Tag Archives: garden

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.

 

 

5/15/2017 Summer is Coming

The torrential rains of last week are gone with no more rain in the forecast until the end of the week.  The days are near summer like and very breezy.

Yesterday early afternoon, we all piled into the largest vehicle after calling ahead to Outback Steakhouse, one of the restaurants that won’t take reservations, but will let you call ahead to get on their list and drove the half hour to celebrate Mother’s Day for daughter and me.

Mother's Day wait

Somehow, out of the 5 of them crowded on the bench waiting, 3 have their eyes closed.  The wait was less than 30 minutes and we enjoyed a good meal together.

Today, being warm and sunny, Jim took the BBH out for a ride on part of one of the rides he will lead for the 5 state rally next month.  That left granddaughter with me as Monday is her day she does not have preschool.  We ventured off to take the garbage and recycling to the center, then off to have lunch together, and Mommom bought the little lady a 5 year old size purple garden hoe.

Back from lunch, my little helper worked on the bed that will contain the bush beans in a few days, while I weeded the other planted beds and the end of the bed where the sweet potatoes will grow soon, then helped her finish her bed.

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She is the cutest, hardest working little helper on the mountain and she loves the garden.  Note, she left the volunteer sunflower behind her and asked if there would be more planted and would that one get tall and have flowers.  After the beds were weeded and the pea patch trellised, a break for an orange and some juice, a bit of sitting on the front porch swing enjoying the breeze, and we went back out to work some more on the three sisters plot.  The smart weed, lambs quarters, and dandelions are threatening to overtake it.  Working with the hoe and the 4 prong cultivator did little.  Finally just turning it with the garden fork appears to be the only solution.  This tired old body turned row after row while granddaughter picked out the rocks and about a third of it was dug before just wearing out.

Three sisters

Once the 15 X 15 foot block is totally turned, it will be broken up with the 4 prong cultivator to get the remaining weeds and smaller rocks out, raked into the 12 or 16 hills and the corn part of the garden planted.   The pumpkins and tomatillos are going to be started in little pots to be put in the ground in a couple weeks.  The Anasazi beans will be planted with the corn once it is up.

The potatoes are all up and the soil is being added to the barrels as the potato plants reach for the sun.  Once the  barrels are full, they will just be mulched and the potatoes will grow, hopefully to fill the barrels with potatoes for our larder.

During the last few days, the adult hens and Mr. Croak were allowed free range time.  When I go out, I feel like the Pied Piper, as they all come running toward me.

Pied Piper

If I can get the three sister’s bed dug, the beans planted, the chicken run will be altered to make the double fence on the east, south and half of the west sides of the vegetable garden.

5-12-2017 Olio

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Spring in the mountains brings 80ºf days with or without rain, followed by dull, gloomy 53º days with rain like today.  By the time the garden is dry enough to be worked, the unfilled beds will need major weeding.  This morning, another package of the heritage peas were purchased.  They are going to soak overnight in a bowl of water and be planted in all the empty spaces tomorrow with hopes that we will indeed have peas this year.  Perhaps a tunnel of plastic poultry net will be suspended over the top and sides in case it is critters getting them.

Before the threatened storms last night, I realized that the ten year old peonies finally decided to bloom this year.  The two open blooms were cut and brought inside in case we really got the threatened hail (we didn’t).

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One benefit of the cool wet weather is that the planters of herbs on deck are thriving.

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Some of these will go in the ground as a permanent herb garden if the bed ever gets prepared.  There are two more of the barrels with sage, flat leaf parsley, basil, and cilantro started from seed on another part of the deck.  I sure haven’t had to water this spring. The Iris blooms are beautiful.  Two of the ones added from our neighbor last year began to bloom this year, the third one, a reddish color didn’t come up.  I’m sure another start of it can be obtained once his are blooming and we can see which one to dig.  Most of mine and the daylilies  will need to be divided this summer.  Perhaps the divisions can be used to naturalize the driveway bank along with some more Forsythia rootings.

Yesterday was a delightful day.  Smithfield Plantation House had 3 classes of 4th graders scheduled for tour and I was asked to come spin if available.  As my location is in the summer kitchen/slave cottage, the opportunity to be part of the tour excited me.  With one of my antique wheels there, carders to demonstrate fiber prep, several different heritage wools to show off and pulling from the never dying teaching skills, the classes got a lesson in where the food came from, how it was prepared, where the fiber came from and how it was used.

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With a class at a time, sitting on the floor around me, engaged groups of 10 year olds were questioned, shown equipment, handled wool and yarn, saw two types of spinning wheels, the Appalachian Rocker Loom, old style shears, and a 150+ year old spinning wheel in use, and the iron pots and storage crockery of an 18th century summer kitchen.  A teacher may retire, but the desire to teach stays on.

A busy summer is approaching with fiber retreats for me, HOG rally for Jim, a music weekend for both of us, and ending with a cruise in the fall.  In the mean time, garden  work is scheduled if it will ever dry out.

The coop got cleaned out between storms, but straw hasn’t been purchased to put clean bedding down, and with the rain, the chicks are still crowding on the perches in Huck’s coop each night.  The double fence idea is still lurking if the weather will break to allow a better assessment of the situation.

The painful knee has behaved for the past couple of days.  Hopefully to stay calm and allow the hike with son’s family in mid June.

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.

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

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Three of the early blueberry bushes are heavy with berries.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.