Category Archives: Homesteading

It is done . . . 8/7/2018

. . . and so am I.  This week has definitely not gone as planned.  Saturday, I had a wonderful time playing at being a Revolutionary War re-enactor.  I got to sit in the shade of a friend’s canopy in front of his tent and spin and vend some soaps, yarn, and salves.  We had lots of visitors watching me and then Mark as he demonstrated scrimshaw work on cow horns that he makes into period powder horns.  There were many vendors of other goods and demonstrators of various skills.  I came home with a new apron and the shallow crowned straw hat that the ladies of the period wore.  It needs to have ribbon added around the crown and to tie it on so it doesn’t blow away.

Sunday, we had invited our daughter and grandkids over for dinner.  I bought a pork shoulder on Friday, put it in the Instant Pot on slow cook for 10 hours with Carolina style vinegar to make barbecue.  This was done before I left on Saturday morning.  When I got home, it still had an hour or so to go and we left together to go to the street festival in Blacksburg to look around and buy food from a street vendor.  We came home with a signed copy of a book by a local author, Michael Abraham.  We had read most of his other books and this is his newest where he followed the path of the Powhatan  Arrow train that I used to ride from Norfolk to Farmville when I was in college.  I also found some beautiful pottery plates and purchased 3 to replace several of ours that have broken in the last couple of years.

When we got home, I checked the BBQ and it was cooked through but wouldn’t shred, so I left it in the Instant Pot, set it for pressure cook for 40 minutes, and it was perfect.  It was stored away in the refrigerator until time to reheat it for dinner with the family on Sunday.  We ate too much and enjoyed each other’s company until they left for home.  With about an hour and a half of daylight left, I set out on the riding lawn mower we bought new in May to try to get some of the yard mowed.  With the hot dry it wasn’t growing much, but then the rain returned and it grew with a vengeance.  I was about a third done when the mower’s engine cut off and wouldn’t restart.  That require Jim and me to push it uphill from behind the house to the garage.

Monday morning was spent in a series of frustrating calls trying to figure out whether it had to be returned to Lowe’s or taken directly to a repair shop and which one did warranty work for that brand for Lowe’s.  Neither Lowe’s nor the repair shop would pick it up without an exorbitant fee, so we moved our trailer down near the house, pushed the mower up the driveway hill until we were above the trailer, tilted the trailer bed and used gravity to help us get the mower up onto the trailer, then drove it the hour plus to the town with the repair shop, unloaded it with them, and returned home.  Monday was shot.

This morning, knowing that the rest of the week is going to be disrupted, I put on work clothes to try to finish the deck cleanup.

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The wood that was salvageable for chicken coop and barn repair jobs was cleared of nails and brackets to be stored in the barn.  To do this, a long pry bar and a framing hammer were used to remove the sharp metal.  This morning after a couple of hours of clearing nails and brackets, I managed to pinch the tip of my right index finger between the pry bar and an old nail and bracket, breaking the skin and bleeding a lot for a tiny cut.  It had been 7 or 8 years at least since I had had a DTAP shot, so the work was stalled for a while, the cut costing a few hours work, a $38 copay, and a sore arm after I got a load up to the barn, then Jim helped me get two more up.  The Pharmacist warned me that my arm would feel like she beat me tomorrow.  Since we were out for that, a trip to Wilderness Road Regional Museum was made to deliver a tray of my products for them to sell.

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While there, a possible date was set for me to teach the first of maybe several classes.  The first on selecting herbs and wild plants, infusing them, and making salves.  Once home, it was back into work clothes to see if more of the bracket and nail removal could get done today, and with much persistence and many hours of work, all the boards are free of sharp objects, and only two doubled joists that I can barely turn over, much less pick up have been moved to storage in the barn.

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The last long board that I could handle alone ready for it’s trip up the road.  The remaining two are in the grass in the foreground.  They will be moved with help later this week.  After all of the clean up, I used the carefully adjusted brush hog to finish the mowing from Sunday night while we await the diagnosis and hopefully warranty repair on the 10 week old riding mower.

Tomorrow, I am leaving alone to go to Shrine Mont.  My brother and part of his family, my sister and her granddaughter, and a cousin are there.  I see those members of the family too infrequently to not make the 3 hour drive.  I will spend one night there and visit.

On Friday, the Newport Agricultural Fair begins, it is the oldest Ag fair in Virginia.  Between 4 and 8 p.m., I have to get the knitted items that I am submitting for judging delivered.  We will enjoy some of the events on Friday and more on Saturday and pick up my items after judging and display.

I am glad that the deck destruction is done.  Now the reconstruction can begin.  We will be leaving in a little more than a week to go to Hawaii with our youngest and his family and our daughter in law will farm sit for us.

Tonight I am tired with sore muscles, back, finger, and arm.  I am done.

The Calm Between …8/2/2018

the storms that is.  We got over two inches of rain last night and another 1 to 3 predicted for this afternoon and overnight.  Don’t get me wrong, we were approaching drought conditions and need the rain, but it makes our daily health walk, gardening, and deck destruction clean up difficult.  Playing in a rain shower occasionally is fun, working in downpours with distant thunder and sometimes visible cloud to ground lightening is not.

We ventured into town for a few groceries as there is a huge two day street festival in town this Friday and Saturday, thus rendering the Farmers’ Market nearly inaccessible and few vendors even try because of the difficultly in getting their goods in and back out, the festival surrounds the site. While there, we scored 8 cabbage and 8 broccoli starts that were locally started, and the 6th desired blueberry bush, an early producer of large sweet berries, 20% off.

When we got home, the sky looked threatening, but no rain was falling, no thunder heard, no lightening visible, so the plants were hustled over to the garden, the fat Buff Orpington hen that insists on “flying” to the top of the fence, balancing precariously, then dropping into the garden to peck any tomato that is even slightly reddening was ushered back out of the fence.  It frustrates me that she is getting in, there are so few tomatoes this year because of the blister beetles, that I am cherishing each one.  Enjoying a fresh sliced one each day and only freezing the scarce extras for sauce later.

A spade and hand trowel gathered from the garage and a few short minutes work in the wet soil and the Blueberry bed is ready for mulch.

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The 16 young starts were set in two parallel rows, spaced far enough apart to allow growth.

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That bed then covered in a tunnel that was long enough to cover half the spinach and lettuce rows planted a few days ago.  The tunnel will help deter cabbage worms that love to feast on the cole crops.  The cover will also extend the season for the lettuce and spinach hopefully.

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On my way out, it appears that the 3 lonely pie pumpkins are turning orange, probably another attractant for the hen, so some protection will be needed, but we will at least have pumpkin pies for the holidays.

 

Back in the house, there is some distant rumbling of thunder, the rain will soon begin again.  Hope the power stays on until dinner is prepared.  This is the first year of my garden that I have actively sought to extend the growing season into the fall instead of enjoying the spring harvest and quitting.  This is also the first year that the weeds haven’t totally discouraged me by now.  Though there are some in the aisles, the raised box beds have been easier to maintain and the cardboard between the boxes has made the weeds easier to deal with in the aisles.  I just need to obtain the mulch for bedding it down at the end of the season.

Back to rainy day pursuits of spinning and knitting.  I am not happy with the length of the fingerless mitt and will remove the top ribbing and add another cable repeat before the ribbing.

Rest Day/Garden Day – 7/30/18

The garden has been neglected except for harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers of late.  I did get a second planting of bush beans in a couple of weeks ago and they are sprouting nicely.  The garlic needed to be pulled and cured.  It went in so late it isn’t a good crop, but hopefully will provide enough to allow a fall planting so next year we will have a good crop and some to enjoy this winter.  So the now cured onions were trimmed, the odd double ones, ones with still green necks, and ones with soft spots were culled and moved to the kitchen to be used first.

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Then the pulled garlic was laid out on the hardware cloth shelves to cure.  Once cured, they will be trimmed and used this winter except for the ones used to plant for next year’s crop.

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After spending part of last weekend traveling home  from visiting our youngest son and his family, last Sunday on deck destruction with eldest son, part of the week on Historic Camps and destruction clean up, and Saturday on the remaining destruction, I needed a break from pulling brackets and moving heavy lumber.  Part of Sunday was spent in the fruit and vegetable garden.  Tomatoes and cucumbers picked early in the day, a few blister beetles picked and killed, and while out there, the remaining bean stems pulled and tossed to the chickens.  This was a reminder that a couple of beds needed to be worked on and some fall seed planted.  A couple of afternoon hours were spent weeding where the beans had been, pulling and hoeing the few weeds that had come up in the bed where the peas had been and half of that bed was seeded with spinach and a leaf lettuce called Drunken Woman.  I had to get that one just because I liked it’s name.

The bed that had been the tree nursery was turned and rocks removed, a good thick layer of compost and some bone meal turned and raked in and the blueberry bushes moved into it.

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Cardboard was put down beside that bed and the half barrels were moved onto it.  The cardboard will kill the weeds under it, leaf mulch will be laid down on top of it and except for an aisle wide enough to keep chicken heads from pecking berries through the fence, that will be the edge of the garden once we have a frost and the pumpkins are harvested.

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The pumpkins vines were already spreading to that area so I put them back in place after the cardboard was down.

Layered over that piece of cardboard is the other half of that huge box which may get more half barrels.  They are great for growing potatoes and herbs or flowers in the garden.  That sheet is being held down by a couple of bags of mulch that are just serving as weights and will be used in a flower bed around the house once leaf mulch or straw is obtained.

Hopefully, this week cabbage and broccoli starts will be available and they will go in the bed with the lettuce and spinach.  Perhaps a 6th blueberry shrub will be purchased to add to the blueberry bed.  They will hopefully thrive in the enriched deeply dug bed.  Once the last one is in place, a thick layer of straw or leaf mulch will placed around them to keep the weed load down.

That will leave only the 4 X 4′ bed that contained the garlic unplanted, and it will be sown with oats that will serve as a cover crop and the seed head given to the chickens, the oat straw can be used as mulch or coop bedding next spring.

I still need to tackle the raspberry bed now that the berry season is over and the Japanese beetles have moved on.  I still have a large cardboard box, but will need more to try to smother the wild geraniums and the raspberry volunteer shoots that are encroaching on the aisles and vegetable boxes.

This week between the rain, the rest of the salvageable deck wood will be moved to the barn until it is needed for another project.  Eldest son suggested adding a low dry stacked wall off from the existing tall dry stack retaining wall as a means of using some of the tons of rock that were under the old deck.

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The chalk line will mark the new wall, eliminating an area that is very difficult to mow because of the steepness and contour that really don’t show well in the photo.

The new deck will stop at the corner you see with steps coming down to where all the rock is, a path of flat stone will cross where the old deck stood over to the stoop where the old steps came down into the yard.  A small stone patio will eventually be worked into part of that area, the rest the new garden bed.

Once the new wall is build and backfilled with leaf mulch, the mints, lemon balm, thyme, and rosemary will be planted there.  The stones will help keep it warm and they will be allowed to spread and thrive as a perennial herb garden.

Today’s header is a picture we rarely see.  Though the pups are best buddies, the Mastiff owns that spot.  He used to sleep beside our bed on Jim’s side, but decided he liked the Shepherd’s bed or space.  We tried putting both beds there, but he stands over Shadow until she vacates even if he only takes one bed.  They were caught sharing the space, each on their own bed.

What was old is new again – 7/29/18

Our ancestors lacked a local grocer easily accessible by a quick trip to town, they grew their own produce and meat or hunted for meat and had to have ways to preserve it for the winter.  When the garden comes in, it is a busy time.  They also lacked electric refrigerators and gas or electric stoves and heating the stove that provided both heat and cooking surface was undesirable in mid summer.  Canning in jars was done, usually over an open fire outdoors and some foods don’t safely can in boiling water, pressure canners were a product of the future.  Sugar when it was available and salt were found to be great preservers of foods.  Meats were smoked and hung in the smokehouse.  Most homes had either a spring house, root cellar, or basement that stayed cool and dark thus was a good place to store home canned foods.  Fruits were made into jams and butters, or canned in syrups.  Beans were often left to dry and shelled or strung in long strings whole while green to become leather britches and reconstituted when desired, they are a vegetable that does not safely can in boiling water.  Potatoes, yams, carrots, onions, garlic, pumpkins, and whole apples can be put in the cool dark and used as needed without further processing.  Some greens will grow well into the fall or winter, if covered with straw and some, like cabbages will store in the cool dark for a while, but not all winter.

Storing  whole green beans, whole or cut cucumbers in heavily salted water in crocks in the cool storage produced very desirable pickled vegetables that could be enjoyed until the garden produced again the next season.  Cabbage, sliced thin and salted then mashed into a crock did the same thing. Though they didn’t know what the processes was called or why it worked, they knew it did produce safe delicious food.

The process we now know is lacto fermentation.  In the absence of air, anaerobic, the salted vegetables produce lactic acid which ferments the vegetables into pickles or sauerkraut.  Kraut can be seasoned with caraway seed, mixed with shredded beets, or left plain, and nothing is better than Farmers’ Market brats with homemade sauerkraut on a crisp fall day.  The cucumbers can be spiced up with crushed red pepper, black peppercorns, heads of dill, garlic, whole cloves, and ground ginger.  Green beans are best with dill and crushed red pepper.  What is best is this process doesn’t heat up the kitchen.  It can be done a quart jar at a time or in a crock (even a food safe plastic bucket if you use them, I don’t).

Some vegetables can be lacto fermented, but don’t last as long on the shelf, even have to be refrigerated such as the tiny heirloom tomatoes with basil, or eggplant.  They are best done in smaller batches that can be enjoyed within a couple of weeks.

Lacto fermenting is a newer passion with me.  I made sure that there were pickling cucumbers in the garden this year, and they are doing nicely.  It only takes 4 or 5 to make one quart jar and about 10 minutes prep time, no heat, no mess.

Though the fall garden will have a few cabbages for cold storage, the Farmers Market already has some, so a small, about 2 pound one was shredded and salted this morning to produce a quart of saukerkraut.

The cucumbers only take 2 to 5 days to be ready to enjoy dill slices or quarters, the dilly beans and kraut take about two weeks to fully finish their ferment.  The longer you leave them at room temperature, the stronger the flavor.

We do have an unheated section of our basement that is good for water bath or pressure canned goods, onions, garlic, pumpkins, and the like, it is a bit too warm to stop the fermentation, so those vegetables are stored in the extra refrigerator in the basement along with the vinegar brine pickled jalapenos.  If the power fails, they are still safe in the cool dark space, just like when the pioneers in this region and their ancestors did in their spring houses and root cellars.

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A Week on the Farm – 7/27/18

Summer is going so quickly and the weather has been so strange this year.  A foot of snow in mid April after spring like temperatures in February.  Rain and more rain in early summer, making putting in a garden a challenge, then hot and arid.  Then the rain returned, along with insect pests in the garden, first Japanese beetles eating the leaves off of the Raspberry bushes, then they were joined by bean beetles and together, they decimated what remained of the first bean crop.  Then the blister beetles arrived and defoliated some of the tomatoes.  I hand picked them, dropping them in soapy water then sprinkled diatomaceous earth on the ground around the plants to try to kill off any that escaped to earth during the hand picking. The plants are alive, not putting out new growth, but fruit is ripening.

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The tomatoes are being frozen whole but there are so many in the freezer now that I will pull them out, slip the skins off, and begin canning them this week when the rain resumes.  The cucumbers that I planted this year for pickles are small and greenish white, interesting mild smooth flavor raw.  Most of them are being lacto fermented into sour dills thick slices.  Maybe a jar or two of spears too.

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The silicone nipple lids and glass jar weights make the fermenting so easy.

There were two partial days off the farm this week in Colonial costume working with children, demonstrating the fiber arts and teaching drop spindling.  Working with kids like this rejuvenates me.

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Today, since it stayed dry yesterday and since tomorrow we will resume deck destruction, to take down the rest of the framework, I tackled cleanup.  One task that I had promised eldest son that I would get done, was to move the scaffolding that we were not using for the deck back into storage.  When we built the house, instead of renting scaffolding, we purchased it, knowing that it would be used repeatedly with staining the logs and other jobs.  On occasion we have loaned some of it out to friend.  Most of it was stacked against the house at various points and had been there for a year.  It is now back in the back of the huge garage until needed again.

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More the rotting deck wood was burned off in the burn barrel while I was working outside.

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There will be another burn tomorrow, I am sure.  To finish the jobs that I said I would get done this week was to stain the logs that were stained during construction then hidden behind the deck.  They got a coat of diluted stain today and will probably get another coat, less diluted tomorrow.  After tomorrow, we get another round of rain, so I will have to hope for a dry couple of days to get a third coat on before the new deck goes up.

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This is the last day lily bloom of the season and for some reason, it is lopsided.  This one is called Sear’s Tower and gets quite tall.

Last night while we sat on the front porch in the cool evening, a tiny ruby throated hummingbird visited the feeder.  That is the first one I have seen that really had the vivid red throat.  This morning, another little hummer decided the feeder was all his/hers, came for a drink and then sat on the crook neck to guard the feeder, not letting any of the others near it.  It guarded for about 10-15 minutes, feeding then guarding, finally flew off.  The photo isn’t great, taken from inside the house through the screen and enlarged, but you get the idea.

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The header photo and the teaching photo were taken at the Wilderness Road Regional Museum camp and used from their site.

No Rain, But Rested-7/17/18

Again it was HOT and no rain.  I could see rain less than a mile away and a rainbow, but we got sprinkles for a minute and nothing more.  It is dry, dusty, arid, dry.

My effort for yesterday outdoors was to water the daylily bed and the new bed that goes down the back of the garage with the half barrels.  The plants look wilted.  And a small harvest of a few ripening tomatoes, cucumbers, and bush beans.  The tomatoes will be frozen until there are enough to peel and can. Most of the day was spent indoors, with the air conditioner turned back on partly because of the heat and partly because the dreaded pipeline work is now close and between the dust and noise pollution the heavy equipment kicks into the air and the huge burn piles of wood they couldn’t log out, the air quality is not good.  Our beautiful, clear mountain air is fouled and the landscape is scarred.

With the A/C on, I was able to pick up my sweater and work on the sleeves.  I would like to finish it to enter in the Agriculture Fair, but I think I may have to enter a different project, it doesn’t look like it will get done.  If I could get the sleeves finished, the body will go quickly with less turning and fewer balls of yarn to tangle.

While waiting for the last few hens to straggle into the coop last night, I picked the last few raspberries for the season.  The canes that didn’t get cut last fall need to be cut back and the ones that fruited this year cut back in the fall.  The remaining canes need to be thinned and somehow, I would like to get the mat of wild geranium weeded out from around them,  Maybe I should just leave it as it is low, thick and keeps most of the other weeds from developing in the bed.

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Those berries didn’t make it into the house.

The rest of the week is supposed to be cooler, we will see, and we are supposed to get rain today, again, we will see.  The hay man came yesterday to pick up the rest of his hay, but he seemed to be having tractor trouble, couldn’t get the bales up onto the truck more than Ia single level high and then the tractor sputtered to a stop with a bale still speared on the spike.  He drove the truck with 8 bales off and didn’t come back.  There are still many bales in the field and the tractor.  I hope the tractor problem isn’t serious for him.  It is one of many, but each seems to have it’s own function in the process, maybe just so the attachments don’t have to be changed as frequently.

There are 5 large comfrey plants in the garden and beds, some of it is used in making the salves that I use and sell.  By mid July, after the first flower, they seem to collapse outward and send up second growth.  This morning, I noticed as I went to let the hens out, that the collapse was complete.  Comfrey makes excellent mulch and if packed in a water filled bucket and left in the sun, though a stinky slimy mess, it is terrific fertilizer.  The large clippers were carried out and the three within the vegetable garden fence were cut back and the cut leaves placed in aisles of the garden as mulch.

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It is a messy looking mulch, but effective and in a few days will be a brown mat to help keep the weeds down.  The second growth is already visible.  The two that are outside of the vegetable garden are going to be cut and put in a 5 gallon bucket of water to use as fertilizer on the vegetable garden in a few weeks.

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The big guy is missing his kid.  He spent most of yesterday near the hallway to the back bedrooms or laying by the seat that grandson preferred.  This morning he was looking out on the porch, hoping he would come back inside.  Grandson has been in his life forever on a visiting basis and they adore each other.  As a 6 or 7 month old pup, he rode to Florida with his head in grandson’s lap.  After 3 1/2 weeks of having him here everyday, Ranger doesn’t understand where his kid went.

 

 

Sunday Was Not A Day of Rest – 7/16/18

The young one was still complaining of a belly ache and spent the day resting and sleeping on the couch in the midst of the household chaos.  He and his granddad, who also didn’t feel well were the only ones who rested and worked at recovery.

Sausage gravy and biscuits were made, but only son and I ate them. Daughter and her two littles arrived just before 10 a.m. with a flat of jars.  Everyone was Deep Woods Off sprayed, given pails of varying description and off we went to pick enough berries to make a batch of jam.  The littlest, almost 7 year old ate everything she picked.  The eleven year old ate about half of what he picked, but daughter and I were able to accumulate enough berries that after we picked over them and crushed them, we had almost 8 cups, enough for about a double recipe of wildberry jam.  While the jars heated in the canner, sandwiches were made for all who wanted one and once that was out of the way, the berry jam was started, jarred, and water bathed.

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We ended up with eight 12 oz jars of wildberry jam for her.  One was left uncanned, back left for them to begin enjoying and so it didn’t have to be canned in two batches.  My water bath canner holds 7 narrow mouth pints, the big pressure canner holds 10, but it also tends to bubble over when you fill it an inch above the lids to water bath, so we only canned 7 for her pantry shelves and one she took home in hand to put in the refrigerator.  The remaining 7 will be taken over to her house today along with a hat that was left behind.

About two years ago, the top boards on our large south facing deck began to decay and I put a foot through a board one day while out watering deck plants.  In an attempt to keep with the green building theme that we had adopted while building the house, the deck was built with borate treated wood instead of pressure treated wood and we later found out that it should be under roof to make it last.  It isn’t under roof, it gets wet and it bakes, getting too hot to enjoy on a summer day.  We began replacing the rotting boards with pressure treated ones, but then it became apparent a year ago that the entire top needed replacing and we began looking into Trex or one of it’s competitors for durability and so it didn’t have to be restained every couple of years.  Deconstruction was begun but with his schedule, it sat over the winter.  His wife worked on it some while she was here farm sitting in February, and he attacked it yesterday with intent. To help speed things along, I joined him to stack boards that were to be burned, removed nails, screws, and brackets from boards.  Also I was cutting boards to a length to fit in a burn barrel and cutting out sections that were still sound, though they were few and far between, most of the boards are rotted to mulch consistency.  Unfortunately, removing the boards, we realize that the joists are also bad for the top couple of inches, so it looks like we will be starting over.  I hate this for son, he built the deck for us, reinforcing it with hurricane brackets and making it solid and large and we enjoyed it for about a decade.  As the day wore on, with us working together in the heat (both of us are fair, so it is long pants, long sleeves, and broad brimmed hats, we made good progress.

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The section with no top used to be about a third again larger to the left of what you see, so most of the top boards are gone except just in front of the dining room doors and the joists for part of the large part of the deck are down.

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Flipping the boards to remove nails and screws revealed some interesting life forms.  This is a fungi, I guess.  It was about the size of a quarter, some others like it were smaller, but they looked like sea anemones that looked like they should be swaying in the ocean.

 

We finally quit around 4, so he could pack up his car and take the still ailing grandson home.  We took them into town for a bowl of Chinese hand pulled noodle soup and sent them on their way.

Once home, sore and tired, but fed, the weekend pickles making results were shelved.

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So pretty to look at and enjoy when we need a jar of jam or pickles.  The ferment was tasted and it is delicious, it was refrigerated this morning.  As soon as there are more cucumbers and jalapeños to pick, another jar will be started.  It is about time to start this year’s kraut, I sent the last jar home with son as they eat more of it than do we and it only takes a few days to ferment.  I think I will wait for the ferment weights to arrive to help hold it in it’s own brine though.

Today, I really am going to rest.  I am running on fumes and need some stiff sore muscles to have a chance to recover.  Yesterday’s expected rain never happened, today’s chance has dropped from an almost sure thing to it may not happen.  The flowers and garden are getting too dry, it is hot and brittle.  We need some rain.

Another Day, Another 16 pints – 7/14/18

Of canned goods.  Saturday mornings are Farmers’ Market morning and breakfast out.  For the past 3 weekends with the farm apprentice here, we have gone to our local diner that is open only for breakfast and lunch.  For the past two Saturday’s, that breakfast has not sat well with me.  I don’t know if they have changed cooking oil or brand of bacon or whether I have just become intolerant to anything with oil in the morning, I have been eating whole grain toast with homemade jam for several weeks.  Today however, after a couple of hours, grandson said his stomach hurt too, so something wasn’t right.

Since I had just been to market Wednesday evening and with him going home tomorrow, I only got pickling cucumbers and zucchini to make pickles, along with a bit of salad greens.

Son arrived around lunch time and daughter had asked him if he would put is stone masonry skills to work to reset a huge rock in her driveway retaining wall before her homeowner’s association got after her about it.  Once I had fixed him a sandwich, we loaded the Xterra with mortar mix, sand, lime, the metal wheelbarrow that doesn’t go in my garden, and the tools.  A stop at Lowe’s to get a bit more sand and an afternoon of his toil and labor while daughter and I sideline supervised and the wall is repaired.

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Before he arrived, I had cut the cucumbers, onions, and peppers and salted them to put in the fridge to wilt and drain.  The zucchini and remaining cucumbers were made into dill spears and zucchini pickles and canned.

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Tonight after dinner was prepared, enjoyed, and cleaned up, he installed the replacement burner for my glass top stove.  My preferred small burner, due to being a lefty, is the front left and it has burned out twice in the eleven years we have been here.  I had ordered a new one, but didn’t get brave enough to install it myself. After the stove was cleaned up, repaired, and put back in place, the cucumbers that had been sitting in salt all day were drained and rinsed and the bread and butter brine made.  Eight pints of spicy bread and butter pickles were made and canned tonight.  A total of 16 pints of pickles made today.

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Tomorrow, daughter and grands are going to come over to pick wild berries so that I can make and can a batch of wildberry jam for her household.

Grandson spent the afternoon and evening still dealing with a tummy ache.  Hopefully, he will be better tomorrow before they have to drive back to their home with a box of jams and pickles, as well as the poster and basketball he got at camp.  It has been wonderful having him here for the past 3 1/2 weeks.

Farm Apprentice-7/13/18

My farm apprentice goes home on Sunday.  We have had 3 1/2 great weeks with our eldest grandson.  His first full week here he attended basketball camp at Virginia Tech.  His stay has been a blend of fun and work and I am going to miss his help on the work days.

This morning, before anyone else arose, I did get three more of the saplings planted.  It was still cool outdoors.  Using the tractor bucket, I scraped off the grass in patches the width of the bucket and about 3 feet across, then hand dug holes in the bare soil.  After delivering eggs in town, we purchased a few more bags of hardwood mulch and my farm apprentice was given another opportunity to drive the tractor as he delivered the bags to the newly planted trees.

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I wouldn’t trust him alone, but he can drive it slowly with reminders.  He did have a glitch with stopping once and almost took out one of the new saplings, but he got better as I let him move it around as we moved mulch and water to the new trees and the extra mulch to the garden.

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They are tiny now, but hopefully will grow to continue providing a wind barrier on the west side of the house.

I took over to mow a path through an area that is outside of the hayfields and repeated the removal of the grass layer to make spaces for the two sweet gums trees.  We didn’t want them in the lawn area, having had several in our yard when we lived in Virginia Beach.  He helped dig holes and plant the two remaining trees.  We then spread two of the bags of mulch in vegetable garden aisles over thick paper layers.

Last evening, when I went out to collect eggs, I also collected a hand full of Jalapeño peppers and two pickling cucumbers and started a ferment of them, a half onion, some fresh dill, dried dill seed, bay leaves, and sea salt.  They will be refrigerated once ready and enjoyed later.

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The rest of today I will rest and knit. Tomorrow, my apprentice’s Dad will come and Sunday, they will return to their home.

Good Intentions Foiled – 7/12/18

I planned to rest today, especially since the guys didn’t get home until after midnight and then I had a sleep is optional and restless night, but when I went out to plant the bean seed, I attacked the last aisle of weeds that was hidden by the asparagus ferny tops.  While doing so, I realized why the egg production has been down recently.

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There were 11 eggs in a neat nest hidden between the asparagus and the peppers.  Those eggs aren’t fertile, there is no rooster, but can’t be sold because I don’t know how old some of them are, but I hate to throw them away, so I cracked each one into a bowl individually, scrambled them and put them in an ice tray.  They freeze nicely and can be used for baking later.  It takes 2 cubes to equal one egg.  I haven’t figured out how the chickens are getting into the garden.  The Welsummers can fly over the fence, the eggs aren’t Welsummer eggs, but the Buff Orpingtons are too heavy bodied.  There must be somewhere they can get under the fence.  One solution I can think of is a taller fence and an edging they can’t get under.  I want them to be able to free range, though even with 30 acres to wander, they select my flower beds to scratch in and get into the garden even easier.  I have considered the step in movable electric fencing that would allow me to give them a new section of grass every few days, allowing the section they had been in to recover.  That way, they are getting pasture but not creating a wasteland or ruining my flower beds.

After weeding the area, I tackled the the tree nursery bed.  It had been weeded a few days ago and I realized the size they were getting. The first young tree I tried to transplant a few weeks ago was a failure.   It had gotten to be about  5 feet tall in a year and had too extensive a root system.  The other trees were smaller and I hope to be able to move them successfully.  I also made the mistake of not removing enough rocks from the bed when I made it and trying to dig around rocks that range from golf ball to hard ball size made the digging the saplings up more difficult.  There were two sweet gums, a hawthorn, a dogwood, another maple that was smaller than the first one, and an oak.  They were dug with decent root systems and put in a bucket of water.  The hawthorn was put in the ground before the heat wilted me, it got 10°f hotter than the forcast.  I will get up early tomorrow and try to get the others in the ground before it gets too hot.

Over the rest of the summer, I will continue to sift rocks from that bed, amend the soil and build the bed higher.  In the fall, the blueberry bushes are going to be moved into that bed and mulched heavily.  The garden fence is going to be moved to make the garden area smaller, it has just gotten to be more than I can handle.

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The empty box just above the barrel halves will become the blueberry bed, the barrel halves moved to the left and up. and the new fence will be just below that bed.  The pumpkins, now in the lower left can be grown in the prior year’s compost pile as that pile rotates from the north east corner to the north west corner each year.  After the compost has been dug to enrich beds, the remaining soil is the older compost and is still rich and deep.

I did get the beans planted and watered.  Now hopefully they will come up and provide us with more beans before the season ends.

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This is aimed south and shows the asparagus greenery with the cucumbers and sunflower volunteers to the left of it.  It was between those beds that I found the eggs.  The beans are just to the right and down one row of boxes.  This year’s compost pile is to the right of the asparagus, so next year the pumpkins will go there.

In picking beans, I realized that none of the sweet potato starts took, so there will be no homegrown sweet potatoes this year.  I will buy some at the Farmer’s Market when the season is ready.

The first harvest of cucumbers and jalapeños was made today.  Pickling will commence.  Today I ordered some fermenting weights and fermenting tops for jars so fermented dill pickles, kraut, and maybe some fermented tomatoes can be done too.

I don’t know what the header flower is, it was in one of the Seedles that I planted in that barrel, but it is pretty on it’s thin stems that bob and weave in the slightest breeze.