Sunday, June 21, 2015

Solstice Day

Happy Fathers Day to all dads old and young, here or gone! We had my dad over for bar-b-que and the weather was lovely. It was a nice day. Lara and Ed bought Tom a Chicago Bears tool box, and I gave my Dad a couple of cans of pipe tobacco. He's set with tobacco now till Christmas so he's happy.

Holy cow, it's really the longest day of the year! This year is simply flying and I still have a flat of leeks and one of tomatoes to plant. The weather has been rain and more rain with brief respite in between storm systems. We may get some severe storms tomorrow. Darn it. It frustrates me how long it takes for me to get work done. There's not much you can do when the grass is too wet to cut.

I finally have some pictures for you. It's unbelievable that barely one month ago we had our last snow fall. This pic shows my greens box (beets, kale, spinach, mustard, and Italian parsley), my garlic box, and beyond it is my box that is planted with peas.

This pic shows about 100 trees and shrubs that I still need to get in the ground. I have already planted 40 butternut trees and about 40 each red oak and white pine out in the field. I want to plant the remaining trees and shrubs there, too.

 This is my collards, spring cabbages and red cabbage box. Next to it is the box planted with bush cherries. I have planted bush beans in there, too, though none have come up yet.

This is a little pallet garden I planted up with herbs. There are two little bay trees I bought from Nichols Garden Nursery planted in the black grow bags. Lara's fig tree (in the big pot) that I feared had given up the ghost is actually hanging on and sprouting new leaves.

These are the nine garden boxes Tom and I built last Fall. The two boxes on the far right are mine and hold my sweet peppers, yellow onions, and tomatoes. The other boxes are Tom's. The temps got down to 36°F the other night -- not good for any kind of fruit set.

My ankle couldn't hold up with manhandling the BCS tractor out in the field so I was not able to plant my potatoes or corn out there. I was able to plant the potatoes in wire bins, but I couldn't find a spot for the corn. What a disappointment! I shall try to plant the corn next year. I have planted the sunflowers and winter squash on my hugelkulture bed in the forest garden, and I've planted Moon and Stars melons and New England pie pumpkins throughout the forest garden, too. It will be interesting to see how everything grows there.  I also planted some white currants, goji berries, honeyberries, and more hazelnut shrubs. I actually had blossoms on one of the Chestnut crab apple trees this year so maybe I'll be able to make some crabapple jelly this Fall.

 Here are the first of the new chicks that are still hatching in my incubator. They are so cute when they first hatch. I have 13 so far and more coming.

My really good news is that I went down to Wisconsin Rapids on June 13th to take the Amateur Extra ham radio exam. I PASSED!!! I feel so great about it. I can't wait to be able to gather the equipment I need and set up my very own radio shack.

Until next time, Be Safe and Be Blessed!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Loving Spring

Woke up this morning to snow on the ground. Brrr! This is the latest snowfall I've noted since we moved here. Still, it is Spring.

I love Spring. You know, that time of year when buds break on the hardwood trees in colors of new greens and reds, and the conifers sport bright new growth on branch tips. I liken the feathery silver sage on the tamaracks to slender ladies wearing gossamer gowns. Spring is that short time when the cricket frogs chirp in the marshes and the grouse drum on a just right fallen log out in the woods. The humming birds return to fight over red nectar filled feeders, and I listen for new bird songs at the forest edge. The fecund earth is soft from the frost coming out of it, and the wild cherries, hop hornbeam, and elderberry bushes are first to burst into flowery bloom.  I suck Spring into my lungs and want to shout for joy! Earth is new again.

I move slower now because of that dratted ankle I broke last year. I had to buy some different work shoes to accommodate my swollen foot and I am very happy with them. They are not heavy to wear and are very comfortable. The ankle has better support with them and walking around on uneven ground is much easier. Because I am slower, it takes me longer to get work done. I hate that, but I am not young any more and I understand that my reflexes are not as nimble as my mind. It's one reason I haven't had much time for blogging.

I have accomplished a lot though since my last post.  I finally finished boiling down maple sap and got just over a gallon of syrup from six trees. Not a lot, but enough for us and maybe a gift or two. (Dad already has his jar.)

I also made great progress continuing my quest to cut away brush in the fire zone around the house. But my biggest achievement so far is getting the hand pump installed on the house well.

A walk through the forest garden was full of surprises. The gooseberries and the hazelnut bushes look healthy and strong. The red and black currants look great and are loaded with flowers already, and I finally have flowers on one of the Chestnut Crabapple trees. Yeah! The bad news is that my best Haralson apple tree is dead from being completely girdled by mice, and another Smokehouse apple tree died, so I need to find two more apple trees to replace them.  Overall though, the plantings are really starting to take shape and I like the way the garden looks. I finally finished the trellis fence around the forest garden to my satisfaction. When the moon goes into the sign of Cancer I'll plant some hops to climb the new sections. There are grape vines, blackberries, and when the weather is warmer, Old Homestead pole beans, Scarlet Runner beans, and Grandpa Ott's morning glories to keep them company. The fence should look very nice this summer.

I built a herb garden from an old pallet and am transplanting herbs from my herb garden box into it. The soil in the garden box has settled down considerably and needs amending so it is nice to have a new place to put the herbs. The greenhouse is filled with veggies waiting to go in the ground, and this morning I started more seeds in the basement: melons, pole beans, cucumbers, pie pumpkins, sunflowers, and summer and winter squashes. The rest of the veggies will be direct planted outside. Now I need to get out to the field and till the ground for them. Can you tell gardening is on my mind?

How are things going for you in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Winter Time

I have been working like crazy completing unfinished projects that were screaming at me so loudly that I couldn't walk through the house without feeling guilty. So, I sewed a rain poncho with a pattern I bought from Nancy's Notions and a navy blue knit jumper and skirt for Lara; did all the mending; and, I finished my first "real" quilt. Every stitch in that quilt is hand sewn. It is certainly not perfect, but I'm proud of it.

I also straightened out the basement so you can at least walk through it. The next big project (for next winter) is to cut up all the old clothes into strips or fabric squares for future quilts or whatever I think we need. I am definitely going to make Ed a hobo quilt.

The weather has been weird to say the least. This winter has not been as brutal as last year's winter, but it certainly has been cold in a brutal way. That is to say, there has not been much snow, but the cold in the wind has been simply bone chilling. I certainly find the wind hard to tolerate and that is why I've spent so much time indoors this winter.

I'm getting pretty good at making kombucha. Some people say I'm actually making something called "jun" tea because I use green tea and chamomile tea, but I call it kombucha because I use kombucha culture.

My neighbor, Beth, gave me some great crabapple puree and I made a batch of apple fritters with one quart (no picture because they were inhaled as they came out of the frying pan), and I made crabapple brandy with the other quart. It's pretty good!

Beth also sent us a box of citrus from Arizona for Christmas. It was wonderful! I made more fermented lemons (the small jar) with the lemons. As you can see, my big jar from last year is half empty, but looking good still.  As a matter of interest, when I strained my apple brandy I thought it would be a shame to discard the puree, so I decided to make an applesauce cake with it. The recipe called for lemon extract, but instead, I omitted the salt the recipe called for and replaced the lemon extract with one slice of fermented lemon that I first rinsed and soaked for 15 minutes in a bowl of hot water to draw out more salt, then finely minced it before adding it to the batter. Talk about good! The chickens didn't get any of that cake.

My chickipoos started laying in January. That was a real surprise. I didn't expect them to start till February when the days noticeably start to lengthen. But we love eggs around here and eat them all the time. The chickens have handled the winter very well and the ladies like the new next boxes I made them.

 I have been experimenting with the dehydrator Tom bought me for Christmas last year. I bought a book called The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook and I have to say that my interest in dehydrating is definitely piqued. The quart jar on the left hold FOUR big bunches of celery and it's only half full! The jar on the right was all the small onions I planted after I got off crutches last summer. I plan to use that dehydrator a lot this year.

Our Ed turned 28 and Tom's birthday is right around the corner. I just can't believe how fast the time flies. It's also a year now since I broke my ankle.

Oh, I have to tell you about the fireball I saw today! As I was locking up the chickens for the night (about 5:00 p.m.) I looked up at the sky and in the WSW I saw what looked like a big comet, tail and all. It was SO bright. Then I realized the object was actually falling to earth. I watched it for a minute or so before it dawned on me to run and get my camera to try to get a movie of it. I thought to send it to The Weather Channel. Of course, by the time I found my camera and got back outside, the object had disappeared behind clouds and I didn't see it again. It seemed pretty big although far away from our location, and I waited a while expecting to feel at least a gust of wind from its impact, but nothing came. I don't know what happened to the object. It was pretty exciting to watch and I wonder if any ham radio operators were able to catch some contacts on the scatter.

I have seedlings growing in the basement, and trees and seeds on order. I'll tap a few maple trees in a day or so and start boiling down sap soon. And I'm still studying for my Amateur Extra ham license. I sure hope to be able to take the exam this year.  All in all, I cannot say that I've been bored this winter.

May you all be safe and well!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Another Year

We had a quiet end to this difficult year, and I have to admit - again - that I am not sorry to see it end.  The old ones are starting to leave us; friends are failing in health; we are slowing down considerably, too; and illness -- sometimes serious --  seems to want to be adopted into the family. All the year's troubles made holiday memories more precious.  I will hate to take down the Christmas tree.

Reflection seems to be appropriate at this slower time of year, and I receive a great deal of personal strength from meditating while being out in Nature. For example, on several evenings this Fall while going to shut up the chickens for the night, I was thrilled to see little brown bats flitting above me in the dusk. They were starting their Fall migration. It was something I had never seen and the sight filled me with wonder. Their presence on the farm, even if they were only passing through, was like a blessing. Such a small happening, but it filled my soul with joy, and such events never fail to feed my thirst to understand God's Creation and express His Goodness in whatever I do. (If you're an atheist like my husband, just ignore that last sentence.)

In keeping with my reticence, I find myself doing a lot of reading these days. I am still studying for my Amateur Extra ham radio license, and am riveted by The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  I bought some of Dr. Richard Alan Miller's books: The Modern Alchemist, ESP Induction Through Forms of Self-Hypnosis, Power Tools for the 21st Century and the accompanying Workbook. I bought a fascinating new cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett called The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet. And for Christmas I bought from Chelsea Green Publishers (they had a great sale) The Organic Seed Grower, The Sugarmaker's Companion, and Integrated Forest Gardening.

The tasks on my To-Do list are starting to scream at me. But I have to say I would much rather look up from reading a book to watch the finches, pine siskins, chickadees, and woodpeckers on my bird feeders than work in my basement.

I hope all of you made precious memories over the holiday season. Believe it or not, you are all part of mine! Keep safe, and Be Well!

Friday, October 31, 2014


Another month has come and gone again. I can't believe how fast the time goes -- especially when I'm busy.

We had our first snow on October 3rd,

but the weather quickly warmed and St. Luke's Summer gave us about 10 great days for working outside. Tom and I made the most of it.  He built and filled the garden boxes, and I worked madly on cutting back the fire zone.  Tom figures we have room for three more boxes and we'll put them on the to-do list for next Spring.

 I added a grand stack of brush to my hugelkultur bed that now needs to be covered with manure and soil, and there is still a bit more cutting back of brush to do. I managed to get the garlic planted and two of the back yard garden boxes cleared and topped off with manure.  I transplanted the mulberry tree and elderberry bushes inside the chicken run where I hope they will do well next year.  Still need to transplant the rest of the trees I have heeled in the garden box from this past Spring. I have amassed a fair number of small tree trunks to use as posts for my forest garden fence, and I am eyeing more trees to thin out, especially in the forest garden where I want to plant five more apple trees next Spring. I sure hope I will have time to get all the work done. Right now it's snowing and blowing outside like a blizzard! A real Halloween trick for sure!

In the house I cleaned the garlic harvested this year for fresh use and dried the onions I planted after I got off crutches in the dehydrator.  It worked very well for that, but my first attempt at making jerky was a disaster. I didn't think I would like dehydrating, but I do.  It's amazing how much food shrinks up when it is dried. This will be a fun skill to learn.

Cousin It came with her boyfriend and stayed a week with us.  I took them to Bayfield with me, and they had a good time.  I wasn't able to get any pears this year, but I did buy two bushels of apples -- one for fresh eating (we have almost finished them already) and one to can for baking. I bought an apple peeler and another bushel for Cousin It to take back home with her as she is learning to can.  Well, what are Moms for . . . .

And so, I did a bit of canning, too.

I finished knitting my elven rune sweater.  Following the legend in the front pages of The Hobbit  I worked out the phrase, "Walk in Starlight". Then I scoured the Internet for free patterns of oak leaves and acorns. The sweater was knitted in solid dark grey and raglan style, and I worked the runes and decorations in duplicate stitch in a silvery grey color.  As usual, I made the sweater big and wear it like a coat. It's nice and warm.



I have to tell you about the latest book I bought.  It is the single best book about farming that I've read since the first edition of Gene Logsdon's Small-Scale Grain Raising.  It's called Farming the Woods by Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel. There is useful information on every single page. If you want ideas about how to utilize and farm your temperate climate woods, this is the book to get. I LOVE chewing on the information presented in this book! It's my opinion and I have no doubt that these young people coming out of Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Science are going to save world agriculture. They get it.

Well, it's late and I need to go to sleep. I'll talk to you later.  In the meantime, Be Well and Safe.