.   After a bit of time talking about some new ideas for their Farmers Market stall that will open on Saturday, we ventured out to the barn to see the one little bottle baby.

Lamb

This wee little gal’s mom accepted her ram lamb brother, but not her and being a bottle baby is very used to being petted and rubbed.  She was too big to hide in a pocket to bring home, but I did enjoy having some baby time.  Some of the other lambs would come near, but didn’t really want to be touched as we walked in their pasture.

The young goats bounded around with the adults and were closely guarded by 3 of their guardian dogs.  We only watched them from a distance.  The turkey flock milled around, Tom strutted his stuff trying to impress his ladies.

It was an enjoyable morning, followed with some conversation over a cup of tea, then time to return home to an abbreviated afternoon duties as Jim had done the preschool pick up run and early afternoon supervision and as he was headed to his monthy Harley club meeting, took the grands to Taekwondo.  This left me with a late afternoon and evening at home alone.  A bit of perennial bed  weeding, a harvest of more asparagus and egg collection were all the chores managed outside.  Some reorganization of my spinning corner was accomplished and some prep  of the Cabin Crafted stock in preparation to vend at the spinning retreat the end of the month.

Goodies

It is nice and restorative to have a day off occasionally, a chance to visit friends, and get some baby animal time.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a pleasant day as far as weather, perhaps the bean bed, sweet potato bed, and three sister’s garden will get turned and weeded in preparation for additional planting.  I forgot to check to see if the potatoes were up yet, but I did see evidence that we will have peas this year.  The bunnies don’t seem to bother the peas, but after losing all of my beans to them last year, that bed will be netted this year and the three sisters garden will likely have a low plastic poultry fence around it so the Anasazi beans can get tall enough to climb the corn before the rabbits get them too.

The electric wire needs to be run around the top of the fence to deter the deer.  With only a 4 foot fence, they can hop right in and feast and they too will take out the beans.

The extended forecast looks like we are going to have an early frost free date this year.  My garden has never been started quite this early before.

4/28/2017 – More Progress

Another nice day.  Last night Farmer Jeff brought me two more bales of old spoiled hay to finish the garden prep and for mulch for the new flower beds that are going to be on the outside of the fence for the vegetable garden.  After he brought the second bale, a small collapsed 3 year old bale, he tractored off in the rain showers that last night brought.  When it was getting dark and the rain let up, chicken lock up commenced and when I look where the second bale had been placed, it was gone, just a few strips of compacted hay in it’s place.

bale

The bale must not have been as collapsed as he thought, it took off downhill about 100 feet.  A photo was texted to him and we both had a good laugh.  It is a small enough bale that our little tractor could push it back uphill to the garden.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that if the fence was moved to the lower edge of the active garden that the fallow part could be accessed by the tractor, so fencing was moved, involving pounding in several T posts and I didn’t bean myself with the driver this time. Today, the rocks that had been place over weed mat at the lowest end were moved away from the garden.  Some of them were too large for more than rolling into the tractor bucket.  The weed mat was pulled up along with hundreds of pounds of weeds that grew on and through the mat.  Old pieces of wood that had been holding down the mat and it had been hoped, providing a barrier for the weeds at the edge of the fence line were gathered, the most rotten ones with grubs and ant eggs were tossed into the chicken run for them to attack.  The lip of the tractor bucket served nicely for pulling T posts out of the ground.  This gave me a relatively clear, though uneven area to work.  A few drags across the surface with the back edge of the tractor bucket to level it and the ground cover was sown over the entire area.  The vetch, oats, and field peas can grow there, if the deer find it, it won’t be a disaster and hopefully it will help keep the weed growth down.  Maybe that area can be plowed in the future if a larger garden is desired.

lower garden

The cardboard and spoiled hay is down around all of the boxes and blueberries, the only area to still be worked is the 3 sister’s garden.  Once that area is ready to plant, the new flower beds will be tackled.

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The bluebird house in the lower right corner behind the large bale of hay is the bottom edge of the garden, this photo was taken from the top.  The raspberries need to be thinned, weeded and cardboard placed a bit closer to them.  The radishes and turnips are sprouted and the think the second attempt at peas is working this time.

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Here are 3 or the 4 Welsummer pullets, I really love their feathers and they seem friendlier than the Buff Orpington pullets.  These 16 should be a fine laying flock in a few more months.

I still love this mountain life.  The garden will hopefully be productive and easier to maintain.

Olio 4/14/2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Yesterday was another beautiful day, the 4th in a row.  The forecast is continued nice temperatures, but the next 10 days show 8 of them with a fairly high chance of rain. We had both grands home with us for their spring break, so no serious running around was scheduled.  We did go get the gate hardware at Tractor Supply and came home to a couple hours of work outside time.

The gate hardware was installed on the wooden post that was already set, having to drill a pair of 5/8″ holes about 4 inches into the post.  Once the gate was hung, the end T post was shifted a few inches to give the gate something to abutt  and the fence that had to be removed to move the post was reattached.  A section of rabbit fence was used to close the opening between the chick run and the cull run so the chicklets won’t be able to escape from one run to the other and then out through the welded wire fence.  The three 7 foot tall posts to hold the netting were strung together with a length of braided electric fence wire and anchored to the end T posts and the netting was suspended.  The run is ready to let the chicklets out in another few days.

Chick pen

 

There are two wooden 6 x 6″ posts with the two gates hanging from opposite sites of one post usually and the left gate closing against the second post.  That post now has gate hardware so that one of the gates can be moved leaving one run open.  Maybe someday, a third gate will be purchased, but since there are only two groups of birds to deal with right now, gate moving will occur instead.

Last year at one of the spinning/knitting retreats, I taught a class in salve making and in my shop, I sell several different herbal healing salves.  This summer, I am going to teach a similar class to kids at one day of their camp and am often asked what is the best use for each salve.  This is a topic of interest and so I purchased a new book on herbal medicine, an art that has been practiced since recorded history or before.

Herb book

 

And reading through the book over the last couple of days has gotten me thinking that at least part of the unused garden section can become a permanent herbal medicine garden, consolidating the perennial herb and the annual herbs in one bed of good soil.  One of the herbs that I have never grown, but find interesting is Hops.  In Tractor Supply purchasing the gate hardware, I found this.

Hops

Now a place that it can grow needs to be decided, the box says it will gets 15 to 30 feet long and will trail along the ground, on a fence, or a trellis.  There are a few other herbs that have been on my list for a while that will now be sought out and my next project is to make some tinctures.  As we don’t use chemical fertilizer or herbicides, the plantain and dandelion are safe to use right from the yarn once they have been washed off.  Another project is to try to build a solar dehydrator to dry the herbs.  I envision a stack of wire grids that have a mesh cover to keep the insects out.  Either one that can hang or on wheels that can be brought in off the deck if it is going to rain.

After dark, the big birds were all moved to the huge cull coop so that a cover crop can be seeded and hopefully will germinate in the main run before the 16 chicklets are large enough to move.  After a couple of days in the coop, the big birds will be allowed out into that run and they will be excited to find it full of chick weed to eat.

 

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.