Easter

It brought egg dyeing for the kids, with the eggs that our hens produced.

Egg dyeingBaskets with Play Dough eggs, jump ropes, some eggs filled with coins, and a few other small gifts, a family board game.

Lilacs in bloom, a few cut to add to the tulips and other small flowers on the table.

Table

The table is set for ham, au gratin potatoes, deviled eggs, rolls, and a green veggies.  We were hoping for enough asparagus from the garden, but not yet.

Enjoy your family today.

 

 

Olio 4/14/2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

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

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

Chick pen

 

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

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

Herb book

 

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

Hops

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

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

 

Wildflowers -4/13/2017

 

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Virginia Bluebells
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Pig Hole
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Wild violets
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Elderberry
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This area was clear cut last spring and summer and is being made into grazing fields.
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House in the hollow.

An evening walk was in order on the end of yesterday’s beautiful day.  This senior body has been too sedentary this winter and is in need of daily exercise to make the garden and fence work a bit easier on it.  More walking, more stretching.  We live in the perfect place to walk.  Our road is .8 miles of dirt and gravel with several steep inclines and declines passing through woods and farm fields that are laced with cow paths through the thickets.  The hill to our west holds a large cave, open at the top (the second photo) with a fence around it for safety.  It’s name comes from the remains of a pig that was found deep in the cave on a ledge.  The cave sinks deep into the hillside and turns east with a second enclosed and locked entrance that I understand requires some agile moves and no fear of claustrophobia to enter.  I don’t want to do that.  The Virginia Bluebells bloom in profusion at the open mouth at the top behind the fence. Up on that hill, you can look down into the hollow and see our farm, our log home, the coops and gardens.  This early in the spring, walking the fields is a pleasure, the grass through growing quickly is still fairly low, the invasive stickweed has yet to show, the ticks still at a minimum.  In another few weeks, the fields will be hard to traverse until after hay mowing in early June and after that, our fields and the fields east of us can be walked again.

The wildflowers and flowering trees abound on this walk.

Today is another beautiful day and my plan is to walk up through the woods to the highest meadow on our cattle raising farm neighbor’s property.  From there the view is amazing, above the tree line miles to the east and to the west.  North and south blocked by ridgelines much closer.

This is a beautiful part of the world.

 

Spring in the Mountains

My Facebook memory from last year that appeared a few days ago was a light ground cover of snow and we had a dusting again this year just last Friday.  My memory today was a blog post from a year ago today and the weather had turned springlike, but there were no leaves showing on the trees yet.

It has been in the low 80’s day before yesterday and yesterday and mid 70’s today with seasonably cool nights and a bit of rain last night, just enough that I don’t have to water the baby trees or the veggie starts and peas.  The veggie starts have been on the back deck for several days and nights now and the houseplants have been put out on the porches for the season and to get them away from daughter’s family’s house cats that seem to like to go after several of them.

Driving home from preschool delivery, I noted the pale green haze of tiny leaves appearing up to about our elevation on the mountain so the warm winter has us a couple weeks ahead of last year.  Taking the back way home where I know the trillium bloom, the white ones are in full glory.

Trillium 2

They are such a pretty flower and protected.  They don’t grow on our property that I have found, but would love that they did.  Usually when the trillium bloom, the Virginia Bluebells bloom also.  A walk up to the mouth of the cave is in order, but with a better camera than my phone.  The photo I took last year just didn’t show the blooms and with a fence around the open mouth of the cave for safety, getting closer just isn’t going to happen.  Maybe we will not have a late frost this year, but it is always a possibility, our last frost date is the second week of May.

Last night at dusk, when the chickens were being locked up and the chicklets coop end covered, I spotted my first produce of the season.

Asparagus

A single asparagus shoot sticking up through the spoiled hay.  It was cut and eaten raw as soon as the picture was made.  While cutting it, the hay was pulled back gently from the bed and there are many more beginning to show.  There may be enough for the family for Easter dinner with ham and deviled eggs.

Today has been rest day, letting the stiff, sore back have a day off from the fencing and gardening.  The major task today has been to try to clean up my workbench so there is a place to work and to try to find a couple of missing tools that were buried under the piles of items that had been laid down instead of put away.  My tool box is actually a 5 gallon bucket with a tool apron on it that sits on the back of the bench, but SIL’s tool box is also there along with the garden bucket, 2 sprayer tanks, and two broken wind chimes.  One just needs to be restrung, the other needs new wooden disks, restringing, and a new weight to swing the chimes.  One is mine, the other is daughter’s.  Perhaps that is a job to tackle on a rainy day. The space behind the bench need a low shelf to hold the cans and tins of drill bits, locks, files, and other miscellany that don’t go into the tool bucket.  There is plenty of wood available to hang as a shelf, but no brackets in the house to hold it.  Since some gate hardware is on the shopping list, perhaps a couple of shelf brackets should be too.

With garden season here, things need to be in their places so that they can be found without having to spend a lot of time looking for them or having to purchase a new one as I had to do with the needle nose pliers to erect the fence.

Spring time on the farm in the mountains is a favorite time.  A time of new beginnings, temperatures conducive of working outdoors, flowers, and baby birds.

The New Digs

Sixteen 5+ week old chicks are just too much for the 110 gallon hard rubber water trough that they have been in for the past 5 weeks.  As few day old chicks, they looked lost in it with room for two mother tables, a 1 quart water dispenser and a 1 quart feeder and still plenty of room to run and chase.  By 3 weeks old, they needed larger dispensers for feed and water as they would go through the quart in half a day and the gallon size ones took up more room, plus by then they also needed a small container of baby grit.  Now, they are just too large, they are teenage chicklets and a couple have even escaped into the garage to be confused and terrified wondering what had happened, even though there was a window screen over the top. They needed more space.

After the morning school drop offs and the return home, a realization that they needed to be cleaned again and almost no way to do that without chicklets flying all over the place, they were caught a few at a time, place in a giant bucket, covered with a feed sack and carried over to their new digs.  Their feeder and a 3 gallon nipple water dispenser, one of their mother tables, and the pint of grit were added to their new space.

Babycoop

This coop is raised off the ground on a raft of cedar logs sitting on large rocks, covered with several inches of hay, then soil, rocks around the inside edge to further deter predators and the soil covered in a thick layer of hay.  The coop is fondly called Huck’s Coop.  I just couldn’t resist during the construction last year.

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The brooder tub had pine shavings in the floor, so the chicklets were at first unsure of the new surface, but quickly discovered it was fun to play with.

Chicklets

There is much chasing, grabbing leaves and running off with several others in pursuit to see what goody had been acquired.  A much larger space.

This coop has three perch bars and a ramp up to them where I am sure the teenagers will soon discover and will be found huddled in a tight mass at night.  Until then, they still have their familiar mother table to sit on or huddle under.  They have been in the unheated garage for more than a week now and all of them are fully feathered except for a few fuzzy heads.  For the next week, the ends of the A frame will be blocked at night to cut down on drafts.

In about a week, once they think of this coop as home, they will be let out into a spacious run enclosed with rabbit fence so they can’t squeeze out and topped with a sheet of bird net to keep the flying predators from swooping down for a meal.  They will live in this coop for about 5 or 6 weeks and then they will take over the main coop.  At about 22 weeks old, we should start seeing some pullet eggs from this crowd.  With 16 layers instead of the current 6, one hen doesn’t lay anymore, there should be plenty of eggs for our use and to share with friends and family.

If any of the big girls decide to brood this year, they will take over Huck’s coop to raise their littles.

Chores and a senior body

After two days of fence building, fence moving, laying cardboard and spoiled hay, digging weed amaranth with its deep tap root, weeding and mulching the blueberries, and trying to break up the hard section of the garden where this aging gardener foolishly drove the tractor when the ground was wet; today this body is groaning.  It was going to be a day off, but . . .  Granddaughter had the opportunity to go to preschool on her usual day off since the school will be closed Thursday, Friday, and Monday, and Jim had an appointment that I wanted to go to with him, we took her to preschool.  The appointment which should have been quick, took hours of mostly waiting around, dealing with a trainee, and finally with the professional who was very difficult to understand through her accent.  We left with just enough time to go to the post office and back to pick up granddaughter from school.

Once home, a decision was made to do what I thought was to be a fairly low energy job of collecting rocks that have bloomed to the surface during the winter and to pry out some that have protruded enough above the surface of the yard and fields that the brush hog scrapes the top of them.  This dulls the mowing blades and makes a horrible noise.   The first one to be tackled was one of the ones that just stuck up a bit too far and looked to be an easy job.  The pry bar easily went under the edge of the rock and with my weight on the bar the rock moved, but didn’t come out.  After digging under the lead edge, the tractor bucket was employed to lift it out.  Well, instead, it lifted the front wheels of the tractor off the ground.  I am a persistent old cuss and once I start something, I want it done, so more digging to get to another angle under the rock.  It finally popped up on end.

Big Rock1It seems this rock is a misplaced monolith from Stonehenge that was buried at about a 30º angle and the tractor was fighting against this.  It straightened out in the hole, but then protruded about 14 inches instead of 6.  More pushing, some digging, and the monolith finally came out of the hole.

Big Rock 2Note the bucket on the tractor is 5 feet wide.  With Jim’s help driving the tractor and me guiding , we finally managed to get it in the bucket and I think it might have been right on the weight limit edge for the hydraulics of tractor.  The monster was dropped off the cliff edge down into a rock fall in the sink hole.  Needless to say, no more rocks were tackled this afternoon, other to sit on the rocks that had been piled near the edge from moving the rock pile in the yard a few weeks ago and with Jim’s efforts too, we tossed that pile over the edge also.

Little birds

On a fun note, these little guys are some of the tiny birds that visit the feeder each day.  There is an assortment of Tufted Titmice, sparrows, wrens, finches, and Juncos that visit.  I haven’t seen but a couple of chickadees, my favorite of the little birds.  Some of the birds fly to the feeder, some sit on the deck surface and catch what gets tossed down. Such fun to watch them and they no longer fly away as soon as they spot someone in the window or door watching them.

 

 

Weekend 4/8/2017

At last post we were expecting extreme weather.  Thursday the trip to take grand daughter to pre-school rewarded us with 3 rainbow segments.

Rainbow

 

At one point it was very vivid and a near perfect arc with the end settled in the valley.  This was the first morning rainbow I have ever seen.  It was accompanied by falling temperatures and increasing wind.  It rained until late in the day when it turned to a wintry mix. Parts if the state experienced tornado activity and a lot of damage east of the mountains.

April snow

 

This was Friday morning’s greeting and it snowed off and on all day Friday.  There was snow on the mountain above us, just a dusting on the farm.  It never warmed more than a few degrees above the prior night’s low 30s.  Again last night, it was near freezing, but today it is sunny and in the low 60s.  The wind isn’t as strong as the past 48 hours, but it hasn’t fully subsided.  It was a good day to get that chick pen fencing done.  They did fine the past couple of cold nights in the unheated garage with a single mother table to warm them.  The brooder tub is much too small for their rapidly growing little bodies and they need to be moved soon.  By midweek, the days will be in the mid 70s, the nights in the upper 40s to low 50s and the chicks will be at least 5 weeks old.  If a makeshift gate to their pen can be completed, they will be moved to Huck’s coop.

Fence   Fence done

There is enough fencing left to make some sort of gate.  A hawk cover needs to be added before they can be turned loose in the pen. But they will have to spend at least a week in the closed coop to acclimate to their new, though temporary home before they can be given freedom of the run.  Once they are too large to get through the welded wire fence of the run, they will be relocated to the main coop and the old hens and Mr. Croak will be moved to the large cull coop.  I am thinking about moving the old birds this week and thoroughly cleaning the main coop, roughing up the run and planting it with the cover crop to get some green growing in their before the chicks move in.  The run could probably benefit from 5 or 6 weeks of no traffic and the oats, field peas, and vetch would grow quickly in there, it was a portion of the garden with good compost soil and it has lots of natural fertilizer that they have provided.

If the weather holds, the lower garden and the chicken run will be broken up with the long handled cultivator and the cover crop sown tomorrow and Monday.  The warm week and midweek rain should get a good start on the spring cover growing.

There are still some aisles in the garden to be mulched with cardboard and spoiled hay and plenty of cardboard still in the garage to use.

Evenings have been spent planning a vacation trip now that our passports have been renewed and back in our possession.  Hopefully, this will become an annual event.

This week, we scored two 10th row center aisle tickets to see Arlo Guthrie in concert in July.  This prompted a weekend plan and reservations made for a quick get away.

Loving life on our farm and the return of spring.

Olio – 4/4/17

Olio- a miscellaneous collection of things

We have had spring again for a few days, but winter is rearing it’s ugly head again, starting with heavy thunderstorms, wind, and possible hail tomorrow afternoon followed with near freezing nights for a couple of nights and even snow flurries on Friday.  The peas haven’t broken ground yet, but they will be covered.  The onions are up and they will be covered with spoiled hay.  The grass already needs to be mowed, almost a month before we usually have to mow.

The Asian pears are blooming, they are my favorite fruit so we are hopeful that the blooms don’t freeze.

Pear

Taking advantage of the beautiful day, we went to Lowes and found flexible corrugated nearly transparent plastic sheets that were 8 feet long and 26 inches wide, the perfect size to enclose the sides of the broody coop.  A box of screws and thirty minutes work and the coop is enclosed on the sides.

Babycoop

The baby chicks look like little dinosaurs and are nearly feathered.  If it wasn’t going to get cold, I would put them in the baby coop, but I guess they will have to wait another week before they move to bigger quarters.  While working outside, the netting over the chicken run got re-fastened to fences and long posts so it doesn’t catch in hair and flap in the wind.  Tomorrow is nice for about half a day so maybe at least part of the fencing will be installed.

My car went in for its annual inspection and she is 13 years old and just shy of 200,000 miles.  We knew going in that she needed some work.  We need new front brakes again, 4th time in 3 years, 4 new tires and an alignment, and a new starter, so this is an expensive inspection, but hopefully will keep her on the road for another 80,000 miles.

Bloodroot

The Bloodroot is blooming in profusion along our country road.  The trillium haven’t been spotted yet.

A couple of years ago, one of our vent stacks began to leak around the boot, ruining a section of our newly finished basement ceiling.  At Christmas that year, eldest son ripped the drywall off the soffit under most of the pipes in the basement and build a set of panels of wood siding and finished framing boards that can be removed by undoing a few screws once the leak was repaired.  About a  year later, we developed a leak at a different vent stack, ruining a different section.  He is going to do the same thing in that area now that the leak is repaired.  Yesterday in the torrential downpours, the original area began to leak again.  Quick work with the power driver, allowed the removal of part of that soffit so that a catch pan could be put in the ceiling until the roof can be repaired yet again.  It was nice to be able to get the soffit parts down without the being ruined.

leak

 

The old adage, “When it rains, it pours” is literal in this case and figuratively in accrued costs for the car and the roof repair.

History Day

Today was the official season opening of the Smithfield Plantation House, the historic home of William Preston in Blacksburg, Virginia. This is the site where I have been demonstrating spinning for the past year when there is a special event. For a while, I will be going in and spinning in different rooms of the house itself while I learn the history to become an interpreter and give tours.  Last November for their final event, I sat in the dining room and learned the information for the school room/office of the house and that part of the house, but there are 4 other rooms that I have only toured once and not an official tour, so that information must be learned.

Today, being opening day, spinning was in the summer kitchen.  The site excavation showed that the slave cabin was erected on the summer kitchen area and until this year, it has been the Weaver’s Cottage with old wheels, weasels, winders, and a huge Appalachian Rocker Loom.  All of that has been removed except for the loom and a small work table and set up with crocks, pots, and tools of an 18th century kitchen.

summer kitchenspinning

Today, I was in this cottage/summer kitchen spinning on one of my antique wheels in full costume.  Because it was opening day, just inside the gate was a Civil War re-enactors encampment, they spent the night there last night and will again tonight.  It smelled so good with bacon cooking on their open fire when I arrived this morning.

Reenactors

As you can see from the lack of leaves on the trees, we are still in early spring and today was an early spring day, very breezy and cool. The cottage is drafty and by the end of the day I was pretty chilled through.  One of the hazards of the cottage is the very low doorways to the outside and to the lean-to addition.  This is the warning on the inside of the door as you prepare to exit.  It is at the bridge of my nose.  The door opening is only about 5 feet.

Sign

During one of the sunny periods, I was sitting on the steps in the sun to warm and two horses were lead through the property. They were lead down to the cottage to graze while the owner and her friend went to use the facilities, I got to hold and provide some attention to the two beauties during that time.

Horses

The turnout today was not very heavy, there were lots of other activities on campus and around the area and the day was chilly and mostly overcast, but it is so enjoyable to have this opportunity to participate in teaching and demonstrating this ancient art, to spread out my Scottish spindle, hand carders, fiber in various stages of preparation and get to talk about something that I have come to love.  Each visit provides me with some education too.

Resilience

The mid March deep freeze has given way to a return of springlike weather.  Most days don’t even require a jacket and evenings only a light one or a sweatshirt.  Most of the daffodils that laid face down during the frigid days and nights have risen back up to the sun, the tulips buds are showing the beginning of color, about to split open into vivid shows.  All of the flowering almonds and pears burned, but the Japanese cherries are bursting with halos of light pink blooms. The forsythias at the school bus stop that were browned, found a few more buds and have a smattering of yellow showing.

Forsythia

 

Though we are less than a half mile from the bus stop, we reside in a hollow that everything blooms slightly later.  Our forsythia had not started to bloom before the freeze and is now beginning to burst forth with color, just as the lilac buds are forming adjacent to them.

Lilac

 

Soon,  the bank by our car park will be riotous with color and fragrance.

With the return of the springlike temperatures have come the waves of rain and thunderstorms.  A day of calm sun followed by a day of rain and sometimes wind. Yesterday was near 80ºf and bright sun, today it will be in the upper 60’s or low 70’s but thick and gray.

clouds

 

Between the time of this photo having just gotten back from the bus stop, and the time granddaughter and I left for preschool, the fog rolled in.

Fog

 

The 3 flags almost hidden by the fog, mark three of the tiny firs that we planted last weekend.  The every other day rain has been helpful in keeping them watered.  When we have a streak of dry weather, the tractor bucket will be filled with water and driven up the row while a garden bucket is used to pour a gallon or so on each little tree every couple of days.  We are toying with buying some of the 24″ mulch rings to put around them to help keep the grass and weeds down and away from the trunks and to help preserve the moisture around them.  The tiny trees are much too small to use the self watering sacs that can be used on a larger sapling, though the red maple may be large enough for one of them.

chicks

 

The chicks are now 2 1/2-3 weeks old and no longer the cute little fuzz balls they were.  They look like little dinosaurs and sound much like them too, no longer peeping, but squawking.  They can easily fly out of the big water trough that is their brooder, kept inside only by the window screen laid on top.  All have wing and tail feathers and were going through the quart size water and feeder in less than a day, so yesterday they graduated to a 7 lb feeder with a lid on top so they can’t accidentally fall inside and get trapped, soiling the food for the rest and they got a 5 quart water dispenser as there is no fear of one drowning in the edge where they drink.  They desperately need to be moved to the garage and thoroughly cleaned but the tub is too heavy for one person to carry and it is raining.  Maybe tomorrow when the sun is out, it can be dragged up the hill to the garage side of the house and moved into the garage.  With the coldest night expected in the mid 40’s with two mother tables in the bin and with feathers coming in, they should be fine.  Having them in the basement is a dirty, smelly idea, but was necessary with the nights in the teens.  If they were outside with a hen, she would have them out and running around, scratching and dust bathing by now regardless of the temperature.

As we approach Earth Day and with the emphasis by our current governing body to undo all of the regulations that have been put in place to protect our planet and environment, and as a former science teacher and still a proponent for science research and development, I have purchased another t shirt to wear during the auxiliary March for Science on the campus of the local University in town.  Now, I’m not sure which of my two I will wear that day, but they are going to be worn before and after as well.  We can’t be silent.  Science and our environment are too important to hide our heads in the sand and ignore what is going on.  Undoing regulations and removing the budgets to allow science research  is NOT going to make America better! (mini rant over)

shirt

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