Tag Archives: garden

Olio – May 14, 2015

Though today was a beautiful spring day, my body said it needed a day off and Thursdays are Spinning group day and as we were unable to use the library community room today, I had volunteered to host the group.  Because we live out of the way, I put balloons on two crucial turns to help with directions and needed to get the balloons this morning.  Daughter, granddaughter and I went to town for bagels, then to the grocery floral shop for the balloons and home to vacuum up the never ending supply of pet hair. A table cloth change, a few cut Iris, a couple pitchers of tea made and I was ready to sit and visit.


Many of the spinners are also weavers and one of the ladies often brings one of these little Zoom Looms to use rather than hauling one of her spinning wheels.  I had ordered this one and didn’t expect it to arrive for another couple of days and was delighted while visiting with the group and spinning on my Coopsworth fiber for my sweater, the rural Post driver came down our long drive and honked his horn, an indication that he has something too big for the mailbox.  My little Zoom Loom had arrived.  I let it sit until it got too dark to spin in our loft sitting area and pulled it out to give it a try.  I’m slow both setting it up and weaving with it, but know that will improve and it is so small and portable.

One of my spinner friends is also a gardener and she has a too large patch of horseradish growing in her garden.  Last week I took starts of the perennial sunflower that I have growing in two locations and she offered some horseradish starts, but there were too many people at her house to take the time to dig it.  Today she brought me some and after dinner, I did go out with a spade and clear out a corner of the newest part of the expanded garden and planted  5 of the starts.  We are expecting rain for the next few days and I figured it would help them off to a good start.


One of the roots was broken and a couple of inches long and we needed a new batch of the homemade horseradish mustard, so I brought that chunk in, scrubbed it well and grated it for the mustard.  It is sitting on the counter fermenting for the next three days before the last two ingredients are added.


Today was day two of the Buffys free ranging with the Americauna littles and the littles are getting bolder and spending more time with the big girls, but in the evening, they return to the chicken tractor.


We observed as they are out and about, that the dark colored one that Daughter named Midnight, is larger that the other three though they were all hatched the same day.  She is nearly as large as the smallest Buffy.  They will soon be sharing the coop at night.


The moving of the grapes and severely pruning them back didn’t seem to slow them down.  Both vines are full of these tiny clusters of forming grapes.  As they are close to the ground, I will probably have to fence them off to keep the chooks from feasting on them.  The plan is to build an arbor of some sort and encourage them up and over, so perhaps just rings of fencing around them until then will keep them away from the grapes.

Today was a good day.  I may spend the next few rainy days weeding while the ground is wet, we will see.



Job Well Done, Well Done Anyway!

Today was sunny and cooler, so Daughter and I decided to tackle the fencing after we did groceries.  Our chain market has discount day for seniors on Tuesday, so we try to schedule the big grocery runs on Tuesday and make sure we check the weekly ad, load digital coupons and cut out other coupons prior to the trip into town.  They also periodically send out coupon packets to card holders based on prior purchases and items that you buy frequently will occasionally pop up with a free coupon.  I had just gotten a packet a few days ago and it had coupons for free crackers and free bacon, plus others for organic vegetables, salsa and chips.  Though we spent a couple hundred dollars this week, we saved $75, so we did well.

As for the fencing, sections were moved, leaving one fence from the back of the chicken tractor pen and going around 3 sides of the garden, minus a gate area wide enough for the John Deere if it is needed inside.  The 4th side, from the hens coop over to the corner will expand the garden by about half again, encompassing the area where we removed the bins last weekend.


The task involved setting a few new T posts and some temporary garden posts that will be replaced with T posts.  That northern section is chicken proof, but not pretty as it is two sections of garden fencing and 1 section of welded wire fencing spliced together until I can buy another 25 foot roll and the new T posts.  The temporary “gate” is 3 foot welded wire fencing secured on one end and attached to a spike post that can be pulled up to create a hole to enter.  The gate has to be wide enough for the tractor to enter, but also must be of a nature that will keep the chickens out.  Most farm gates don’t have the wire fencing on a gate that wide, so I haven’t decided how to handle that. Maybe we can use two narrower gates that meet in the middle that will allow us to open just one for human traffic or both for the traffic.  Most of the electric fencing was restrung, but for one section, so it is currently turned off.  It primarily keeps the dogs out of the area where the chicken are and they don’t know it isn’t on.  They are afraid of it on or off having each been stung a time or two.  Once the garden was fully enclosed, the chickens got turned loose to forage and they are happy again.  They did promptly dig up some bulbs and dig a hole in one of my flower beds, so a 2 foot high plastic poultry net fence was erected around one bed.  It needs to be carried on across the front of the house, but I need stakes to do it.


The deck is sitting friendly again, the flower pots planted with red Geraniums and red Lantana to attract our friendly Hummingbird.  The bird visits because of the red in the umbrella and cushions and finds the red flowers.  Eventually the perennials in the front will bloom and the little Hummer will visit both sides of the house, looking for dinner.

Now it is time to return to weeding and loosening the soil to finish planting and getting the spoiled hay down as mulch.  We have a couple more pleasant days in store, so maybe I will get on that task.

Olio – May 8, 2015

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.




Hardened off veggie plants waiting for the garden that isn’t ready for them.

The last free range time until we get the fencing up around the garden.  The fluffy critters ate half of the sweet potato plants I put in earlier this week.

The annual spring Turkey dance.  Flocks of 14 or more with the Tom fluffed up with chest puffed out and tail spread like the children’s drawing of a Thanksgiving bird.

Nearly 400 yards of undyed Dorset lamb plied and 200 yards of Coopsworth spun and plied.  I can’t decide whether to dye the Dorset or what to do with it, but the Coopsworth is for me.  A sweater once the huge bag full is all spun, plied and measured.

The first flowers from our garden.



A nice weekend ahead with plans to deconstruct the compost bins, weed the remaining garden beds and get the seeds and plants in the vegetable beds.

We are half a week from chicks, we hope.  Broody Hen is being a great Mom, I hope she is rewarded for her efforts.

Loving our mountain farm.

What to do when you can’t garden

I want to get in the garden and get the weeds out, to get the seedlings and remaining seeds in, but it is too soon and too wet and I have a problem with the chickens digging up a couple of beds that I have started.  I covered them with row cover and the spring winds keep blowing it off.  As soon as the cover is off, one or more chickens are in.  I have planted Daikon radishes twice to find them scratched out before they are a couple inches high.

The tomato, tomatillo and pepper seedings are being hardened off with a bit more sun each day and brought back into the house for the night.  We are still 9 days from the last average frost date here when we will put them in the ground, plant the other seeds and start on maintenance until the produce starts coming in.  Many of the locals haven’t even plowed or tilled their gardens yet.

Before we do this, we are going to reduce the chicken runs so they can have more free range time and use the fencing to keep them out of the gardens.

In the mean time, as we have had a couple of days of rain, I have been spinning.  At Hawk’s Nest Retreat, I bought enough if a beautiful Coopsworth 2 way swirl from Debbie Martzell, one of the vendors, to spin then knit myself a sweater.  The beautiful roving has been sitting in a plastic bag waiting for me to get my Etsy shop up and running and to finish spinning some fiber I had started.  I had 8 ounces of undyed creamy white Dorset lamb from the prior Hawk’s Nest Retreat on too many bobbins that were awaiting my jumbo flyer in order to ply them.  That has been plyed and is now awaiting a large skein winder so that I can see how much yarn I actually created, my Niddy Noddy isn’t large enough for the skein I have to create.  Yesterday, I started spinning the Coopsworth.  It is a delight to spin and the color is so lucious.


My knitting and spinning friends will grin, the color is so me.  Someday, I may venture to other shades, but teal and blue seem to grab me most.

On the chick watch, we are on day 4 for 5 eggs and day 3 for the other 5 eggs and Broody Buffy is being such a good Mom.  She leaves the coop first thing each morning for a bit of food and a drink and goes right back to her nest.  Every evening, as I move her off the nest briefly to check, there are always one or two extra eggs that other hens have laid and she has pushed under her.  The second Ms. Broody hasn’t committed to really being broody yet, so we don’t have two sitting.  I’m still hoping for another brood of 10 before too long.

The Good and the Bad of Spring

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Forsythia blooming, Lilac leaves unfurling.  Frightful and her sisters have found the perches in the chicken tractor and instead of being Frightful, she should be Frightened as they won’t come out and play in the yard.  Apples, Asian Pears and Peaches are blooming.  The Buffys are being generous.  The Maples are all lime green with flowers and oh the pollen.

The dogs are shedding fiercely requiring daily vacuuming.  The garden is going to require some sort of major rework to keep the Buffys and Romeo from scratching up every seedling that is emerging.

I am in a fog.  Though I was never allergic to things growing up, I seem to be developing more and more allergies as I age.  It started about a dozen years ago with my first and major case of poison ivy, followed by more and more serious reactions to paper wasp stings and this year my eyes are gritty and my head stuffed full from the indoor and outdoor spring allergens.

Because of the reactions to stings, our youngest son with funds we fronted has established a bee hive in his yard in Virginia Beach and applied for a grant that will refund part of what was invested and with that he hopes to get a second hive.  He will maintain the hives and we will enjoy our share of the honey they produce.  That is a win/win as far that they and we are concerned.  I wish the hives could be here to benefit our garden and flowers, but it is not a risk I am willing to take with the nearest medical facility at least 20 minutes away.  The same son is a Paramedic and he said that most Doctors won’t prescribe an Epi Pen to seniors due to other risks.  I guess I should visit our Doc and inquire.

Weekend with the Grands

This is our first solo weekend with the grandkids that are living with us now.  During the week, one of them is in school so we still outnumber the other one.  Our Saturday morning tradition, even most winter Saturday’s is to go into the town and have breakfast at one of the local restaurants then walk over to the Farmers’ Market to support the farmer’s that brave the cold with their meats, breads, and cold storage vegetables.  As we are only two weeks from the full season return of the market, there are still only a few stalls, but more today than in the past weeks, including a new addition to the market with heritage pork.  Turns out we know that farmer, so we supported her with a purchase of the thickest pork chops I have ever seen.  I hope I don’t overcook them.  They are thawing for a meal in a couple of days.

We took the back way home and let the kids see all of the brand new calves in the fields around our farm.  This brought us back to speculating about how many we could raise, how much it would cost us to have our field hayed when we kept the hay instead of giving it to the farmer for his work and whether we could make a small profit by raising a small herd for our own meat and to sell maybe 4 or 5 head each year.

Once back home, some chicken chores to add straw to the coop and hay to the extremely muddy run were done while the kids play outside in the sunshine.  I want to let the chickens free range, but we just planted some seed in the garden and it is only fenced with two strands of electric which doesn’t even slow the chooks down.  I don’t need them digging up my freshly dug, weeded, and seeded beds, or the newly transplanted raspberries, so they will have to remain penned until daughter returns.  We will then expand the garden and string plastic poultry fence around the vegetables and let the girls wander again.   Or perhaps we can just make poultry netting tunnels over the beds and let the chickens keep the weeds and bugs at bay between the beds. The egg production is up, having gotten 18 eggs in the past two days from the dozen hens.  I am hoping that one of the girls gets to feeling broody soon, and I will let her sit a clutch of about 8 eggs to hatch.  This will be our first year allowing this and hoping that we will be able to cull some of the older hens and the cockrells that hatch for the freezer instead of raising purchased meat chicks.  If this doesn’t happen, I will buy meat chicks later in the summer and raise them until the fall for the freezer.  Freedom Rangers or Rainbow Rangers only take about 11 weeks to freezer size and that is what we raised last year and found them to be an excellent table bird.

The seeds we started indoors are beginning to sprout.  The flat is on a heat mat in a south facing doorway with a grow lamp.  The Roma and Purple Cherokee tomatoes, and the Tomatillos are showing.  So far the 6 kinds of hot peppers are still buried, but we hope to see them sprout soon too.  Four of the varieties of peppers there are only a couple of plants and they are experimental for us heritage varieties.  The others are of many pots of Jalapenos and several Habenos for salsa and chili tomatoes to be canned this summer.


Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day, so perhaps we will take the kids for a walk on the Huckleberry Trail or a hike in the woods if it has dried enough.

Next Saturday we will all drive to Northern Virginia and pick up the eldest grandson for a week too.  We will have a house full of younguns to keep us young or run us ragged.

Busy Days

Another beautiful day.  It was supposed to rain according to yesterday’s forecast, but this morning, it had changed and was a mostly sunny day with only the lightest of sprinkles.  I grabbed half a dozen raspberry canes and put them in water as Son #2 would like some of the ones we pulled up.  As soon as I can find some cheap pots, I will put them in soil and prune them to give them a chance to establish roots before I can deliver them in April.  That was done early when the chicken chores were being completed.

Before Daughter and Mountaingdad got up, I had made two new soap recipes, one with Oatmeal, Lavender buds, and Black Walnut powder.  This will be a great body scrub soap once it cures.  The other is a Jasmine Green Tea soap.  Neither of these soaps have any essential oils or dyes, so they will be good for those with sensitive skin.

After lunch, we experimented with a recipe for Beard Oils for my Etsy shop.  Daughter’s husband uses Beard Oil and we thought they might make a good addition to the shop. The lotion bar molds arrived yesterday, so a new batch of Hand Butter bars were also made to add to the shop.  The lotion bars, Hand Butter bars and Beard Oils can all be personalized with a customer’s favorite scent or scents or made unscented.



Daughter and I planted the Lacinato Kale, Purple Top Turnips and a 4 X 4′ bed of Daikon Radishes for kimchi this afternoon.  They are the last early spring seed.

Effort, Disappointment, and a Delicious Surprise

Mountaingdad and I began our morning with a group of others from our county to form the core group of Preserve Giles County to oppose and fight the proposed pipeline.  We met for two hours, introduced ourselves and I found that this made me very emotional as we each spent about 5 minutes giving our name and why we were there.  It was the first time I have introduced myself to these people and talking about the fact that I was born here, my grandfather was born here and though I grew up in the eastern coastal Virginia, retired here.  That our home is a labor of love, Son 1 spending two years of his life doing carpentry and stone work on our house. I installing wood siding, beadboard, cedar and doing flooring and baseboards.  That we are invested financially, physically and emotionally in the home we built.  The meeting was productive and will move on to a point where we feel we are fighting as a group, not as individuals with a common goal.

The disappointment came when I realized that of the 5 1/2 quarts of broth that I made with the turkey carcass, even though they were chilled overnight in the refrigerator with plenty of head room in wide mouth jars, all 4 that I put in the freezer, broke the jars and all 4 quarts of turkey broth are ruined.  The remaining quart and a half were used to make gravy for turkey we have eaten since Thanksgiving.  To try to salve a disaster, the remnants of the thighs and the meatier parts of the wings that weren’t really done enough to suit me are currently simmering in another 3 quarts of water.  The meat will be made into pot pies and casseroles, the broth frozen in vacuum sealing bags this time for use in soups and future gravies.

The delicious surprise came just a few minutes ago as I went to collect eggs and do a quick survey of the garden plot after last week’s 20 something degrees and the wet snow.  The row cover over the garlic had blown free from one end and I wanted to re-secure it.  There was kale that had perked back up, not a lot, but certainly enough for a meal, maybe my favorite African Chicken with Hot Greens.  And a berry bucket of turnips that weren’t large enough to harvest a few weeks ago.  I’ll bet they are as sweet as honey after last week.  We will enjoy them within the next day or two as well.  The chard is gone, the wormy cabbages went to the chooks with the turnip tops that were too wilted to try to cook.  With any luck, we will get one or two more meals of kale, then I guess it too will be pulled for the chickens or heavily mulched with hay for maybe some spring regrowth.


The chooks laid just enough eggs while the kids were here to provide us with a delicious breakfast each morning and to make the pumpkin pies.  Yesterday there were only 3 and today 6.  It seems that the dozen hens are not really going to be laying enough for me to sell many this winter, but should keep us fulfilled.

Love our life on our mountain farm.

A Crisp Late Fall Day






The morning is crisp, actually right around freezing right now, but the sun is warming the day back to normal fall weather after our Arctic chill of the weekend. Even on days like this when the sun is out, the little alcove on the south deck is toasty, sheltered from the NW breeze. The view from the porch swing is stunning, though most of the leaves are gone now and the trees bare until spring. It is a great place to sit with a cup of tea and watch the chickens free range and look out for deer and turkey or listen for the hawks call.
The morning chores are done, fresh hay in the coop, chickens fed, their water and the garden hose thawed. I guess I should bring it in for the winter though that makes chicken chores more difficult as I then have to haul the 5 gallons of water from the yard hydrant to their run.
In spite of the shortening days and frigid nights of late, I have another broody girl. She has plucked her breast feathers as the weather chills and I fear for her winter health. She isn’t being allowed to sit eggs, I am removing them several times a day from the coop instead of just at lock down time. I’ve tried removing her repeatedly during the day, set a bag of ice under her, removed her to a perch at night, blocked off her preferred box (she just moves). Today I will dip her backsides in cold water if the temperature rises enough and put her in the meat bird pen alone for the day.
Romeo has nearly finished his molt and doesn’t look nearly as ragged as when he arrived. His neck feathers are glossy and darker than the hens and his tail feathers are coming back in. He isn’t as beautiful as Cogburn was but still a fine looking rooster and calm and nonaggressive toward people.
The greens in the garden perked back up, a mess of them and a roasted pumpkin are on the menu for tonight.
The reknit of the sweater is progressing and last night I ordered yarns for grands sweaters for Christmas.
It looks to be a good first half of the week, perhaps I’ll finally get the garlic planted or there won’t be any next year.
Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Olio – October 24, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

Our internet issues seem to be finally resolved, many months and many mistakes later, we are back with our original cell provider and our original internet/phone provider.  The lines have been repaired, the speed boosted as much as it can be boosted given our physical distance from the nearest booster from our small community cooperative telephone/internet provider.  They also provide cable TV service, but their HD is not HD, so we opt to receive cable elsewhere.  Life was so much simpler with an antenna, a house phone line, no internet and no cell phones; cheaper too.

The sweater was ripped out and restarted using a yoke pattern instead of a raglan pattern, the sleeves have been put on waste yarn and the body is being worked slowly.  This pattern is from one of Ann Budd’s formula books, so it should fit.


The twisty rib pattern at the top is interesting.  Hopefully it will block into a nice yoke for the sweater that is otherwise very plain.

As the sweater has already gotten too bulky to want to tote around with me when I am the car passenger, I finally started the mitts that are made of Unplanned Peacock Superwash Merino in a colorway named for me as it was dyed especially for me to match a skein I purchased from her several years ago and from which I designed and made Ruby Hat (http://goo.gl/yAfQV) and later Ruby Scarf (http://goo.gl/uzjTFo), both free patterns on Ravelry.  Ruby Hat is my favorite hat and has its own story, but that is for another day.  The mitts are also being made from one of Ann Budd’s formula books to wear with the hat and scarf or just around the house at night when my hands get cold.  They are the perfect portable pocket project for the car.


I am frequently amused at questions I get from folks that I know have grown up their entire lives in this rural county.  Today, the phone/internet installer saw my chickens wandering about the yard and ask me very innocently if my hens were laying now that the weather is cooling down.  My response was yes, except for the one who was molting.  I could tell from his expression that he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and he said his egg production from 10 hens was down to only a couple each day.  I asked him how old his hens were and most of them are only about a year and a half old, so experiencing their first molt this season, thus his lack of eggs.  He also wasn’t feeding them any calcium, not even giving them back their own shells.  He left educated by the city girl with a ziplock sack of crushed oyster shell to free feed his hens and a promise that once their feathers were back in that he would start seeing eggs again.  He also was surprised that Son#1 and I could kill and process our culls and meat birds.  He said though he could shoot and dress a deer, he wasn’t sure he could do a chicken.  Our flock is enjoying their daily freedom to dig in the gardens, to look for bugs and tender blades of grass.  When we need them safely away from the dogs or driveway, I just go out like the Pied Piper with my little cup of scratch that I shake and they come running and follow me back to the safety of the electric fence.

The pumpkin vines are dying back more each day and revealing more of the winter squash.  I thought that only the Burgess Buttercup survived and that I didn’t get any Seminole pumpkins, but realize that it is a half and half mix, except the pumpkins for the most part haven’t turned tan.  The ones that I picked and put on the picnic table are beginning to turn.  The wormy ones get split with a hatchet and thrown into the chicken run for them to enjoy.  A side benefit is that the seeds are a natural anti parasitic for the chickens.  The peppers and tomatillos survived the cold nights predicted in the last post.  I am letting the remaining fruits mature until we are threatened again and I will do another harvest.  The last batch was made into another 4 pints of Tomatillo/Habanero sauce, the hottest batch yet.  Maybe I should change it’s name from XXX to Insanity.  I sure can’t eat it, but Son#1 will love it.  The Farmers’ Market last week had many vendors of apples.  I came home with another peck of mixed crisp red apples and realizing that they would not stay crisp until we finished them all, I used about a third to make another batch of Apple Cranberry Chutney (http://wp.me/p3JVVn-Ja), using 1 cup of honey instead of brown sugar this time.  The shelves are full of goodies even after having taken two crates of canned goodness to Northern Virginia on the last two trips to return son and grandson.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm and continuing to gather knowledge to fight the pipeline.