Tag Archives: chickens

Silence is Golden

It has been quiet around here.  It can’t decide whether it is spring with fruit trees, forsythia, and daffodils blooming, leaves developing on the lilac and some of the shrubs.  Or still winter in April with a recent foot of snow.

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The chickens are confused.  The weather warms and they start laying lots of eggs, then it gets cold and they use all their energy just staying warm.  The past couple of days have been mild and delightful, tomorrow, the high will be at 1 a.m. and fall all day to 29ºf by night and there are snow flurries in the forecast on Saturday and again on Monday.

I took advantage of the nice afternoon and evening to plant 66 garlic cloves and 100 onion sets and then to keep the Houdini chickens out of the newly planted beds and the just sprouting asparagus, three 25 foot rows of plastic chicken wire were purchased and staked around those boxed beds to try and keep them out so growth can occur undisturbed.  Even when the chickens are allowed to free range all 30 acres if they are a mind to, they tunnel under the vegetable garden fence to dig in the spoiled hay and the compost.  With four more  8′ X 4′ and 3 more 4′ X 4′ beds to plant, a better solution than the plastic chicken wire is needed to keep them out.  After not having much luck with root crops and me being the only one who likes dark leafy cooking greens, a change up in the garden is due.  Potatoes, greens, salad, radishes, carrots, and turnips are all readily available locally grown at the Farmers’ Market, so I’m not even going to mess with them this year.  Tomatoes and Jalapenos are always canned or frozen and used up by the time the next growing season comes around, so they will be grown.  Green beans and peas if I can keep the bunnies out of them this year will be grown.  A block of popcorn with some kind of pumpkin or winter squash interspersed will be there.  I have planted sweet potatoes for the past few years and then many don’t get used, so I doubt I’ll waste the space on them, but Kirby cucumbers will be added so I can make lots of pickles.  They disappeared quickly last year the the cucumbers were pricey at the market.

The raspberries never did get thinned or pruned last fall and other than trying to control their spread into the other beds, it is too late to do anything about them this year.  I would like to dig them all up and replant huge buried pots of them to control their spread.  I also want to add to the blueberry garden and look at other fairly small fruit options.

One cold March day I took a fruit tree pruning class and though I can recite the rules, having an idea of what the finished pruning should look like still eludes me, but I have taken a stab at working on our small orchard.  One of the Asian pears has gotten really tall and is thin and compact, not conducive to picking fruit and I have no idea how to deal with it.  The apple trees and the other Asian pear have a better shape and I think I have a handle on the peach trees.

The early spring brought a trip to a fiber retreat and my first and hopefully last encounter with bedbugs.  That put me on antihistamines and anti itch creams and salves for two weeks.  Shortly after my return, a new travel size spinning wheel entered my life.  It is a fun little wheel that fits in an extra large Land’s End canvas bag and only weighs 8 pounds.

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Spring has brought two opportunities to spin at Historic Smithfield Plantation in costume before the season officially opened, a 5K and a fun run one weekend in March and an Easter Egg Hunt this past Saturday.  Both of those events brought dozens of visitors into the Slave cabin/Summer kitchen where I spin, so it was fun and busy.  When a child shows interest in what I’m doing, I will ask them if they would like to try.  If the parent agrees, knowing that the child will have to sit on my lap or between my legs, they get to treadle the wheel while I draft the fiber and once they have helped spin a couple of feet, I double it back on itself to ply it and cut it off to give the child as a souvenir.  The parents are always thankful and a bit surprised that I not only let the child touch the wheel, but help.

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Away, back, away, and back again 3/2/2018

Finally settled back home from a couple of weeks of flurried activity, first with our cruise and as soon as the laundry was done and the dust settled, I was off to the winter version of the spinning retreat. We enjoyed a couple of weeks of very nice weather, enjoying the western Caribbean toward the end of their rainy season, so not too hot and only a few random showers. There were two nights of heavier rain, but it occurred after we had settled for the night. For the most part the seas were calm, though I tend to motion sickness and had one bad evening when I had failed to take Bonine in the morning, did a water excursion and back on the ship just as we were about to leave port. The ship store sold motion sick bands and a couple of Bonine and I was okay after a few hours. We had a great time on a much needed vacation.  And we returned to spring like weather at home.

The spinning retreat is an event that I look forward to, rejoining friends that I see infrequently, laughing, eating, spinning and knitting. The motel at Hawk’s Nest State Park lacks a restaurant at this time, but Tudor’s Biscuit World is just down the road and Pies and Pints Pizza is only a short drive away, so many of us go out for breakfast and lunch. Dinner started as happy hour and morphed over the years to a grand pot luck. This year the pot luck was so immense that one night we had 5 or 6 crockpot dishes, plus salads, crackers, cheese, dips, and desserts. Though I had not asked prior to the event to vend as I was unsure having been away, I took some soaps, salves, yarn, and knitwear and because there were few vendors, I did get to set up and was able to sell enough to pay for the weekend which is my goal.

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This retreat did take a negative twist though as I awoke each day with a few more itchy spots, unsure if I was reacting to their detergent or if I was being bitten. Sunday morning, I was pretty sure that they were bites, notified the office as I left, washed my bag and clothing in hot water as soon as I arrived home. By Monday, it was apparent, that I had had a bed bug encounter, something I have feared in hotels, but not expected there. I have always been over reactive to insect bites and have broad itchy bands surrounding the rows of bites, characteristic of bed bugs. Now a week out, I am still on antihistamines, anti itch creams, and trying not to scratch. I am hoping that I did not bring them home with me. My spinning, knitting, and vending items remained in the tiled conference room for the weekend, but traveled home in the back of my car with my suitcase, though in a plastic box crate and in trays strapped to the top of the crate.

The week remained delightfully spring like until last night. We have howling wind and woke to snow flurries. The upcoming forecast is more seasonal. We lost our power briefly last night and again this afternoon for a couple of hours. Fires have been lit in the wood stove and fireplace in case of another failure. It is supposed to go down into the twenties tonight and we want the house to stay warm.

I am continuing to knit on the new shawl that is a design on the fly that I will probably never write down.  The yarns are lovely though.  It is a mitered shawl of a Freia Ombre Shawl ball and a craveyarn Santa Fe solid.

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I am nearly to a point where I need to make sure I have a multiple of the number of stitches needed for the fancier lace that will be the bottom lace band.

Also on the needles are Log Cabin squares for a gift blanket in the works.

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The warmer weather and longer days have the hens producing generously again.  My egg buying friends were all grateful today when I was able to bring them the quantities they desire.  Each day gathering 8 to a dozen from the 16 hens.  I’m still unsure whether the two with the pale combs are laying, so I may be getting them from just 14 hens.

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The power has been restored and flickered off and back on again, so I should get our dinner going in case it goes out again.  Until next time.

And So We Endure Jan. 14, 2018

After the nearly 3 weeks of Arctic weather, we were due for a reprieve.  Daughter and family had moved  out nearly all of their furniture that had been moved in for their period of house sharing with us and our furniture that had been relocated to other parts of the house or stored returned.  Jim and I dismantled the bunk bed, storing the full size bottom bunk in the garage until they could pick it up yesterday and the twin size top bunk set up in a corner of the basement to provide another place to put family members if we have too many for the other beds.  The smaller south bedroom was scrubbed down, vacuumed, dusted, and the full size bed, tall chest, nightstand, and rocking chair returned to it.  New Navy blue curtains were hung, but once out of the package, I realized that they are not lined, so some lining fabric will be purchased and I will make the lining and sew it in.

Monday was supposed to be the first warmer day and the grand’s first day at their new school, but Ole Man Winter decided to play a trick and instead of a warmer dry day, we got an ice storm warning.  Schools closed throughout the region in anticipation and we ended up with the grands with us.  Grandson arrived in a too small knit hat that looked like a mouse had chewed it.  He helped me pick yarns and I told him I would trade him a new hat for the one he was wearing

Though initially we thought that it was unnecessary to close the schools, we did indeed get ice.   We got the grands home before it got too bad, but Monday night Jim went out to try to get the two male dogs back in and slipped, landing hard on his hip.  I didn’t hear him calling for help until he had crawled back to the front porch in pain.  As the night wore on, his more intense pain subsided, but he has continued to have a lot of soreness, not enough to keep us from our walks when weather permitted.  Tuesday the schools were to be delayed two hours to give the roads a chance to clear, but by 9 a.m., they again closed.  We were unsure we could get down our mountain road to get the grands, so SIL had to wait for the alternative care program to get straightened out and took the kids there, going in to work late.

The week did finally warm up and we enjoyed a few nice day, enough for the ice on the creeks and the blocks from the chicken watering pan to thaw.  Each day the pan was dumped and fresh water poured in and the yard and chicken run were littered with blocks the shape of the pan or the bucket.  Friday we got much needed rain, and mud.  The dogs come and go through the front door as the deck repair is still in progress out the back.  Late Friday, the rain turned to sleet then to snow and the temperature dropped.  It was 40ºf colder yesterday than Friday.  We got no more than a dusting as the snow blew horizontally until early afternoon when the wind died down, the clouds broke but the thermometer didn’t rise.  Our high yesterday was 21.  Last night to 10.

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The cold, blustery, snowy day encouraged me to continue putting the house together, the front bedroom received the same treatment that the other one got last weekend.  The walls swept down, windows and floor vacuumed and mopped or wiped down, fresh linen on the bed, the heavy quilt that has been stored for 3 years was returned to the bed and new insulated, room darkening curtains hung.

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Friday night when they came to pick up their dog and two housecats, he got his new hat, just in time for yesterday’s frigid weather.

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He had it on yesterday when they came to get the bed and a few more boxes.  I hope it keeps him warm as we endure another week of subfreezing days and bitter nights before the next break.  In the meantime, I am again accumulating blocks of ice from the water pans and buckets and though I thought I only got 1 egg yesterday, this morning when I let the hens out into the yard, I found 4 more, frozen and cracked in a corner of the coop, not in nesting boxes where they could be found.

Olio – January 3, 2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

The holidays are over, the decorations packed away, but the cold has really settled in.  Cold is relative.  There are parts of the world, even the USA that have the temperatures we are experiencing every winter and are prepared for it.  There are parts of the US that are used to very mild winters that are experiencing temperatures that we consider normal for this time of year, but they aren’t equipped for it.  It is cold here.  Our nights for the past couple of weeks have all been single digits.  The days in the teens, low 20’s if we are lucky.  But it has been dry.  There is some light snow expected tomorrow as another Arctic blast hits us, but no other real precipitation due as far as I can see in the forecast.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, if the forecast holds true, we will climb back up into the 30’s with mid 20’s at night in a few more days.

With the frigid weather, the dogs run out and back in.  The chickens have remained cooped some days and if it is sunny and calm, let out to free range on other days.  If it snows tomorrow, they won’t come out of their coop, no white stuff for them.  The shortened days and extreme cold have seriously curtailed egg laying.  Instead of 6 dozen or so a week, the 16 ten month old hens are providing less than half that a week.  The days are beginning to lengthen and the cold will abate, so hopefully they will begin to lay again soon.

We rarely go out for New Year’s Eve, but this fall, we saw a billboard for a New Year’s Eve event at Mountain Lake Lodge, the site of the filming of “Dirty Dancing.”  As soon as they were taking reservations, we booked one.  This lodge is 5 miles further up the road  our road descends from, an elevation change of about 2000 more feet and we were greeting with snow and frosted trees, a veritable winter wonderland, where though we are cold, we have no snow.

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The event included a stellar buffet dinner, a room for the night, a grand party with live band, favors, and champagne toast, and topped off with breakfast on New Year’s Day.  We met some wonderful folks, enjoyed their company, danced and partied, then walked upstairs to our lovely room for the night.  Such a great event we will probably repeat it next year.

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We got home on New Year’s Day to discover that the dripping faucet in the utility room had been turned off and the hot water line frozen.  We have kept the cold dripping, the heat turned up in there and a hot fire burning in the wood stove in the basement near where the pipe enters the utility room slab.  After three days of this treatment, the pipe finally thawed this afternoon and now both hot and cold are running at a slow trickle to prevent a recurrence.  The washing machine drain is still frozen though the sink drain is not.

I was knitting a Hitchhiker scarf and hoping to wear it last weekend as my last project for 2017, but ended up taking it with me with only 8 rows to complete.  Sitting in the tavern before dinner in front of a fire with a glass of wine, I saw an error a few rows back and had to rip those rows out to fix it.  It ended up being my first finished project of 2018.

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Knit with Freia Fibers Shawl ball

To get out of chronological order here, the past couple of weeks have been busy.  Daughter’s family has been moving into their new house a trunk full or our 5 X 8′ open trailer full at a time.  They have cleared the storage units that have held most of their belonging for the past three years that they shared our home with us, have moved toys, books, games, and shelving that held some of that in our rec room, and this past weekend, their master bedroom returning our furniture that they have stored.  They are still staying here until some flooring is laid, then they will move the kids dressers and part of the bunk bed and a few more smaller items and their pets.  The house is going to seem so empty after having the kids here.  They are close enough for us to still help out when needed, but in a different school district and closer to work.

The month of December had us on the road a lot.  We went to the coast to visit son the younger and his family one weekend, home the next for the second Holiday Market, then north to son the elder and his family, returning home on Christmas eve.  Son in law is from an Italian family and their tradition is pasta and antipasto on the eve and we arrived home to a delicious meal.  Christmas Day after gift exchange with daughter’s family and watching the children with all of their new things, I prepared a turkey and ham meal with all the trimmings.

The week after Christmas, our local yarn store closed for a week to relocate much closer to where I live and our spinning group that usually meets there on that Thursday of each month chipped in with other volunteers to help them with packing and actually moving so that they didn’t have to rent a truck.  A friend volunteered her pickup, I volunteered our larger SUV and the trailer and with a couple of other vehicles and two days, all of the fabric, yarn, and fixtures were moved in sub freezing temperatures.  They reopen on Friday and I am excited to see how all of the stuff we helped move will be displayed and so that I can purchase another Freia Fiber Shawl ball in another color way for my cruise knitting.  Our cruise is only a bit more than a month off.

I hope my readers have a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Olio December 17, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

The second Holiday Market was yesterday.  It was biting cold when I got there to set up and it was noon before the sun came around enough to provide some warmth, never enough to remove my parka and hat, but I did finally remove my gloves.  It was a great market and I did very well.  It is the last event of the year for me.  The market manager told me that I should bring my spinning wheel and sit and spin.  It was too cold yesterday for me to even drop spindle until it warmed some.  When someone shows interest in the knitwear or yarn, I always let them know that it is hand spun and the knitwear, hand knit by me.  Two ladies were looking at the hats, sweater, and mitts when I told them that.  One of the ladies turned to me and said “What do you mean hand spun?”  Her companion said before I could answer, that it was spun on a spinning wheel.  Lady #1’s eyes got big and she said to me, “You make the yarn and then make the hats?”  She just couldn’t wrap her head around that idea even though I was standing behind my booth with a spinning drop spindle at the time and had knitting on the table.

The cold and wind when I had been fighting a cold for a couple days, left me totally voiceless today.   The week has been very cold and several days of  light snow.

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The grands missed one day of school and had a 2 hour delay the following day because of the extreme cold.  We drove across the state last weekend in the snow, but fortunately the roads were in decent shape.  We delivered Christmas gifts to our youngest and his family and enjoyed a few hours of visit and a meal out.

When we got home last weekend, we went to one of the cut your own Christmas tree farms and got our tree for the year.  It was put up in the stand and has been watered daily.  I put the lights on it and we were waiting for the grands to be able to help us decorate it, but between school, their activities, preparing for and moving stuff from storage to their new house, it hadn’t happened.  Since I am voiceless and a bit under the weather today, I built a fire, put on carols, and Jim and I put most of the ornaments on the tree, leaving a few for the kids to hang this evening.

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That finishes the decorating for this year, now we sit back and enjoy it for a couple of weeks.  Midweek, we made the Christmas dinner purchases as we will travel to visit eldest son and his family next weekend, coming home on Christmas eve.

There has been quite a bit of knitting going on with 3 little girl hats hand knit from my hand spun yarns. IMG_20171212_150448IMG_20171208_111447

 

I failed to photograph the third one, it was all pink.

Now I am working on a project for me, a Hitchhiker scarf, knit in a gradient merino commercial yarn that started with a soft salmon and has turned into a red, though several shades of reds to maroon.

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I tend to knit blues and teals for myself, so it is fun using something brighter.

The cold and snow have the chooks on strike.  Yesterday, there were only 2 eggs from 16 hens.  One of the hens doesn’t seem to be a layer.  Her body shape is more like a guinea hen, her neck longer and thin, and her comb and waddle pale.  She otherwise seems healthy enough as far as activity.  I haven’t seen any sign of parasite activity.  And unlike her Welsummer sisters, she can’t fly over the fence.  She may have to be culled from the coop.  There are too many hens for my coop right now and the coop is requiring frequent cleaning when most winters I can just use the deep litter method of keeping them clean and warm.

Hoping you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

 

OLIO – November 12, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

This hasn’t been a particularly busy week, 2 days home with a sick almost 6 year old, daily walks the other days, fairly consistently getting the 10,000 suggested steps each day and our speed up, walking 3.7-4 miles per hour, not bad for two oldies but goodies.

Car time was spent finishing up another pair of fingerless mitts for the Holiday Markets and the shop.

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Hand spun Coopworth by me and the green is part mohair from a friend’s goats, blended commercially with merino maybe and dyed by the friend.

A few nights ago, we were threatened with our first hard freeze, we have had several light frosts, so a harvest of mint, oregano, flat leaf parsley, and lemon balm were made to dry for teas and culinary uses this winter.  They are scattered around on trays on the hutch top and shelf to dry.

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A couple of sprigs of rosemary were brought in and put in the rooter ball in the kitchen window to root before potting.  The intent was to put row cover over the plant in the garden and over the rainbow chard, but intent and action didn’t meet.

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I probably should have.  If it perks back up, I will harvest a fair amount of it and freeze it then cover the plants and see if there will still be fresh greens for a bit longer.  It looked even worse this morning when I went out to feed and water the chickens.

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It has been cold enough the past few mornings to warrant the big ugly pink hooded barn coat and gloves.  It is ugly, but it is warm and there are two pair of gloves, depending on the chore and temperature, a pair of leather rough out work gloves and a pair of thick insulated Columbia fleece gloves that used to go winter camping with me.  With the sharp drop in temperature the other night came very strong wind.  It flipped our gas grill over two half barrels of herbs in the yard, tipping them over as well.  Other than a dent, it seems undamaged, but it will be moved well away from the house before it is lit to be sure.

Recently a friend, who is also a blog friend, posted a finished beautiful shawlette/scarf called Hitchhiker.  Years ago I knit one and the grandkids said it looked like a Dragon’s tail.  Though I was pleased with the knit and the shape, I didn’t like the color that I had chosen for the yarn and it sold in a prior Holiday Market.  I commented on her blog post and she encouraged me to knit another.  It seemed like a good project to take when we travel in February as it is one that can be picked up, put down, fairly easily memorized so good for airports and planes.  I started looking for yarn and couldn’t find anything that struck my fancy.  I had been spinning a lovely colorful Merino on the Spanish Peacock drop spindles, but feared it would look muddy plyed on itself.  If Navajo plyed, it wouldn’t give me enough yardage for the pattern and would be a bit heavier yarn than desired.  I realized that the Hearts of the Meadow Farm Coopworth that I am spinning for a sweater was a great color match, so a bobbin of it was spun fine and the spindle singles was plyed with the bobbin singles to produce a 155 yard skein.

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I like it, just 350 more yards of it need to be made to complete the project.  That will be my spinning project for a bit, except for Thursday when I am at Smithfield House in costume for a large Homeschool group.  I will resume spinning the oatmeal colored Coopworth that day.

Knitting, I am working on a Wonderful Wallaby, a hooded, pocketed sweatshirt style sweater for daughter.  I have made many of them for grandkids, this is the first adult sized one.  The body is done up to where the sleeves must be attached so the sleeves were begun last night as they are knit separately and then knit onto the sweater.

In spite of the very cold morning yesterday, we bundled up and ventured out to breakfast and the Farmers’ Market.  There are still many vendors there with produce, a few with meat, a couple with coffee, candles, artisan breads, and other goodies.  We came home with some produce, sausage as the house will be brimming at Thanksgiving, a loaf of bread, and a small bouquet of flowers for the table.

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While there, I met up with the Market Manager, and Ian told me that our Holiday Market conflicts with a 12:30 home football game at the University, the last home game of the season.  Typically, home game days are not good market days as the parking around town all gets taken up by game goers, several of the larger lots that are on campus become tailgate sites, including the one across from the market where we typically park our cars and trucks, it will be closed to our use.  Jim may have to deliver and pick me up and I shouldn’t expect this market to be a good one.  December should be better.  I almost didn’t do the November market to do one at our local elementary/middle school.  Maybe that is what I should have done, but what is done is done.

After the market and the grocer and all was put away at home, we ventured to the local trail around the big pond to do our walk and it was still only in the low 30’s.  It was brisk and made us move quickly to keep warm,  Today is supposed to be a bit milder, up into the mid 40’s.

Another week on the farm, the mountain looking like winter, the leaves down, the trees barren, the little flock of finches, Tufted Titmice, and Chickadees frequenting the feeders, the chickens cleaning up what they spill and “weeding” my flower beds with their scratching.  I love life here, even in winter.  Must get some firewood though.

Olio – 11/6/2017

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things

It is truly autumn here, near 70ºf one day and 40’s to 50’s the next.  Sunshine and gloom, but more gloom than sunshine of late.

With the last of the harvest from the garden (still some chard and herbs), it was mulched down last week.  The 8 quart bucket of the last of the peppers brought in though I kept forgetting to buy ziplock freezer bags.  I avoid the use of plastic for the environment, but some things that go in the freezer don’t have another good option.  Son in law picked up a box for me yesterday and last night after dinner, daughter packaged and labelled while I chopped.  I didn’t specify how to label them and she tends to be a creative sort when not given specific direction.

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There are some interestingly labelled chickens in the freezer for the same reason.  It makes me smile each time I pull out one of the packages.

The shorter days have slowed egg production from about a dozen a day down to about 8 a day.  It amazes me that with 30 acres to prowl, that those 16 birds can foul their coop so thoroughly as quickly as they do.  This morning, I could smell ammonia again, so I opened the pop door, the coop door, and all three windows fully to hopefully dry some of the straw, but hardly got back in the house when thick gloom formed again.  A weather app check said rain was due before 10 a.m.  With the garden dormant and a winter to break down the hot fertilizer, I forked the fouled straw out of the coop and onto the dormant beds and spread new straw in the coop, closed the main door and lowered the windows to a ventilating crack.  Back in the house, only 8:30 and the rain has already begun.

I hope the rain will stop by early afternoon.  Jim and I have been working together for the past 8 weeks to improve our health.  This has included behaving better at meals and eliminating most snacks, altering the types of snacks we do eat, and walking daily.  We started with a bit over 2 miles at a pace the hare would laugh at, but yesterday we did 3 miles at 15.05 minutes/mile.  He is willing to go to the gym and walk the treadmill, I am not, plus we don’t encourage each other doing it that way.  I walk faster when I am with him and I think he does also, so I don’t like rainy days that interfere.  When it gets cold, he will go to the gym, I will layer up and continue to walk outdoors if it isn’t raining.  So far, though I don’t see much weight change, I have dropped a size in my jeans and had to purchase a couple of new pair yesterday as I was constantly pulling the old ones up.

The first Holiday Market is coming up and I am spending car time and evenings, knitting hats and fingerless mitts with small skeins of hand spun yarns.

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If the day is cool or windy, hopefully they will sell.  Each new item also goes into my online shop with the link on the side of the blog.

Lately, I have been missing my Dad.  It is approaching two years since he took sick and passed.  On Halloween, while looking for a photo of my daughter doing professional grade Darth Maul makeup on her little brother to show her son who she was doing as the Joker from Batman, I stumbled on this photo from many (maybe a dozen) years ago at a holiday meal at his home.  This is my sister and me with Dad with a silly smirk that I saw so often.  I’m not sure why my little brother wasn’t in the picture as well.

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I had much shorter and much darker hair back then.  This morning, while sitting and eating my breakfast, I was watching the birds on the feeders.  Please excuse the dirty window, I can’t go safely out on the deck to clean it.

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He always had feeders full for the birds and squirrels and most of the ones I can name when they visit are because of his lessons.

One of the things I really miss is our weekly call that always had a discussion of what we were currently reading and his recommendations of many excellent books I have read over the years because of him.  I did have a nice long conversation with my step mom yesterday though.

I think I will end with a picture of the best buds.

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They had been wrestling over a ball and she putting her whole head in his mouth, but then they they just collapsed into a puppy pile to snuggle.

 

 

 

 

Goodnight garden – 11/2/2017

Today seems like a spring day, blue skies, 68ºf, sunshine.  With the several mornings of frost on the grass and the windshield when taking the grands to the bus stop and then below freezing temps and snow flurries all day Sunday, I knew the garden was done.  Since the day is gorgeous and Jim is off enjoying it on the Harley, grands in school, daughter and SIL at work, it seemed like a good day to put the garden to bed for the winter.

Boy was I surprised when I got out there. The pepper bed which happened to be right behind a big round hay bale that I rolled in before finishing the fence last spring though slightly frost bitten was still hearty plants loaded with peppers.

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An 8 quart bucket was filled and those peppers will be chopped and frozen for winter use.  The plants were then pulled and tossed in the chicken run for them to pick at the leaves and remaining peppers that were too small to bother picking.

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The Echinacea  is still blooming, it was tucked down beside the rotting bale of hay.

The herb bed is still thriving too with several mints, rosemary, hyssop, and oregano.

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And lots of swiss chard.  We have a few mild days and a bit of rain expected, but before the next cold night, the mint and oregano will be cut to dry and a sprig of rosemary cut to root for the kitchen window garden of the winter.  I think the herb bed is going to be covered with a row cover to try to save the rosemary for the spring.

The Tithonia was mostly bloomed out and the plants dry so it was pulled and tossed in the chicken pen for them to get the remaining seed from the seed heads.  It will be planted again next year, but it with the sunflowers are going to be on an edge of the garden, not in the middle.  The asparagus ferns were dry so they too were cut back to a couple inches and then all of the beds that had been cleaned out, the tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, sweet potatoes, garlic, and onion beds were all heavily layered in old hay with the garden stakes laid on top to help hold it down from the winter wind and the chickens that get in the garden.

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The big roll of hay, with much effort was moved from in front of the gate where it had protected the peppers.  Much of it used on the beds.  The remainer will mulch the large area where the corn was grown, and around the raspberries. They  still need to be cut back and thinned, but their leaves are gone so it shouldn’t be too difficult a job.  The containment rings are going to be set around clumps of them and cardboard heavily mulched will be placed around the rings and over to the edges of the garden boxes.

Though I love my home grown garlic, I think I am going to skip a year and see if I can break the cycle of the nematodes that damage about a third of the harvest each year.

The second fence around the garden that would make a 3-4 foot wide chicken run all the way around the garden never was completed last spring.  I have the posts, but need to replace a section of fencing on the north side of the garden, move a comfrey plant, and set the new fencing.  This will also necessitate two new gates and one of them will need a substantial gate post set.

The rest of the putting to bed activity will have to wait for tomorrow or this weekend.  Two or three hours of pulling plants and weeds is enough for one day.  The pigweed, smartweed, horsenettle, and some tall mint family weed in spite of the earlier weedings required a fair amount of today’s energy.IMG_20171102_131657

These girls weren’t much help.

The header was yesterday’s morning sky while waiting at the bus stop.  With daylight savings time starting this weekend, it will be light at the bus stop next week, but dark so much earlier in the evenings.  I don’t think daylight savings time is a good thing.

Off to pick up the grands from the bus.  Until next time.

Brrrr – 10/25/2017

We have had three light frost nights, ice on the car windows when taking the grands to their bus, but so far, the remaining garden is hanging in.  That may end tonight.  We had an overcast day that never got above 45ºf and tonight it is supposed to get to freezing.  I may be picking small jalapenos in the morning and  quickly chopping the for the freezer.

Each night there are two or three young hens that have escaped from their late afternoon confinement in the run and gotten in the garden.  As night falls, they have to be wrangled out of the garden and carried to the coop.  Most are “squatters” that go into a submissive squat and are easy to pick up and relocate.  One Welsummer is a runner and though she is distraught that she can’t get to the coop (she can get out of the pen but not back in), she runs.  Once caught, she is calm as she is carried to the coop.  Tonight I was later being able to get to them and it was full on dark.  The runner and the  Buffy escapee were perched on the fence in the dark.  The other side of that same fence is their run and the open pop door.  Stupid birds.

I was late because tonight was another opportunity to volunteer for Smithfield House, but not at Smithfield House.  The Director and I dressed in costume and worked an Outreach event on the university campus.  It was an outdoor event and chilly.  We did get a bit of interest in volunteerism and internships, were fed huge bratwursts and fresh pressed apple cider.  I am still trying to thaw out.  I spun, she recruited.

Friday night, Jim and I will participate in another Smithfield event, the Spirit Hayride, but as participants, not volunteers.

The Spinzilla results were released and our team was about halfway down the list of winners.  For our team, I spun the most and our sponsor, Strauch  Fiber Equipment Co. generously offered an incentive prize of one of their awesome ball winders.

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I have wanted to purchase one for quite a while was was excited to be the winner.

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To test it out, I spun a bobbin of Hearts of the Meadow Farm’s Coopworth and wound it into a center pull ball and plyed it back onto the bobbin.  The ball winder is so smooth and quiet. Thank you Strauch Fiber Equipment Co.

Olio, October 12, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

It has been a while since an Olio was posted, actually been a while since much of anything has been posted.

Spinzilla, the TNNA (The National Needle Arts Assoc.) team spinning competition ended Sunday night.  Our team had 25 spinners from across the US, sponsored by The Knotty Ladies and Strauch Fiber Equipment Company.  Most of our team has reported their yardage with a photo, it was due to our team leader yesterday, but mine was turned in before the official end of the competition by about 3 hours.  I was worn out, beat up, and generally over it by then and had finished plying a bobbin full of wool, so I quit.  During the course of the competition as my spinning wheel only has 4 bobbins and 1 of them has some pre Spinzilla alpaca on it that didn’t get finished prior to the start time, I plyed off every bobbin or two bobbins together, wound them off the plying bobbin, measured the yardage, and banded them with fiber, yardage, and weight and put the info in a spreadsheet to make the total tally easier to do.  In the end, spinning every spare minute I could on my wheel and everywhere we went on one of my drop spindles, I spun 5000.57 yards of wool, 2.84 miles in 7 days.

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Though we have often had our first frost by now, we are still experiencing daytime tempertures as high as 90, but the light drought we have been experiencing has finally broken and we have had some rain in the past week, greening up the browned grasses.  The trees are turning orange, red, and gold, some having already shed their leaves.

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The pullets seem to all be laying now, often getting up to 13 eggs from the 16 on a good day.  Only one of the old girls is still laying, though the molt seems to be winding down, it no longer looks like a chicken exploded in their coop and run.

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Normally in the autumn, we spend about 23 hours taking turns mowing our 30 acres with a 5 foot brush hog and our little tractor, but this year, we turned the task over to our retired postman and his helper and let them mow and bale the 3 big fields.  That leaves only from the house to the road to mow and that often gets done monthly anyway.  That was a big relief to not have to face that many hours on the tractor.

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He got 20 large round bales, not too bad for a second cutting of hay after weeks of really dry weather.  His cattle will appreciate it this winter if we get any bad weather.

Each day hubby and I try to get in a good brisk walk.  Even with the rain we have managed most days.  Between our house and Blacksburg, there is a large pond in the  National Forest and it has a nice path around it.  If we park in the upper parking lot, walk down to the pond and around it and then turn around and back track, we get about 2.3 miles.  From the library in Blacksburg to the rec center in Christiansburg is an asphalt trail on an old rail grade, mostly through wooded areas, behind residential areas, and some open fields and it has several access points.  There are two that we choose, from the library to Airport Road and back which is about the same 2.3 miles and from behind the hospital toward Christiansburg, a 2.5 section.  Our 4th walk choice is to go to Radford when we are over in that direction and walk 2.7 miles of Bisset Park on an asphalt trail along the New River.  As we are still seeing various specialists nearly weekly trying to determine what is going on with hubby, we have avoided steep climbs or walks that take us out of civilization where getting help if needed would be difficult.  There is another trail along the New River that we want to check out, but it is one that will probably involve taking along a picnic and making a day trip of it as it is a bit of a drive.

My crafting since the end of Spinzilla has been minimal, but I did get my studio corner cleaned up and mostly organized and used some of my hand spun, hand dyed yarn to repair my favorite pair of jeans.

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And I have read.  The Orphan’s Tale is an excellent historical fiction set during WWII set in Germany and France and set around the circus.  A really interesting read, highly recommended.