Tag Archives: garden

End of week 9-16-2017

This has been a crafty week ending with a good session on the tractor to beat the too tall grass back to a reasonable length.  The unused chicken run is going to require the weed wacker and this body is just not up to that this afternoon.  Our house sits on a slope that has the main floor at ground level on the front and on the second level on the back.  To mow with the tractor first requires that the gas powered lawn mower (not self propelled) be hauled out and a couple of swipes around the house along with a couple of areas that the tractor can’t reach, must be done.  The typical mowing is 4 or 5 acres, around the orchard trees, the garden and chicken runs, and the front, back, and side yards.  The area that is hayed and we usually brush hog in the fall is going to be hayed this fall, taking this task from me this year.

The crafting has involved designing two new patterns for fingerless mitts for the shop. The patterns have been shared with a few friends, I am hopeful that if they knit them, that they will alert me to any miscues that might surface.  Also this week,  3 batches of Shea based cold process soap, and a couple dozen tins of salves and balms were made for the shop and the upcoming shows.

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The lower ones are for me, though I will knit a pair or two for the Holiday Markets as well.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked if I could make a particular hat for her grand daughter who is turning 1 soon and has yet to grow hair.  The project was quick and sent to the friend, who in turn sent it to her daughter.  The photo credit is from her daughter, they were very pleased with the results.

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And then today was Worldwide Spin in Public Day, and my new Spanish Peacock drop spindle accompanied me today as we went to our usual Saturday morning breakfast and Farmers’ Market trips.

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A busy week.  Tomorrow the garden and a batch of pickles will be the focus.

Another Busy Day

The day is gloomy, chilly, and very damp as the remnants of Harvey drift over the state.  Saturday we go to breakfast then to the Farmers’ Market and have missed the past two weeks, so in spite of the gloom, we traveled in to our favorite local diner for breakfast, then on to see what the market vendors had in stock today, we were low on meats and there are many veggies that I prefer to purchase rather than grow, partly to support our local farmers and partly because when they are ready to pick, there is more than we can use.

We were then off to a department store at the nearest mall to get Jim a couple of nicer shirts and another pair of khaki pants in anticipation of our cruise that we hope will depart next Saturday, if the next hurricane doesn’t foil that plan.

Back home, the rain had stopped for a bit, so a much needed harvest was done.  The 22 quart bucket was half full of jalapeños, cayennes, and large bells, half full of tomatoes, and a big bunch of second growth basil.

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The tomatoes from the last harvest were removed from the freezer, peeled and cooked down into a nice thick sauce.  While it was cooking down, two strings of extra large jalapeños and the cayennes were strung and hung in the south door to dry for winter use, 5 more pints of jalapeños pickled and canned.  That makes a total of 31 pints of them canned so far, many more than any other year, but eldest son and Jim will eat one with most dinners for the next couple of seasons until there are more next year.  Some of my poblano pepper plants ended up jalapeños and there are many more to be harvested before our first frost takes out the plants.

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The tomatoes frozen today will be peeled and canned as Rotel style tomatoes tomorrow for chili this winter.

As usual, I turned to my two favorite canning books by Marissa McClellan.   She is not a sponsor, but if I ever wanted a sponsor for my blog, she would be one I would seek.

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I still need to find a good canning recipe for the Asian Pears.  There are so many and I don’t need more jam, conserve, or chutneys, my sweet tooth has been curbed and they just don’t appeal to me anymore.

This week, the young hens have come into good production, while the old ladies have all but given up.  Each day there are 10 or 11 eggs to bring in.  We only use a dozen or so each week ourselves, so there are many eggs to share with friends who appreciate me raising healthy, non commercial eggs.

It is time to start the oven to cook the stuffed peppers from today’s harvest.

The Absent Blogger – 8/10/2017

One day seems like the next.  A pleasant August of temperatures not typical of the month, most days reaching only about 80ºf, nights that warrant at least a sheet for cover.  Each day is a series of doctor’s appointments to try to diagnose hubby’s symptoms and the accompanying stress of not knowing, harvesting from the garden that daughter and grands helped me get totally weeded last weekend, canning the harvest, and refereeing the constant squabbles of the grands who have another 18 days before school begins and are tired of each other’s company and the play options available to them.  Most days ending in thunderstorms, though not filling the creeks, it is keeping the garden watered and the dust down.  The seeds planted in empty beds after our weeding session are sprouting to provide us with turnips, radishes, spinach, carrots, and peas for the fall.  The sweet potato vines are thick, kale, chard, and corn thriving, a few small pumpkins appearing amidst the corn. Several of the pullets are laying tiny eggs now, the hens have all but quit laying.  The Monarchs found the parsley and are chowing down, but the butterflies are welcome. The hay was finally moved off of our fields.  The shelves of salsas, pickles, and sauces are filling.  As the tomatoes begin ripening more quickly, pasta sauce and more salsa will be made.  The Asian pears are ripening and pear sauce or pear apple sauce will be made.

Such is a day in the life of the absent blogger.

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Putting by – July 29, 2017

This is the beginning of the putting by season for the non productive winter to come.  The garden has provided a lot of basil, peppers are maturing, tomatoes too.  Though the peas were a bust this year and potatoes not what I was hoping, the sweet potato vines look healthy, the corn is forming ears, and we are getting enough green beans to eat a few times a week and a bit in the freezer.

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Dairy free pesto for the freezer, pickled and canned jalapeños for the pantry, fire cider for cold season, oregano and basil vinegars, and shelling of field peas for ground cover and chicken treats.  That was one afternoon of work, along with bunches of basil and hyssops drying for teas and cooking.

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Today was our weekly Farmer’s Market visit and breakfast out.  We missed both last week with our music weekend, and next weekend will be the huge street festival that happens in town, so many vendors will not even try to attend the market on Saturday.  With this being the height of the season and with several of the meat vendors having recently gotten cuts back from the abattoirs, we stocked up on some meats.  Peaches are in season as well as cucumbers and we came home with several pounds of peaches and a couple of pounds of pickling cucumbers.  Once home, another putting by session was held.

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Eight half pints of the Peach Sriracha sauce that is a hit here, and 4 pints of classic dill spears were prepped and canned.  The pot used today for water bath canning only holds 7 half pints or 4 pints at a time, so one jar of Peach Sriracha sauce went into the refrigerator for use now.

Though she isn’t a sponsor and I get nothing for this recommendation, if you are a new canner, have limited space for storing, or a small family to prepare for, Marissa McClellan’s books, Food in Jars, and Canning by the Pint are priceless.  The Peach Sriracha recipe is one of her jams that I blend and prepare thinner for a sauce and came from one of her books. She has a newer book on canning with sweeteners other than white sugar that I haven’t tried as I make few sweet canned items.

Right on the 20th week since hatching, one of the pullets presented us with an egg.  It is a Welsummer egg, reddish brown but not as dark as I had hoped they would be.  All 4 of the Welsummers have bright red combs and wattles, so we should start seeing eggs from all of them soon.  The Buff Orpingtons will probably not lay for another month.

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Pullet eggs are so cute compared to the mature hen’s eggs.

Earlier this spring, I bought a pound of raw fawn colored alpaca locks from one of the local vendors.  This week, I spun a bobbin of it and a bobbin of some chocolate brown alpaca roving that had been given to me a year or so ago, and plied them into more than 200 yards of light fingering weight pure alpaca yarn, pictured in the header.  I think it will be knit into a hat and fingerless mitts for the shop, but maybe it will just be sold or traded, especially as more is currently being spun.

Kitchen Alchemy and Camp – July 25, 2017

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This is the time of year that the herbs and wild plants that are used in the salves, balms, and some soaps in the shop are growing and being harvested.  Once a batch is dried, jars of the herbs and the oils that make the infused oils are started.  Sometimes they are suntea processed in a window sill for a month or so, but sometimes one or more are needed sooner than that and they are infused in a makeshift double boiler system for 3 hours.  Once the infused oils are made and cooled, they are strained into a clean jar and the portion needed measured out and rewarmed to melt the organic beeswax needed to make the oil into a salve or balm.  Before our weekend away, a kitchen alchemy session was conducted and several salves resupplied, labelled, and put in the shop.  Some of the oils are needed for the Mountain Makings camp that is in session this week.

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Today was day 2 of their camp, my first of two sessions working with the young ones.  My friend, Jennifer, and I worked with them last year and again today.  The children are 7 to 12 years old and all very involved in the activities.  We had a very brief discussion of spinning and how  and why it was used in past generations.  They were each given a few ounces of hand dyed fiber and a hand made drop spindle, an improved version of last year’s with a heavier whorl.  One parent was fascinated with this portion of their program today and stayed.  She was given a spindle and fiber and followed right along with the children, making her first spindle full of yarn singles.  After the spindles were all being used without too much more assistance, they put them down and each were given a packet that contained a cardboard loom, weaving needles, yarn, and an instruction sheet for reference at home and they began a small wall hanging that they wove themselves.  Once they were all working well with that, we moved to our spinning wheels and gave each child an opportunity to spin a long enough singles to double it back on itself to create a length of hand spun yarn that they can use in their weaving.  At the end of the day, they will go home with their spindle and fiber, their loom, yarn, and weaving needles.

Tomorrow, I will return alone to take the children on a plant walk to identify some of the plants that can be wild harvested for their salve making.  They will get a handout of plants, their uses, and recipes for making the infused oils and instructions on making a salve.  We will make salves together and they will take home a tin or jar of their salve.

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Once home today, with a clear bobbin on the wheel, I tackled a one pound bag of raw alpaca locks that I had purchased at the Farmers Market earlier this spring.  I have never spun raw unwashed fiber before, but the alpaca lacks the lanolin of wool and other than picking out some vegetable matter, it is clean to spin.  The fawn colored alpaca is from “Graham” an alpaca living at Poplar Hill Alpacas, a local farm.  It will be plyed with a brown ply from another local Alpaca farm.  This yarn will be knit into fingerless mitts for the Holiday Markets.  If enough is spun, perhaps a hat will be made to match.

Whew, what a week – July 10, 2017

What a whirlwind the past week.  The garden has been neglected as the only time I was home to work on it, it was either raining or too hot to want my fair skin out in the sun.

Last Monday, eldest continued on the high lifter, staining high parts of the house while I worked on removing screens, staining the windows that tilt inside, passing supplies out the window from the upstairs to him on the lifter bucket.  We moved the lifter as night fell up to the gravel of the driveway before the predicted rain was due.

Tuesday, being Independence Day in the USA, the historic house, Smithfield House, where I go to spin in costume, held a 4 hour celebration of the day with hourly cannon fire, apple pie contest, reading of the Fincastle Resolution and the Declaration of Independence, re-enactors, the blacksmith, weavers, spinners, tours, and fun by all.

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Wednesday it rained and we stayed home with the grands, getting them to their evening Taekwondo classes.

Thursday, they were loaded in our car and off we drove east nearly 3 hours to meet youngest son and his family who drove west about 3 hours and met in Charlottesville to let the cousins play, us to get some snuggle time and to visit with our son and his wife for a late morning, lunch, and early afternoon before the trips were reversed back to our respective homes.

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The car time allowed knitting time as I rode passenger and good progress was made on the fingerless mitts to go with the Fiesta hat from the playful handspun yarn.  The second mitt was finished yesterday.  The set has been uploaded to my shop for sale.

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Friday was laundry and get my act together day as Saturday, Jim and I were taking off in opposite directions for the weekend.  He left on the BBH for a very long ride with his club.  They went way west in the state to various sights and parks and to overnight in a hotel in Norton, Virginia.  I got the groceries for the week purchased, brought home and put away and then took off north to eldest son’s house.  They were not home when I got there, though their car’s were, so I settled in the cool quiet and knitted on the second mitt and spun on a drop spindle.  Finished a novel I had been reading, but it wasn’t worth a review or the time spent reading it.

Sunday, their young one had archery day at the Isaac Walton League facility and I went with daughter in law to watch that while son went with another group from the league to pick up trash from the road into their community.  Sunday afternoon, son, young one, and I drove south about an hour and a half to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriar’s theater to see Love’s Labors Lost in that wonderful setting, the second one that I have had the opportunity to see this summer.  We were fortunate to be seated on three of the Gallants’ stools, the 12 stools on the side edges of the stage.  It was such a great experience, being right there in the action, seeing the facial expressions, having lines spoken directly to you.

After a couple of days and nights away, a drive home early this morning to help with the summer’s swim lessons for the grands and back to the “normal” routine here, I am worn out.  As I went out to secure the hens and pullets near dark, my one little pullet that wants a nightly hug awaited me outside the coop.  In the several years of raising chickens, she is the first that wants to be handled.

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Though the rest of the week is supposed to be record hot, I hope to get the yard mowed, the chicken runs trimmed with the string trimmer, the garden weeded, the onions and garlic pulled and cured and perhaps some other veggies that may have matured in our week of travel and chaos.

Blue Skies and Garden Firsts – 6/27/17

The past week went so fast having eldest grandson here for a visit.  He spent his first years here as we watched him grow from 9 weeks to Kindergarten before they moved for schooling for Mom and Dad.  I see him more often than Jim as I will go up for days or a week or so at a time to help out with care.  He is so big now, soon to be as tall as I and he just turned 12.

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Many activities were planned, a day trip to Smith Mountain Lake Dam, a play day at the Frog Pond (a local pool with slides, basketball, and shallows for tiny people), basketball, ping pong , and a movie with dinner evening with Jim, lunches out, books to read, and lots of good food at home for a growing kid.  His Dad, our eldest, came Saturday in time for dinner and ping pong with the young one, and Sunday, son climbed the 28′ extension ladder and got a good portion of the very exposed west wall of our log home re-stained.  They left after dinner Sunday to return to their home for a work and camp week.  Son is returning alone this weekend with hopes to finish that wall and the south upper dormer.

Friday night, daughter’s family returned from their vacation and resumed their house hunting, possibly finding one that will allow their kids their own bedrooms and a start of the school year in their new home.

For the next few of weeks, the grands are in our care during the day with some swimming lessons scheduled soon, transport twice a week to Taekwondo to meet parents.

The weather has cooled and dried out for the past few days.  This morning, a much needed garden session was done with some tomato brutality as I cut suckers that should have been cut before now and the plants tied to their stakes.  Last year there was a huge mess as a new support structuring was tried and failed miserably with many lost tomatoes as they were on the ground for the pill bugs to attack and hidden for purposes of harvest.  This year, there will be only one main stem per plant, determinate varieties, and tied regularly to garden stakes until they reach their full height.  The process revealed many small green tomatoes and one that is already ripening.

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Tied and before the cut stems were removed.

Today there was a first sunflower set against the prettiest blue sky.

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I’m not sure that any of the sunflowers that I planted are going to produce.  The two volunteers may be all we get unless I can get some seedling going soon.

Last night, preparation for the two days of camp that I will be teaching was begun.  One day will be a plant walk, herbal medicine discussion, and making of an herbal salve to take home.  The other day, with my friend that worked with me last year, we will again teach some fiber arts with homemade drop spindles that they get to keep, a chance at using one of our spinning wheels with help to make a necklace with “their” yarn, and a chance to weave a few rows on a rigid heddle loom.

The haying for this year is done and the hay scattered around our fields like big sedentary buffalo.  Farmer Jeff came by as I was mowing a few days ago to pick up a piece of his haying equipment and it always amuses me to see his behemouth tractor with my tractor beside it.  Mine looks so small, though it is a full size, but small tractor.  Pictures of them together in the header.

I love summers in our mountain home.

Olio – June 20, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

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After a week away and much rain according to Jim, the gardens are both beautiful, full of day lilies and lavender, and full of weeds.

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The pepper plants are in there somewhere.

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and the tomatoes and basil in there.  Grandson and I arrived home on Sunday evening, giving him time with his Dad on Father’s Day with breakfast out and for us to take Jim out for Father’s Day dinner as well.

Yesterday we went out in the morning to get Grandson some shoes.  The ones he wore hiking were worn out and wet.  He wore flip flop here and promptly lost them in the house.  He had to wear my garden clogs to go buy shoes.  Once home, the overgrown grass that is too close to the house for the tractor was mowed with the gas mower and the weeding was begun on the garden, but early afternoon thunderstorms drove me back indoors for the rest of the day.

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On Sunday before we got home, Jim rode the BBH on a ride that had been one of the Rally rides that he couldn’t do because he was leading a ride elsewhere that day.  He missed a turn, saw bad weather ahead and aborted his ride on Sunday but wanted to see Smith Mountain Dam and lake, so today we took the car and with me navigating, drove over to the dam visitor center and took the path up to the lookout.

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There were a number of these little skinks up near the top, and a tiny fawn right at the visitor center, but it got where we couldn’t take a picture of it.

This evening, I weeded out the tomatoes and basil, the peppers, the beans, the peas, and cut the garlic scapes.  There are still small weeds that will need to be hoed out and the corn and pumpkins still need to be weeded, but the garden is looking better.  The tomatoes already need to be tied up. Because the weeds took over areas where tomatillo seed and flowers were planted and since the garlic, onions, and peas will soon be pulled, there will be spaces in the garden that should be planted with something.  More beans are definitely due, maybe another block of corn as the three sisters plot has holes in it and I still need to put in the pole beans there.  The cabbage worms have laced the kale. The chickens love them and I pick a handful every time I go out, but a garlic red pepper spray may be needed if we are going to get any kale.  It looked so good before I left.  The turnips didn’t get thinned enough before I left and it looks like a jungle, more tops than turnips.  A second planting of them will be made for the fall.  The tomatoes and peppers have fruit started, and some basil plants are flowering already, so pesto is soon in order.

Tomorrow is another nice day and more garden work may get done. We promised Grandson a trip to a pool this week while he is here and tomorrow may be the last good weather day to do it.

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I’ll leave with a picture of our barn cat Girly who spends most of her time on our front porch instead of hunting mice in the barn.  She was a spooky adult cat when she was given to us, but now she wants attention every time anyone goes outdoors.

 

 

 

 

Olio – May 29, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

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Thursday we awoke to flooded creeks after a night of torrential rains.  After taking grands to school, I left hubby in charge and took off for a few days of R&R to spin at Hawk’s Nest with friends.  The New River was muddy, the clouds hung low that day but gave us beautiful weather for the other two days.  There are always critters on the lawn, lizards, raccoons, this time 4 baby groundhogs and their Mom.

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I beat the rain home on Saturday night and woke to another nice day on Sunday.  My favorite guy hopped on his ride and took off for a bit.  My ride, the tractor, was driven out of the barn and the lawn was finally mowed.  A lazy dog as usual in the middle of floor for everyone to have to walk over.

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The pullets spent 5 days locked in the hen house and while they were getting large enough for that transfer, the run got overgrown with lambs quarter and this morning when they were finally released to run, they were lost in the overgrowth.  One has already gone over the fence into the garden.

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Today another great day and while my guy took off on another ride, the garden was finished except for the climbing beans that must wait for the corn to come up.  The three sisters garden was planted with 10 hills of sweet corn and 5 hills of heritage popcorn.  The potatoes in the barrels got another layer of soil and there are only about 3 more inches till the barrels are full.  The bush beans, tomatillos, and sweet potatoes were planted, bunny barrier installed around the beans, and all the beds weeded again.  The pumpkins are a couple of inches tall in little pots on the deck.  They will go into the garden in a few days. It will only require maintenance now.

5/22/2017 Garden Day

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The morning came with light rain after the torrents of overnight.  The morning was dense with fog, but by noon, the sun began to come out and the garden and chicken run fencing called.  The posts were set yesterday for more than half of the second fence.  The first photo shows part of the run fences, but there wasn’t enough extra fencing to finish the job.  A roll of fencing will be purchased and the run completed.

Before leaving for the Spinning Retreat on Thursday morning, the teenage chicks will be moved into the big coop and left cooped up with food and water while I am gone.  The family will just have to make sure that their containers are filled daily, but the chicks will stay inside so that when I return on Saturday night or Sunday, they will be accustomed to their new abode.

Since the fencing job could not be completed and as the days of rain have caused the weeds to thrive, granddaughter and I tackled the garden beds again and weeded them, harvested the first radishes of the season, thinned the turnips.  Still having some energy, the rest of the corn and pumpkin patch, the three sister’s garden was dug in.  It has been pretty thoroughly weeded, but will still need a good raking to get the rest of the weeds and a few more rocks and then the hills made to plant the corn.  Tomorrow looks very rainy, but perhaps there will be a window of decent weather to get that done prior to my departure.

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At the community open house on Saturday, I plied 350 yards of sport weight natural colored Leicester Longwool and began spinning the 8 ounces of Romeldale that I  had purchased recently.  The fiber is very soft, but has such a short staple that it is spinning into an extremely thin single.  That is a dime under the strand.  Because of the short staple, it doesn’t feel very soft spun.  It may bloom after it is plyed and  washed, we will see, but 8 ounces is going to make a lot of thin yarn.