Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

From Fall to Winter – November 3, 2018

Yesterday’s rain and wind blew through last night and the night was chilly, it was quite cool this morning still blowing strong making it feel colder.  Animal chores were done and after not making it to the Farmers Market in a few weeks, we headed in to town to get breakfast and shop at the Farmers Market.  We knew today was a home football game that always makes traffic worse and eating in local restaurants nearly impossible.  We didn’t know that it was Homecoming, there must have been 40 people waiting in the cold to get in to the little local diner where we often get our breakfast on Saturday.  The Waffle House and fast food places all had lines.  A little further out, not in walking distance is a bagel shop and we got there, got breakfast and sat down just as the line snaked out the door.

It was cold enough to warrant my winter coat, a knit hat, and gloves for the market, but veggies, bread, and meat came home for the week.  One stall has whole hog sausage, fresh mozzarella, and fresh cultured butter.  The Italian sausage and fresh mozzarella purchased decided dinner.

Once home, the huge 2 gallon bag of frozen red cue balls that have been in my way were dumped in the sink, some warm water run over them so the skins would slip off, chopped with the big butcher knife and seasoned with onion, garlic, and Italian herbs and set to simmer.  When started, I wasn’t sure if it would be pasta sauce or pizza sauce.  My recipes are basically the same but the pizza sauce if reduced until it is thickened.  There is 1 ripe tomato sitting in the kitchen window, it will be part of my breakfast tomorrow with a scrambled egg and a slice of toasted bread.

Because of the morning’s purchases and because we really like pizza prepared from scratch at home now that I have a crust we like, the decision was to reduce it to pizza sauce.  Seven half pints were canned plus one left out for dinner.  I had them about half canned when I remembered that I hadn’t added citric acid or lemon juice, so pulled them from the canner and we left to take a walk in the woods and around the pond.

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The pond always had a dozen or so geese and ducks, but this huge flock must be passing through and taking a feed and rest break.  There must have been more than 100, diving and honking at each other.

The walked relieved my frustration at myself for forgetting the lemon juice and once home, each jar was unsealed and reheated, lemon juice added and re-canned with fresh lids.

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Other than enchilada sauce once the Anaheims are all dry and toasted, the canning is done for this year.  There are many jars of Rotel style tomatoes for chili, plain canned tomato sauce, pizza sauce, apple sauce, bbq sauce, and jams to enjoy this winter.

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The remaining cup of sauce with the local sausage, fresh mozzarella, Farmer’s Market red onion, our own green peppers and pizza was made.  The trouble with making it is that one pizza is too big for the two of us and neither of us like cold pizza, so we both always eat too much and one slice always goes to the chickens.

When I went to the fiber retreat last month, I came home with 2 pounds of fiber.  One pound was more of some that I had purchased at Shenandoah Fiber Festival as I decided to spin and knit myself another sweater.  The other pound was a light green alpaca/merino blend.  Almost half of that has been spun and is to be plyed.

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4 ounces

Once it is plyed, I think I will change colors for a while.  Tomorrow I am going to introduce spinning to a new wanna be spinner.  Hopefully she will fall in love with the art as I have.  And later this month, I have two new wanna be’s to teach.

 

A week on the farm – Oct. 26, 2018

Today was to be the Spirit Trail event at Wilderness Road Regional Museum, a fund raiser for the education program there.  I was to be in the old kitchen serving hot cider and playing with kids as they made corn husk dolls or besoms.  The event has outdoor actors and a horse drawn wagon ride.  The weather had other ideas.  The day started at 43ºf and heavy rain.  Both have held all day and the event has been postponed until Tuesday afternoon and evening.  Some of the characters won’t be able to reschedule, but it will still be a fun event.

After two days of garden and fence work earlier in the week, followed by a couple hours wrestling the huge  Stihl line trimmer to beat back areas that have been neglected most of the summer, I was beat.  Yesterday, chest muscles and lower back revolted and said take a day off.

 

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Yesterday morning was spent knitting on an Asymmetrical scarf from some of my hand spun merino/bamboo, followed by a grocery run and dinner prep of a cold weather treat of Stout Beef stew.  While the stew simmered, enough energy was rallied to do a bit of mowing and bush-hogging.  Hubby had started at the top of the property and worked his way down to the house while I was fencing.

Last evening as we sat down to enjoy the stew, our hay man arrived and began bush-hogging the fields.  About a quarter was done before it got too dark and today too wet.  We will work areas that he can’t do with his 10′ machine and once done, the mowing will be done for the winter.

There are still two sections of fence to be taken down and one to erect when the weather improves this weekend or next week.  Most of the creeping charlie was covered with tarps, cardboard, and paper feed sacks to try to kill it off.

My favorite jam from this year’s prep was Asian Pear Orange Marmalade.  The recipe only made a few half pint jars and I knew it wouldn’t last the winter, even using it sparingly and interspersed with raspberry, wildberry, or grape ones I kept.  As pears are still available, a couple pounds of Bartletts were purchased and another batch this time Bartlett pear orange marmalade was made today for the shelf.  It again only made 5 half pints, but so delicious.

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The chicken molt seems to be ending, the coop and pen no longer look like daily pillow fights, but egg production hasn’t picked back up.  The daily count is zero to 3.

Now is time to sit back with the garden plan, the seed catalogs as they come in and plan next year.  It is also time to get more knitting and spinning done for Christmas gifts and for holiday craft shows.

 

Olio – 10/16/2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Time goes on, the summer and garden fading rapidly with seasonable though still damp days and chilly nights.  Sweater weather, just in time to wear the newly finished sweater of yarn spun by me and then knitted by me.

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It now sports deer antler buttons made by one of my daughters in law and the sleeves were lengthened from the 3/4 length they were when this was taken to wrist length.  A nice addition to the sweater wardrobe of hand knits.

The past weekend was one of my favorites, a group of folks, men and women, have a fiber retreat in Tennessee.  The trip there was dicey as the remnants of Hurricane Michael made their way here the morning I was to leave and the first couple of hours of westward travel on the interstate were in heavy rain and the always present semi trucks spraying the water back up as fast as it fell.  The retreat is at a state park with delightful cabins in the woods and a conference center that accommodates the 30 or so participants who come to knit, crochet, spin, and other crafts such as spoon carving, needle felting.  I attend as a participant and a vendor, selling soaps, salves, yarn, buttons, and knitted items.

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There are classes, Brioche knitting, and yoga for the hands then later for the neck and back.  It felt so good after those classes I wanted to adopt the instructor and bring her home with me.

One optional activity was making  a My Word token.  Cards are used to ask questions to help you select your word.  My choice was a reminder to myself, the word CALM.  To look at when I am stressed, to remind me to take a deep breath, possibly practice some of the yoga.

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Once home after the long weekend, relaxed and calmed, the car unloaded, the accounting done, some inventory taken, prices adjusted prior to the next event in a month, I reorganized my spinning wheels so they can be used, not just admired.

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This is big sis and little sis, the two quill wheels.  One a large walking wheel, the other a smaller sitting hand operated quill wheel.  The little Spinolution Pollywog, Miss Polly, sits by my chair with the box loom nearby for my daily craft release.

As fingerless mitts and hats were sold, knitting of more for the fall markets is underway.

One of the items I have wanted for the house is a moveable kitchen island.  There really isn’t room for a large one, but yesterday, the one below popped up on my Facebook marketplace and the price was too good to pass up.  We drove an hour to see it and because the folks are downsizing and knew how far we drove, they knocked the price down even further.  The cabinet came home, fits nicely behind the couch, will provide more cabinet storage for counter top appliances not used daily, and a serving area for holiday meals.

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It is a little low to work on but counter space isn’t a problem if I move some of the counter top appliances, and it can be used for cooling bread or canned jars to keep them out of the way.

The chickens are in hard molt, eggs are scarce, but feathers are not.  There is some new feather growth being seen.  If they don’t all freeze this weekend, they should begin to fill out again soon and some egg production return.  It is about time to get new chicks for the spring egg laying and retire these girls.

Peace and calm until next time.

 

Garden Quirks – 8/11/2018

Each year the garden has some thrivers and some fails.  Usually the tomatoes overwhelm, the peppers keep me busy canning and fermenting sauces, but the cucumbers and pumpkins are just so, so.

This year, the tomato plants stayed small and then the blister beetles came and a deer is getting in at night, the electric charger needs a new battery and the wire needs to be restrung.  As a result the tomato harvest is puny.  I have one overstuffed 2 gallon bag of them in the freezer awaiting processing, but it is only going to be one canning of pasta sauce this year which is sad.

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The 4 X 8 foot bed is sparse and has few tomatoes.

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The ones I am getting have to be picked under ripe and ripened in the window, or I find this.

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A half eaten, smashed red tomato a foot or two from the bed in the wide aisle.

The cucumber vines are lush and loaded with blooms, several jars of pickles have already been fermented and hopefully, many more will follow.

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The sole pepper in the lower right corner is supposed to be a serano, the one that didn’t fit in the bed with the others and was planted with three anchos that failed, but the peppers on it look like anchos, not seranos, they are a large tapered  slightly flattened cone.  The jalapeños and seranos in the adjacent bed are beginning to produce.  As the weather cools, hopefully there will be enough to provide sufficient jars of pickled jalapeños for my hot pepper loving husband and son.  The tags on the starts must have been mixed up because at least one of the seranos in that bed is producing a pepper that is either going to be a cayenne or Tabasco, they are too small to tell yet.  I should just start my own seed, but haven’t had much luck doing that in the past.  They sprout and in spite of my grow light, get too tall and leggy.  After getting hardened off and planted in the garden, they usually fail and I end up buying from a Farmers’ Market grower but then sometimes don’t get what I thought I was buying.

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The pumpkin vines are starting to fade and they are covered with juvenile stink bugs so I cut the three pumpkins that were ripe and hope for a couple of pies at the holidays and maybe one stuffed with rice, veggies, and a bit of sausage.  There are still a few about the size of navel oranges out there, we will see if they mature enough to harvest.  The vines are going to get sprayed with Neem oil today to see if that will reduce the stink bug load.

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Planting two of the beans sprouted nicely.  We should still have 6 to 8 weeks before frost date, sometimes more and hopefully will get enough to enjoy and to freeze.

We went down to the Agricultural Fair this morning to watch some of the horse events.  Our former riding instructor was the judge for the events and we reconnected with her and may start taking lessons again after our vacation.  After watching events we went over to see the results of the display judging and to determine if I wanted to enter in any other categories next year.  I won, I won, two blue ribbons for my two entries of hand knitted shawls, one a modified pattern, the other of my design.  I am so excited.

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Next year I will enter that category again with other items and think I may enter some of my preserves and or sauces as well.  I don’t think my produce is sufficient to enter and my flowers are certainly not show quality except for some day lilies that are bloomed out by fair time.  I will display the ribbons on the items until they sell, then just hang them on my stall at craft shows.

 

Rainy Day business – 8/1/2018

The rainy season has returned, just in time to soak in the newly planted seed and transplanted berry bushes.  It has put a temporary halt on deconstruction clean up, but I still have a couple of weeks before it all has to be gone.

Rainy days are for knitting, spinning, and reading.  Diligently I have been working on my handspun sweater, hoping to get it ready to submit to the Agriculture Fair, but the body is going so slowly and the neck and front bands will have to be picked up and added, so I don’t think I will make it.  The fiber is a swirl dyed Coopworth from Hearts of the Meadow Farm, the pattern is Peasy.

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In the car and away from the house, I am knitting fingerless mitts of my own design from some delightful fingering weight Kid Mohair, Merino Lamb, and silk blend from Junebug Farm.

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Oh that isn’t a good photo, sorry.

Last night because my hands were tired from knitting, I tackled a 4 ounce braid of Corriedale combed top  from Best Friend Fibers that is white at one end and gradually ends in a rich royal blue.  It was split down the middle and is being spun into another gradient skein, though I don’t know if I will knit it or sell it.  We will see how much is there and if I have an inspiration when it is done.  Half was spun last night, the other half will be done today, then it will be plyed and measured.

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The book of the week, though it is slow going as I generally fall asleep just a few pages in each night is Beartown by Fredrik Backman.  It is a good book, but by the time I pick it up each night, I am exhausted from the day’s activities.

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.

Busy Colonial Day – 7/25/18

My volunteerism at my formerly beloved Smithfield Plantation has ended due to some changes that they have made.  Though the Board won’t say why, they released the Director who was “Miss Smithfield,” heart, soul, and all the toil and effort that went with her position.  This disheartened me, but she asked me to continue there out of her love for history and the facility.  I tried.  I really did, but the heart was gone and after a very discouraging attempt early this week, I submitted a letter of resignation like most of the other volunteers had already done.

Fortunately, she has moved on to another historic facility, the Wilderness Road Regional Museum in a community called Newbern farther from my house, but still easily doable.  This week, she is running a Patriot’s Camp and has 15-20 kids each day portraying local figures from the Revolutionary War, and learning about the period in fun ways, different creative activities and outlets each day.  She reached out to many of her volunteers and artisans to help with the camp and today, another spinner friend and I got our turn.  The youngest was 5, the oldest 13, with an average age around 8 or 9.  Some time was spent with the entire group talking about how fiber fit into the history, some time with fiber prep from shearing, cleaning the fleece, spinning, and weaving.  After snack and energy release play battles, the group reconvened in two parts, with my friend teaching thigh spinning and Lucet braiding while I took the other group for learning to drop spindle.  Later we switched groups.  She had made Lucets for each child and had balls of yarn.  I had made drop spindles and weighed out a half ounce of fiber per child and after they had their lessons, they went home with their own fiber tools.

Jim gets a kick out of me coming home from an event like this as I get so animated about the opportunity.  The kids were full of energy and so smart, it fills me with energy too and I so love sharing my skills with them.  Each group had a couple of helpers and one of my helpers got so into it that he asked if he could have a spindle and fiber too.

When camp was over around noon, the skies opened up and poured rain on us as we were packing up our wheels, spindles, looms, and Lucets and hurrying to load our cars under an umbrella brigade.

Several of the volunteers, dashed from camp back to Blacksburg, where a peaceful vigil was held for the director, where the Smithfield Board was supposed to enter the building for a meeting.  Though we had very good news coverage, the Board must have heard as they entered on the other side of the facility through the hotel and avoided us.  Many photographs were take, some interviews for print media, and some for the local TV new.  I was still in costume and several other volunteers were also in costume and part of my interview appeared on the evening news.  Though we don’t have local channels on our TV, a friend said I looked very professional and the costume made the interview.  The many volunteers that have left Smithfield would love for the director to be reinstated and we would return, but in the meantime, we have followed her to her new venue and will continue to support local history.

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Photo credit to WDBJ7 news.  I am 4th from the left.

 

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.

 

 

Wonder Woman is worn out – 7/11/18

A lot can get done in two uninterrupted days.  Today was another very physical day, got my 10,000 steps just working here.  There aren’t any cool pictures from today though.

After dinner last night, 6 half pints of wild berry jam were made and canned.  A couple of hands full of beans were picked and made into two more pints of dilly beans and canned.  The shelves are filling, such a nice sight.  What’s not to love about the beautiful jars of jams, pickles, beans, and grains when you walk into the kitchen.  It is so earthy and soothing with the wooden bowls above and the pottery below.

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Today started with errands and the delivery of the other daylily division, then home and into work clothes.  More hand weeding was done around the pumpkin vines and the blueberry bushes, then the  Stihl weed monster was started and the edges of the garden, the two empty chicken runs, and areas that really need to be covered to kill the weeds in the unused area of the garden were mowed down.  I came in dripping wet and worn out about mid afternoon.

The garage door needed some repair and I had been putting it off because it required drilling two new holes through metal and into the wood to remount two screws that had stripped out, but I even tackled that.  Our evening visitor didn’t seem bothered by my drilling and putting the door up and down.

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A cool shower to refresh, I decided to treat myself to some time at the Mingle at the Market 2 at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market.  I was hoping for some pickling cucumbers, but not tonight.  They had live music, Virginia made beer and wine, and the Till and Grill food truck there, so I enjoyed my dinner sitting on a bench listening to the band.  That was topped off with locally made ice cream, also from the Farmer’s Market and home to put up my feet.

Until it got too dark to sit outside and knit, I worked on the shawlette I am knitting with the gradient yarn that I spun.

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I know I posted a photo of the bees in the sunflowers, but as I was weed wacking today, I got close enough to see that they are native bees, lots of them.  See the header picture.

Tomorrow I am going to plant beans and lettuce and rest, I promise.  The guys will be home late tonight and they will likely be too tired to do much.

Olio – 6/6/2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

The past two mornings have been spent in the garden, trying to catch up and get ahead of the weeds.  It appears that most of the “weeds’ are actually the hay sprouting, but I don’t want my garden to be a hayfield.  This is also Lambs Quarters season and though I know that it can be eaten when young, most has gotten too big and too stringy to be palatable, but still small enough to make pulling it fairly easy.  Another garden weedy problem is a mint family weed, square stem, grows erect initially with a lavendery pink flower, and then the oxalis and wild geranium.  The line trimmer cleared up around the fence edge and the taller bloom in the old compost area that is being over run by horseradish, then hand weeding of all but two beds has been accomplished.  I planted some cucumber starts from the house to fill in what didn’t germinate in the garden bed, erected a trellis for the cukes.  Planted the sweet potato slips and a row of sunflowers. The pumpkins only had about 50% germination so another sowing of them will be made later today and another row of sunflower seeds.

The chickens were providing up to 15 eggs a day for a while, but have dropped back to 8 to 10 and one Welsummer is broody, but there is no rooster in with them so she is just shooed off the nest, eggs under her collected multiple times a day.  If she doesn’t get over it soon, I will isolate her from the coop during the daytime hours for a few days and see if it will break the cycle, nothing else has worked. I am always amused at the cacophony they make when a hen lays her daily egg, wondering if it is an expression of relief or a proud announcement to the flock. Each time I fill their calcium supplement feeder, they manage to dump it with in hours.  As I was mixing up their feed today, I decided that maybe their protein level was too low, so reformulated my mix to up it by a couple percentage points. Nothing better than a child size shovel to stir the mix.

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As the weather is hot and I don’t like sitting with a heavy sweater in my lap, I am not knitting too much on it, but continue to spin the fiber for it as I realized I didn’t have enough yarn to finish it.  IMG_20180606_095758

And I recently finished this luscious 340 yards of Merino, Yak, and Silk.

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I have almost 2 more ounces of the Merino Yak spun and am spinning the remaining 2 ounces of Merino, Yak, Silk with my newest spindle, a gorgeous Golding limited edition.

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Once done, they will also be plied for hopefully another 300 plus yards, enough to make something soft and beautiful.

It is the beginning of daylily season.  I love when the gardens are filled with their blooms.

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Still loving our life on our mountain farm.