Craft season – Nov. 10, 2018

Craft season is upon us.  Today we wandered about the big show that may be in my future next year to see who had what, prices, and may have bought gifts for upcoming birthdays and Christmas.  One of my products is soap and there were at least three vendors with soap.  One had felted soap for $12/bar, one had beautifully packaged bars that you couldn’t see or smell for $4.50 each.  Another had melt and pour bars in gaudy colors and scents for $6 each.  Knitwear was scarce.  If my friend and I share a booth, we would have enough inventory of items to make a go of it, I think.

This upcoming weekend is my first show of the season, followed by the first three Saturdays in December at the Holiday Markets held by the Blacksburg Farmers’ Market.  Those are always fun, often cold and windy, but among friends.  Thermos of hot coffee or tea or soup and Hot Hands packets to go in gloves are in order.  I hope my shop apron fits over my parka.

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With it’s big pockets, it is good for cash, a pen, and the Square reader on my phone.

Once the notification came in today that those were a go, more soap needed to be made.

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Two batches were made this afternoon, the Goatmilk, Oatmeal, Honey soap which is my favorite, but has about a 33% fail rate, and a Green Tea European Clay batch.  Those need to sit wrapped in a towel tonight and labels need to be made so I don’t forget what went into them.  Tomorrow I will make a Moroccan Red Clay and Cocoa batch, and a Lavender batch.  Once the soaps are curing more lotion bars need to be molded and labelled.  The weather will be cool enough that I won’t have the melt problem I had last spring.

In order to have my sales come out even dollar amounts after collecting state sales tax, I have played with numbers to figure out how much to charge.

I have another half pound of alpaca/merino to spin and a two scarves to finish knitting.  Guess I had better get busy.

New – Nov. 8. 2018

Of late, getting to sleep or staying asleep have been challenging.  Not wanting to take drugs that have side effects including poor sleep, other options have been sought.

For starters, caffeine is out of the question after noon.  One cup of coffee in the morning, and a switch to tea, preferably herbal or decaf versions.  Putting down the screen at least an hour before bedtime and returning to real bound books, not an e-reader are other changes.  Knitting, spinning, or reading are okay.

Several of my friends have begun doing Zentangles, a mindful, relaxing, calm slowly drawing of patterns on a 3 1/2″ square paper tile.  Later other shapes can be used and color can be added.  Thinking that might help clear my mind of the daily detritus that accumulates and keeps me awake, a bit on online research was done and a simple book of instruction and patterns purchased.  Using a soft pencil and a thin microtip pen, I have been playing with this for several days.  Fearing that the shoulders would tense and my “it must be perfect” mindset would set in, I was surprised at how calm and relaxing it is.

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Click on the image to enlarge.

The top left is the first one, totally copied from the instruction book to learn some of the shapes,  the top middle is an altered pattern from the book.  The top right has no redeeming qualities as far as I am concerned and I have looked at it for a couple of days trying to see what to do to make me like it.  The bottom is left is a copied pattern to learn a circle and the bottom right is my first one that I did only referring back to a couple of shapes.

Some people keep all they do in a journal, I envision them as very personal note card fronts or individual bookmarkers.  We will see if it sticks, but now I feel like I understand more why one daughter-in-law always has a sketchbook with her and an assortment of pencils and pens.

The featured photo is of this morning’s visitors and a reminder that those doors needed a good cleaning, now done.  The chickens finally figured out their no waste feeder and it is indeed no waste, but the slackers haven’t laid an egg in a week, not a single egg.

Adjustments – Nov. 6, 2018

Every time my shop has been set up at a craft event, my space has been 10 X 10 feet, my pop-up tent is 10 X 10 feet when I am outdoors.  My application for the first event for me this fall asked for a 10 X 10 foot space against a wall and paid the premium application fee to get it.  Night before last a call came in and I was informed that there were no spaces of that size available.  My options were an 8 X 8 foot space in the middle of the room or a 4 X 12 foot space in the hall.  Not wanting a long skinny spot, nor being in the hall, I opted for the 8 X 8 foot center space and requested that the cost difference be reimbursed to me.

This produced a dilemma for me.  My stall is set up with a mannequin that is free standing, 2 tables that are 2′ X 4′ each, and the wooden ladder rack that I made that is two panels each 31″ wide hinged with a piano hinge so it doesn’t open fully.  And a space for me to sit on a small stool to spin or knit.  This needed to be arranged so that the stall is open and inviting, and not knowing who or how the adjacent stalls will be set up.

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Yesterday afternoon, an 8 X 8 foot space was laid  out on the kitchen floor and the tables, mannequin, rack, and my stool arranged until it looked appealing.  This produced another issue of where to hang the shop sign so that it is visible and not obstructive.  It hangs from the tent when outdoors.  Since the products are displayed in wooden crates much like old fashioned wooden soda crates, which have some weight to them, the sign will hang from the side of one down the facing end of one table.

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The other hanging sign is one that leads with “Why Buy Handmade?”  It will hang from the end post of part of the ladder rack.   The space is a bit tighter than that to which I am accustomed, but I think  it will work.  Hopefully, it will be a good event and worth the time put in.

Tomorrow is an opportunity to don my Colonial garb, grab a spinning wheel and help teach and demo to a group of home schooled youth visiting Wilderness Road Regional Museum for a history day.

I voted, did you?

Fickle November, the Birthday month – Nov. 5, 2018

November rides a roller coaster, it is warm and wet one day, cold the next.  The nights dip to freezing one night and stay at 50ºf the next.  The heatpump goes on, then shuts off.  The sweaters and jackets are worn then removed and draped over a chair until you chill again.

Saturday was sunny, windy, and cold until afternoon.  Yesterday was cold in the morning, but the wind had died down and the later day was gorgeous, then it rained all night.  Today is gray so far but mild and getting up into the mid 60’s with more rain tonight and tomorrow morning.  After tomorrow the temperatures drop again, some rainy days, some sunny with rain Friday and a low in the 20’s.  Mountain snow shower weather.

With the end of Daylight Savings time, it is dark so early and sleep schedules disrupted until the senior bodies adjust to the change. Awake earlier than I want to be as I usually awaken around 5:15 and ready to go to bed way too early to sleep through the night.  We will adjust, eventually.

November is the month of birthdays, there are 6 in our family spread from the 4th to the 29th.  Daughter’s is the last of the month and one daughter in law starts the next month just a few days later, but is the only December one.

Tucked in the midst of the birthday’s is Thanksgiving.  We get our turkey each year from a local farm, fresh the day we pick it up.  By the weekend before Thanksgiving, they are huge, usually about 20 pounds.  A few year’s ago, elder son wanted to try spatchcocking or butterflying the turkey and we struggled to cut the backbone out as instructed, put a ton of herbed butter under the skin and in a very short time, like 90 minutes, the 20 pound turkey was done, beautifully browned, and juicy.

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I have done one without son’s help, but it was smaller and we should have a huge one this year as we have selected one of the latest pick up dates so it can stay fresh until we cook it.  Hopefully son’s family is coming and daughter’s family is coming, so we will have a houseful of family and plenty of good food.

November is the beginning of the holiday craft season with a big one I don’t vend, but love to attend coming up this weekend.  The first one I vend is the following weekend.  And taxes are due this month, the second half of the real estate taxes and the personal property tax on the vehicles and my shop equipment.

November is the month that a calendar is needed to just keep track of “Who’s on first!”

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.

 

He came and conquered – Nov. 2, 2018

The day after our mower quit, the hayman returned with his big tractor and 10′ mowing deck and made short work of the rest of the big south hay field.  The spring bales are still there, but he said his young helpers were going to come pick them up and cut up the downed tree and the dead standing tree, leaving us with part of it for our winter warmth and enjoyment.  His return allows us to delay the purchase of a new mower deck until spring, the old one to be sold off as parts and scrap.  There is probably a farmer out there with the equipment and skills to weld on some plates on the deck, rebuild the trailing wheel support, and put on a new blade.

Our county is noted for it’s rocks.  The joke around here is that the county’s main crop is rocks.  You can mow an area one year without an issue and the next year hit a rock where the soil settled or the frost pushed the rock up just enough to clip the blade.  It is hard on the blades and the play in the blade then hitting the deck housing is hard on the housing.  Brush hogs are workhorses, they take a beating keeping the Autumn Olive and blackberries from the edges of the fields and mowing tall weedy hay.  They aren’t neat finish mowers used on golf courses and large lawns.  Our mower is more than a decade old now and wasn’t a heavy duty one in the first place as our tractor is only 28 hp.

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The farm looks so neat right after the haying or fall mowing.  One benefit of our smaller tractor and smaller deck is that we can get much closer to the rock piles scattered throughout the farm, keeping the brambles from escaping out into the fields.  Since our deck is no wider that the tractor’s rear tires, if they clear without hitting rocks then the mower deck clears also.

In the couple of days since I was mowing, the woods turned autumn colors, almost overnight.

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The top picture was two days ago, the lower one a zoomed one of the same area.

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Two maples, one wild, one planted.  The wild one in back is huge and turns a beautiful shade of golden orange, the planted one a vivid yellow gold.  As you see, both have lost about half of their leaves already as have most of the other trees in the area.  The wind storms of the past few weeks have stripped many leaves before they turned colors.  Soon the woods will be bare and we can voyeuristically peek at the wildlife in the edges of the woods as they seek nourishment from the evergreen scrub, acorns and other wild nuts that have fallen.

The fields were done just in time for several cooler, rainy days.  We have yet to build a fire this year, but maybe we will this weekend.  Maybe the sack of frozen tomatoes will get cooked down into sauce and canned or frozen as sauce.  Maybe a good book, some knitting or spinning, and for sure, lessons for a new spinner.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever the weather.

Olio – Oct. 31, 2018

Olio:  a miscellaneous collection of things.

Last week as we sat down to dinner, the hayman came and began brush hogging the hay that was too weedy and frost burned to bother cutting for hay.  He has a much larger tractor and a 10 foot mower deck to our 5 foot deck.  Ours has seen better days, the post on the rear of the deck had become so distorted in shape, think hour glass that it had worn out the post for the trailing wheel, which was pretty worn out itself.  Our blacksmithy friend brought his tools over, cut the old post our and welded in a new one then we went and bought a new trailing wheel.  The first time the tractor was to be started, the battery was dead and the repair guy came up, diagnosed and replaced it, then when we set out for the first time  this past spring, the three point attachment to the mower sheared or lost a pin, resulting in another trip down the mountain to the Equipment Repair shop for a hand full of the pins.  Since the fields get hayed in the spring and since we bought a riding lawn mower for around the house, the brush hog sat on the back of the tractor most of the summer.  It was taken off to put the grading blade on the tractor for driveway repair, but was reattached to the tractor last week.  Hubby brush hogged the upper part of the property while I mowed the lawn and did some fencing.

The hayman left at dark and then it rained for three days and he hasn’t been back.  We have had a couple of beautiful brisk, sunny fall days, so this morning after chores and breakfast, I set out to finish the upper fields on our tractor.

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In progress, but look at that sky.

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And some hints of color in the woods finally.

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Finished upper fields.

After lunch, Hubby took off for what might be one of his last rides of the season on the BBH (Big Bad Harley) which he finds as his zen time and I took off on the tractor to the lower field for my zen time. Some of the spring hay is still sitting baled in that field which was to prove to be an obstacle course and after about 4 trips around the perimeter of the field, I realized that the mower wasn’t cutting.  It had sheared the pin that holds the PTO to the mower and turns the blade.  Down the mountain again to the Equipment Repair Shop for a new pin and back to use two huge wrenches to tighten the nut on once it was in place and back to the field.  About a quarter got finished before the weld on the new post or the post itself failed and the trailing wheel fell off.  No more mowing, maybe ever with this beat up old brush hog.  I guess the hayman is going to have to finish it this fall.

Last night was gorgeous and the rescheduled Spirits of the Wilderness Road event was held.  The spirits came out and portrayed their characters to visitors riding in a horse drawn carriage.  Initially I was collecting donations and helping in the colonial kitchen serving hot cider and helping guests make corn husk dolls and besums.  As it began to get dark, the spirit portraying Mary Draper Ingles got cold (she is a 90 year old spry gal) and was taken home, so I donned her role and did double duty for the last couple of hours.

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The percherons were a beautifully matched pair of males, Prince and Pete.  They aren’t related, but matched in size and color and worked well pulling the carriage.

With winter coming on and knowing that there will be days when the hens either can’t be let out because of extreme cold, or won’t come out because of snow, I tackled a project making a 5 gallon no waste feeder for inside their coop.

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It has taken them a few days to figure it out, but they can feed when they want and can’t toss it all over the floor of the coop.  Now I need to figure out how to keep liquid water in there in freezing weather, there is no electricity over there so I can’t put a heated bucket in the coop.

Part of this week was spent on Cabin Crafted business as there are a few Saturdays coming up where I will be set up vending.

Tomorrow was going to be spent finishing the mowing as it is the last decent day for a while, but with the mower down, the fencing will probably get done instead and the garlic planted if I can find enough sound cloves from this year’s crop to plant.  This crop seems to have been hit hard with the little worm that bores in and desiccates the cloves, each bulb in storage is at least half damaged.  Perhaps I should skip planting garlic and onions for a year and see if I can get that problem under control.

 

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.

 

It is gone – 10/23/2018

The garden is done.  We didn’t get the frost expected, nor the next night, but Sunday night, oh boy, it got cold.  We awoke yesterday to ground that looked like light snow and though it warmed into the upper 50’s later, it was cold in the early hours.  Sunday had been cold all day and very windy.  Today is the last warmer day expected for a bit, so it was a good day to pull the burned plants and toss them in the chicken pen or the compost pile.  Finish cutting down the asparagus ferns that never got finished before.  Dig the raspberries out and replant half a dozen of them in a controlled area.

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the asparagus bed cut down and weeded, still needs straw.

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This was the raspberry bed, only about 1/3 got covered with cardboard and brown paper feed bags before I ran out.  A tarp might be easier, I will measure and purchased one tomorrow.  The pretty green you see is the creeping charlie taking over.

The fencing job never got done either.  It is very difficult to do alone, but the garden needs some fence work, the chicken pens need to be reconfigured so that I can mow inside of them, when they are not housing birds, instead of just using the monster Stihl line trimmer to beat the tall weeds down.  The laying hen’s fence did get reconfigured  today and the piecemeal fence at the top of the garden that was deteriorating was pulled down.  Using a line to get my poles straight this time, several new T-posts were set.   One of them was necessary to change up the hen’s pen.  Though they usually free range, there are times when they need to be penned up.

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Their pen is now a big square abutted to the chick pen that currently has a broken coop and no chicks.  The cull coop stands alone and will have it’s own separate pen, but T posts must be set and a wooden post to hang a gate must be dug in.  Two gates will be purchased, one for the garden that currently has a piece of wire fencing staked over the gateway opening, and one for the cull pen when it gets remade.  The plan was to raise chicks over the winter so they would be laying by spring, but to get chicks from Rural King this time of year, you have to order 25 and that is more than twice the number needed.

Tonight, there is no fence at the top of the garden, but there is nothing in the garden but a few cabbages and lettuce plants as well as the raspberries and blueberry bushes.  Tomorrow is still sunny and more fence removal/moving needs to be done.  There are several sections of welded wire fence that are long enough to close in the top edge of the garden again without piecing it together and they need to be removed from chicken runs.  Another long section of the cheap garden fencing needs to come out from the between where the two old chicken runs were.  That  type will never be purchased again.  I am still torn about whether to shorten the garden or cover it with another tarp to kill the weeds and use it as a potato patch next year.  Even after killing it off, it may need to be a layered garden with lots of mulch or tilled.

The last garden task to put it to bed for winter is sowing some oats in some beds, planting next year’s garlic in one bed, and putting down some straw over the asparagus and garlic.  The weather is supposed to hold til Friday, perhaps it will all get done, except the gates.

“It would have been more comfortable… -10/19/2018

to remain silent.”  Anita Hill

But I won’t.  Some of you may not like this, but, it has become more and more difficult to be proud of America with our current President and his administration.  The President should be a leader, not a dictator, a bully, a narcissist, a buffoon.  I did not vote for him, and can not support him in any way when he makes fun of disabled people; when he mocks women about sexual assault; when he calls people that disagree with him or his policies derogatory names; when he praises political candidates for assault  against journalists ; when he belittles young voters for asking valid questions to which he disagrees.  He takes no responsibility for his actions, he is deceitful, and racists (or at least supports White Supremacy).

In my lifetime, it seemed that the country was headed in the right direction toward women’s rights; toward the rights of the LGBT community; toward immigration; toward race relations, but feel that since 2016 that we have returned to the 1950’s or earlier and that pains me.   As a survivor of a sexual assault more than 50 years ago in a time when you didn’t discuss it, didn’t tell, that we now have not one, but two Supreme Court Justices and a President who have been accused of sexual assault and the good old boys think that “Boy’s will be boys” or “Locker room talk” are adequate excuses for that behavior makes me cringe and want to cry.

As a former science teacher and a “tree hugger” who has always tried to do what is right for the environment, the climate change denying is troubling.  Living in a region of old coal mines and seeing the damage caused by mountain top removal, the poverty of those regions and knowing that coal mining is not the solution to our energy needs is troubling. Seeing that is still being mined transported through our county on it’s way to ports for export, not domestic use,  why would he support mining as an energy source and open more lands to oil drilling and fracking when there are other cleaner options that could be used.

Before you cast judgement on me, I am not a hard line liberal, but neither am I an ultra conservative.  I believe that race should not be an issue.  I believe that we should do everything we can, even if it requires regulation to protect our environment and our parks.  I believe that the government should not allow a private for profit industry to take our land away by eminent domain and shouldn’t despoil the planet for profit.  I believe that government and church are and should remain separate.  I believe that there is a place and time for private gun ownership, but not in the hands of our youth or our schools except by trained law enforcement officers.

And remember, if you aren’t Native American,  or descendant of a slave, your family too were immigrants, real people with real needs and often with families escaping intolerable conditions or seeking a better life, not all are criminals, in fact few are.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Farm life, knitting and spinning, cooking and family