Tag Archives: garden

5/9/2017 Where, oh where have I been?

On the ark, I think.  It has been so wet.  Too wet to weed, too wet to plant seeds, too wet to make the flower beds and get the herbs and perennials planted.  And the wet isn’t over.  Rain today, heavy rain Thursday and Friday with more creek, stream, and river flood warnings.

Tomorrow is moderate, we just missed an end of season frost night before last.  Some of our region got frost and I feared for the tender tomato, pepper, and basil plants, but they did fine.  For some reason, peas just aren’t happening this year.  There have been two plantings, two different brands of the same organic heritage pea and there are only about a dozen pea plants.  There is no evidence that anything is digging them up, nor eating them off, but no peas.  This is a first.  It is time to get the beans and three sisters garden planted.  Maybe it will not rain and be dry enough tomorrow to get the vegetable seed planted and perhaps at least one of the flower beds.

Of late, the idea to use some of the chicken run fencing to create a second row of fencing 4 feet out from the garden to thwart the deer and make a square run that the chickens can use and keep the weeds from encroaching on the garden has been debated.  The issue is the second gate to actually get in the garden from the run.  There is a sturdy wood post that holds the solar charger that perhaps could hold that one, but to enter the garden would require entering the run and walking around to the other side of the run to get in the garden.  That is doable except for taking the garden cart in with me,   Perhaps the second fence could stop on each side of the gate not making a complete loop around the vegetable garden.  By the time I finally get all the beds, runs, and gardens the way I want, I will be too feeble to work them.

double fence

This would be the idea with the chickens between the fences, the coop at one corner and flower beds outside the second fence.

blueberries

Three of the early blueberry bushes are heavy with berries.

Comfrey

The two garden comfrey plants love the cool wet weather.

The chicklets are 9 weeks old and are in need of more space.  It would be a hassle, but if the rain will stop long enough for the main coop to be thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, and dry out, new straw will be placed inside and the young ones will be transferred at night from Huck’s coop where they now reside to the main coop and the culls will be moved to Huck’s coop as there are only 8 of them. They are amusing as they fly and flap around their small run beginning to establish pecking order by charging up to each other, bumping chests, and staring each other down.  It looks like all 16 are indeed pullets, so there should be plenty of eggs come fall and enough for winter even when their laying slows.  There won’t be a break for molting this year as they will not be a year old.  They all come running to the fence when I go over to their run and many will let me touch their chest or back as they leave the coop in the mornings.

Tweens

The knee exercises were started in preparation for the hike and one of them has caused Iliotibial band syndrome, pain on the outer side of the knee joint, especially when going down stairs.  Most of the exercises have been stopped, a compression sleeve usually used when skiing is being worn on my knee, joint support tincture and tea along with Turmeric, Ginger, and Fish Oil taken to try to calm it back down.  I still have 5 weeks til the hike and hopefully will be okay by then.

Like most folks, we rely on cell phones instead of a land line these days.  Jim’s phone is 5 years old and it quit this weekend.  Mine is two and has a cracked screen.  Yesterday we drove to the nearest city to purchase a new battery for his.  The battery was 4 times the price of the one that had been ordered online for mine and it didn’t solve the problem.  His charging jack is corroded and the phone won’t take a charge.  Eldest had told us about Project Fi, Google’s WiFi cell service that allows them service in the deep hollow in which they live.  When visiting, my communication with the world is via Messenger, email, or their landline.  Instead of committing to our carrier for a new phone for Jim, we too are going the Project Fi route.  Our service should be broader, we both will have new phones, and our bill will be slashed by a third even with paying for the phones on installment.  Win/Win.  If their site is correct, they also work overseas in many countries without changing SIM card and without paying international rate.

Thursday, a normal spinning group day, will find me instead in costume at Smithfield House doing spinning demos for school groups scheduled for visits.  It is a good thing that the old Saxony is single treadle with the right foot, I don’t think my left knee would be happy.  Since it is going to be raining, only the one wheel will accompany me, leaving the much larger Walking wheel at home.

Life is good, I just want back in my garden before the weeds take over.

5/2/2017 Play Day

The hardest worker and the most dedicated slacker need an occasional play day.  One of my friends, the owner/operator of Sunrise Valley Farm is the source of the Leicester Longwool fiber that I love to spin.  This is the time of year where her ewes have recently lambed and she had invited me to come to their farm and see the babies.  After dropping grand daughter at preschool this morning, I ventured out to a part of the adjacent county that I had never visited before to their beautiful farm, a mixture of animal pastures for their 3 alpacas, the flock of sheep, a flock of myotonic goats with babies, turkeys, guardian dogs, chickens, and a sole noisy Guinea hen and wooded hillsides.   After a bit of time talking about some new ideas for their Farmers Market stall that will open on Saturday, we ventured out to the barn to see the one little bottle baby.

Lamb

This wee little gal’s mom accepted her ram lamb brother, but not her and being a bottle baby is very used to being petted and rubbed.  She was too big to hide in a pocket to bring home, but I did enjoy having some baby time.  Some of the other lambs would come near, but didn’t really want to be touched as we walked in their pasture.

The young goats bounded around with the adults and were closely guarded by 3 of their guardian dogs.  We only watched them from a distance.  The turkey flock milled around, Tom strutted his stuff trying to impress his ladies.

It was an enjoyable morning, followed with some conversation over a cup of tea, then time to return home to an abbreviated afternoon duties as Jim had done the preschool pick up run and early afternoon supervision and as he was headed to his monthy Harley club meeting, took the grands to Taekwondo.  This left me with a late afternoon and evening at home alone.  A bit of perennial bed  weeding, a harvest of more asparagus and egg collection were all the chores managed outside.  Some reorganization of my spinning corner was accomplished and some prep  of the Cabin Crafted stock in preparation to vend at the spinning retreat the end of the month.

Goodies

It is nice and restorative to have a day off occasionally, a chance to visit friends, and get some baby animal time.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a pleasant day as far as weather, perhaps the bean bed, sweet potato bed, and three sister’s garden will get turned and weeded in preparation for additional planting.  I forgot to check to see if the potatoes were up yet, but I did see evidence that we will have peas this year.  The bunnies don’t seem to bother the peas, but after losing all of my beans to them last year, that bed will be netted this year and the three sisters garden will likely have a low plastic poultry fence around it so the Anasazi beans can get tall enough to climb the corn before the rabbits get them too.

The electric wire needs to be run around the top of the fence to deter the deer.  With only a 4 foot fence, they can hop right in and feast and they too will take out the beans.

The extended forecast looks like we are going to have an early frost free date this year.  My garden has never been started quite this early before.

4/28/2017 – More Progress

Another nice day.  Last night Farmer Jeff brought me two more bales of old spoiled hay to finish the garden prep and for mulch for the new flower beds that are going to be on the outside of the fence for the vegetable garden.  After he brought the second bale, a small collapsed 3 year old bale, he tractored off in the rain showers that last night brought.  When it was getting dark and the rain let up, chicken lock up commenced and when I look where the second bale had been placed, it was gone, just a few strips of compacted hay in it’s place.

bale

The bale must not have been as collapsed as he thought, it took off downhill about 100 feet.  A photo was texted to him and we both had a good laugh.  It is a small enough bale that our little tractor could push it back uphill to the garden.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that if the fence was moved to the lower edge of the active garden that the fallow part could be accessed by the tractor, so fencing was moved, involving pounding in several T posts and I didn’t bean myself with the driver this time. Today, the rocks that had been place over weed mat at the lowest end were moved away from the garden.  Some of them were too large for more than rolling into the tractor bucket.  The weed mat was pulled up along with hundreds of pounds of weeds that grew on and through the mat.  Old pieces of wood that had been holding down the mat and it had been hoped, providing a barrier for the weeds at the edge of the fence line were gathered, the most rotten ones with grubs and ant eggs were tossed into the chicken run for them to attack.  The lip of the tractor bucket served nicely for pulling T posts out of the ground.  This gave me a relatively clear, though uneven area to work.  A few drags across the surface with the back edge of the tractor bucket to level it and the ground cover was sown over the entire area.  The vetch, oats, and field peas can grow there, if the deer find it, it won’t be a disaster and hopefully it will help keep the weed growth down.  Maybe that area can be plowed in the future if a larger garden is desired.

lower garden

The cardboard and spoiled hay is down around all of the boxes and blueberries, the only area to still be worked is the 3 sister’s garden.  Once that area is ready to plant, the new flower beds will be tackled.

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The bluebird house in the lower right corner behind the large bale of hay is the bottom edge of the garden, this photo was taken from the top.  The raspberries need to be thinned, weeded and cardboard placed a bit closer to them.  The radishes and turnips are sprouted and the think the second attempt at peas is working this time.

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Here are 3 or the 4 Welsummer pullets, I really love their feathers and they seem friendlier than the Buff Orpington pullets.  These 16 should be a fine laying flock in a few more months.

I still love this mountain life.  The garden will hopefully be productive and easier to maintain.

4/26/2017

The nice weather returned today.  The expected 73ºf clear day ended up an 87ºf clear day.  After the preschool pickup run and a stop at Lowe’s to pick up 2 large pots and 3 sacks of organic composted soil, the brush hog was reattached to the tractor.  That isn’t a tough job if the tractor and brush hog are on level surface, if you can guide the tractor backward to align the 3 point attachment and PTO.  It was removed in the lower bay of the barn which is not level, so reattaching it was a job.  If you are strong, you can shift the back of the brush hog to do realignment.  I am not strong and I am a 69 year old woman, so it is all that I can do to jiggle the hog into position.  It took over an hour of sweat, a few unkind words, some tractor shifting but it is on the tractor.  The area around the house was mowed, the orchard was mowed, the septic field was mowed, and mostly around the tiny trees and the larger pines and firs through which they were interspersed, but the tractor needs fuel, so that task ended for today.

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There is thick long grass beyond that will be hay in a month or 6 weeks.

Once done with that, the two huge pots were placed, filled with good soil and the hops and some summer bulbs were planted in them.  This is an attempt to clean up around the deck and beautify it for spring and summer meals.

After dinner prep and clean up, the three half barrels were planted with the potatoes that finally arrived during the heavy rain.

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The chicklets aren’t so small anymore.  They are escape artists, but they are large enough to not be getting through the fence holes, so I’m not sure how they are escaping.

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The 4 Welsummer chicks are turning into beautiful young pullets.

We have a couple more good days and over the past two days, a good supply of cardboard has been obtained, so hopefully the areas of the garden that need to be smothered can be covered and the remaining aisles also.  The three sisters bed needs to be worked.  Normally we don’t put tomatoes and peppers in the ground until Mother’s Day, but the extended forecast shows warm days and mild nights, so they might also get planted along with the kale starts that were purchased at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday.

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The dogwood blossoms in the hedgerows and along the edges of the fields are spectacular this year.  My evening walk along the path that I mowed  today was lined with the beautiful white blooms.  The walk is a huge squared off figure 8 around the two fields in the header between where the photo was taken and the house in the center.  It always amazes me when I get back there to realize how large those two fields are.

Olio- 4/24/2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

 

 

The heading shows the story of the past 5 days, thick clouds, rain often torrential, many inches of it in the past few days.  Our creek is over it’s banks at the top of the farm and the one that tumbles into the sink hole has flooded the sink hole plain that can’t filter it down deeper into the earth than more is added.  It has overflowed down the old creek bed.

On Saturday, I drove to Front Royal area to help out.  Eldest was going to take advantage of the no motorized vehicles on the Skyline Drive to ride the 35 miles on his bike, but after a day in the cold rain at the Washington March for Science, he awoke Sunday with heavy congestion in his chest and decided he couldn’t make the ride after all.  I ended up driving back home Sunday afternoon.

The asparagus are sprouting and so far I haven’t gotten tired of them.

Asparagus Cut asparagus

The garlic is thriving.

Garlic

 

But if you look beyond the boxes, the weeds are thriving as well.  That areas is about to be smothered and the pumpkins allowed to sprawl over the area.  In the fall, the ground cover will be planted and again in the spring.

The veggie and herb starts are doing ok on the back deck, but I keep having to go out and drain the water from the trays to keep them from drowning.  The weather is forecast to improve later tomorrow.  The second planting of peas, the seeding of radishes, turnips, and the chard starts seem to have survived the cool, wet days.

The ticks are out in full force already, having gotten my first bite of the season.  I guess I am going to have to pull out the repellent.  I have mowed around the house with the mower twice, very thick and tall grass.  The brush hog needs to be put back on the tractor so that the orchard and septic field can be mowed as well.  Most of the farm will wait until late May or early June to be hayed.

In mid June, I am going to go on a backpacking trip with eldest son and his family.  I have 8 weeks to get in shape and try to strengthen my knees.

The teenage chicks were left cooped up Saturday and Sunday during the worst of the rain, today all of the adult birds and chicks were left to choose whether to go out and mostly stayed in their coops.  The few chicklets that were out in the evening were easy to pick up and put in their coop.

Recovery Day

It seems that after a day of toil in the garden, this senior citizen needs a rest day.  Yesterday was basically a nice day, mostly cloudy, but warm, but the body said no more.

The spring cover crop seed has arrived and it needs to be planted, but the area in which it is to go must be cultivated, sown, then raked. We don’t own a tiller, nor can either of us manhandle more than a small one at this point and the only other option is to take the 3 prong cultivator and do it by hand.  It is a large area and the tractor drove back and forth over it while clearing it and moving soil for the boxes, so it is fairly compacted.  Instead of tackling it yesterday, I opted to stay in and craft.  There is a good supply of Leister Longwool fiber from Sunrise Valley Farm locally and a plan still in place to spin enough to make me a sweater from it.  The first attempt was just too heavy trying to do Fair Isle with yarn that was at least light worsted weight.  One bobbin was full of a very fine singles and another was started.  By last night, the second bobbin had been spun and the two plyed into 405.33 yards if fingering to sport weight yarn.  If knit on slightly larger needles than that weight would normally call for, I think it will be a nice draping fabric for a sweater. There is a lot more of the fiber to go and more from this year’s shearing reserved for me.  More must be spun, about 3 or more skeins that size, a pattern selected, and a decision about whether to add color, keep it natural, or dye the completed sweater.

Yarn

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In the midst of the spinning, grand daughter announced that she was old enough to learn to knit and wanted to learn to spin.  The first knitting lesson was given with her sitting between my legs and me doing the wrap while she held both ends of the circular needle, picked up the next stitch, criss-crossed the ends in the right position, let me wrap, then over the top and off the needle.  She did a row and a half before her brother came home and she wanted to go outside and play.  She is in no way ready to knit on her own, but she is eager and understands what she has to do.

Also breaking up the spinning on the Louët, making the yarn for the sweater, continued practice occurs on the great wheel.  There are still a couple of issues that a solution evades me.  The post that holds the wheel if fully set causes the wheel to drag at one point.  If it is shimmed enough to allow the clearance, it tends to pivot slightly causing the drive band to walk off.  This requires fairly constant readjustment to prevent the drive band from falling.  The mother of all that holds the quill is slightly loose in it’s mounting and even the light tension required to draft the fiber causes it to pivot slightly which can also cause the drive band to walk off.  Both of these problems need to be solved, though the process of long draw spinning and winding onto the quill is getting more consistent.

Last night the wind howled and at first light when taking grandson to the bus stop, it revealed that both row cover domes had blown off the beds.  Once both kids were dispatched to bus and preschool, a bit of repair work was done, hopefully to stay in place during today’s continued cold wind.  Tonight is supposed to drop to 24ºf (-4.44c) and though there are no sprouts yet, the beds need protection.

The plum trees still need to be planted.  Maybe after lunch.

Olio-March 10, 2017

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

March came in like a lion and the lion is roaring.  The wind is howling, the temperature has fallen 15 degrees since 6:45 a.m. and will fall into the teens tonight, for a total of more than 35ºf.  We have a very cold weekend and week ahead with 5 to 8 inches of snow predicted for Monday.

We were supposed to go to Waynesboro to pick up 16 young chicks on Monday.  Fortunately, they called today and said the chicks have all arrived and are healthy and can be picked up tomorrow instead.  Making a 2 + hour drive each way in snow is not appealing, plus it could result in a school closure or at least early release which would be difficult to deal with if we are on the road. Instead, we will do our usual Saturday morning breakfast out, Farmers Market run, and take off to get the babies.  Because it is to be so cold, the chicks will have to be in the house somewhere instead of the brooder box in the garage.  Keeping them indoors requires a secure enough box that daughter’s cats and all of the dogs can’t get to them.  It also means that the grands need a daily reminder that they are babies and are not to be handled at will.  Chicks and chickens are dirty and I don’t like brooding them in the house, but with nights in the teens, the garage will just be too cold even with the Brinsea mother table in their box.

A couple of weeks ago, my laptop began to sound like a rocket about to take off each time it was opened for use, and the battery hasn’t held a charge for months.  With a can of compressed air, the fan was cleaned out and with the help of Amazon, a factory battery was purchased.  For about 24 hours, it seemed like everything was going to be good, then day before yesterday, when it was opened to use it, it was kaput.  It wouldn’t turn on, black screen, no sounds.  Hoping that perhaps the new battery was faulty, the old one was reinstalled, and everything plugged in, but no go.  The 4 year old laptop was not going to come on.  The techie guy says that HPs that were originally loaded with Windows 7 or 8 and upgraded to 10 seemed to be dying at phenomenal rates.  The motherboard is dead, same thing happened to daughter’s right before Christmas.  That left me without a computer and my tablet doesn’t like the blog or my square up shop.  That sent us out to find a reasonably priced replacement.  We got me an Acer Spin 1.  It has a touchscreen, can be used as a tablet or laptop, and best of all was inexpensive.  It may not last forever, but the laptops seem to have a 2-4 year lifespan.  I had some folks recommend Mac books, but I had a very bad experience with an apple phone and just couldn’t go that route.  It is small enough to travel with, has a full sized keyboard, so I am set.  It seems that laptops come with a one month trial of Microsoft Office, but unlike the past, when you bought the program, it was good for the life of the computer, now it is an annual subscription.  What a racket!

The garden box purchased earlier this week was set yesterday.  The larger sized one came with 6 extra boards so that it could be set up three boards high, but 2 is high enough.  If one more 4 x 4 box is purchased, with the extra boards, it can be made as a 4 x 8 box using the extra boards.  It is too cold to plant even the onion sets for the next week, so garden will just have to wait.  It is almost time to start the pepper seed in the house.  In a couple more weeks, the tomatoes as well.  We aim for the second week of May for putting the plants in the ground.  Another month we can plant the peas.  The anticipation makes the wait hard, but we are always rewarded with the garden goodies later.

Maybe, the header will represent Monday, but we hope not. Five of the past 8 years, there has been measurable snow in March.

 

 

Busy Day

After a couple of days of winter, staying inside and knitting a hat for the shop, today is almost spring and it is sunny.

After breakfast, the pile of compost in the garden that was pushed aside for the boxes was attacked with a shovel.  Hard work for an already sore back, but it needed doing.  A lunch break and trip to town to get some more seeds for our garden and for son’s garden and back to work, this time with the tractor.  After moving some of the loose spoiled hay, flipping the bale, moving one of the half barrels, the tractor barely fit between the box and fence.  Using the bucket on the tractor, the three boxes were filled, some hand leveling with the rake and shovel and they are all ready to plant.  The tractor was then used to remove wood and rocks from the lower part that was ignored last  year, then the bucket was used to smooth and level that part.

garden

 

Son let me know yesterday that his family was going to have a large garden this year too, so fewer tomatoes and hot peppers need to be planted here, making room for some produce that otherwise wasn’t going in this year’s garden.  By clearing the lower garden that still needs a light tilling, a larger corn patch can be planted.  Two more 4 X 8′ boxes still need to be purchased and put in place, but soil for one of them was piled up where it should go.

Tomorrow the onion sets will be planted and covered,  one of the larger boxes and a starter flat purchased.  Some fence adjustment is going to be made to allow for a gate, maybe one large enough to allow the tractor in the lower part of the garden.  Next Monday, we go pick up the dozen chicks.  Spring is coming, grass is greening, buds swelling.  Soon we will have broody hens and more chicks.

Plan at work

With daughter’s family away this week to let grandson be with his father’s family for a few days before his service tomorrow, there have been no morning duties other than to the animals.  The morning person, me, usually awakes as the sky is dawning, but there have been several nights this week where sleep came quickly for about an hour, then wide awake for 3 or 4, then sleep again for a couple.  The pups haven’t been too demanding, and napping or just lying about until near 8 a.m. has been the norm this week.  This morning, when the dogs were let out and the outdoor kitty fed, it was already warm enough for just a t shirt.  As soon as all the critters had been fed and given outdoor time, the garden called.  The boxes we bought two days ago needed to be assembled and put in place.  The first one required undoing one end of an existing box to make it a double.  The raspberries were thinned and heavily mulched with spoiled hay to try to reduce the weed load.  They may be dug up and planted in half sunk pots to contain them, but the rest of the work needs to be done first.

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The description of the plan seemed confusing, so last night the online garden planner was pulled back up, the plan deleted and a new one begun.  As this is oriented, the chicken coop is just off the upper left corner.

plan at work

This was taken just about where the garden gate is, off the row of 4 boxes in the diagram.

The top edge was done and one more box assembled, hay moved around, raspberries mulched and a break taken to go to town.  Groceries needed to be purchased, a new garden fork was also in order.  Mine had a fiberglass handle that split lengthwise two summers ago.  It still works okay for cleaning out the coop, but lacks the strength to do garden work.  It was taken in last year to see if the Feed and Seed guys could put a new handle on it, but sadly not.  Wrapping it with fiberglass tape might give it some more life, but probably still not garden worthy.  Last year, eldest son’s was used, but now that they are in a house, not an apartment, it moved to his house.  At the Feed and Seed store, they had a garden cart too.  Plans had been in the works for one of those.  We have two over-sized single wheel wheelbarrows, but they always tip over when I use them, plus they are very heavy.  Both of them are stored now in the barn until one can be taken to eldest son.  We came home with a cart and a fork.

cart  Fork

 

Each time a gardening session is in order, many trips must be made back and forth to the garage to get all the tools needed for the day’s jobs.  Then many trips to return it all.  This little two wheeled cart is light enough for me to easily use, big enough to load everything into in one trip each way, and will come in handy for hauling bales of straw or bags of mulch.  To make room for it in the garage, first a major cleanup was done in there.  Jim had gone off to enjoy the springlike day on the BBH (his motorcycle).  Once the garage was done, the tractor was brought down to the garden.  Nothing on this farm is flat so the tractor bucket was used to terrace for the new boxes.  That part of the garden is deep in rich compost and pushing it off to flatten areas will give me great soil to fill the boxes.  The remaining boxes we recently purchased were assembled in place, unprinted cardboard laid down between the boxes and covered with spoiled hay to make good aisles and two of the new boxes were filled.

That was all this body could handle in one day.  There is rain expected tomorrow morning, then clearing off, but cooler, perhaps the other two boxes can be filled and more aisles laid and mulched.  The plan still needs 4 more of the boxes, but they are for tomatoes and sweet potatoes, so I have at least 2 months before safe planting time for them.  In the meantime, the newly acquired essential tool will be used to continue to remove weeds from below where the tractor moved the soil and the onion sets will be planted, seeds will be sown indoors in about 3 weeks for the tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos.  The plan is in progress.

Boxes

The garden box per month purchase idea got sidelined this winter somehow. Today some catch up was in order. Home Depot had 4 complete boxes of the 4×4′ ones and several 4×8′ ones that though they were made of the same parts minus 4 slats as two of the smaller ones, cost more than twice as much. The price was higher than the 2 purchased in the fall. We came home with the 4 and with what is in the garden already will allow me to combine sets and end up with an extra 4×4 once corner posts of some sort are found.

Tomorrow the rain will be gone and an attempt to put the new ones in place with more paths mulched will occur. It is almost onion set and pea seed planting time. Home Depot already had cabbage, lettuce, and broccoli starts.

Tractor supply got some chicks in today. We live halfway between two stores so both were called. One only had meat chicks, the other got Welsummers and Americaunas.  Oh the temptation to add some Welsummers with their dark reddish brown eggs, but saner heads prevailed. New Country Organics, 2 hours from us will be getting several heritage breeds of chicks in early March but you had to reserve them. A dozen straight run Buff Orpington chicks were reserved today and a day trip in a few weeks is in order with a tub to haul them home.  That store has been on my agenda for a while so this will be an opportunity to visit and get some garden supplements in time to make the seed starter mix.

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The cowl out of my handspun silk is dry, soft, and beautiful. Because I don’t care for tight things around my neck, I added one pattern repeat. Lovely pattern, Pretty Thing by Stephanie Pearl McFee aka The Yarn Harlot.