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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Autumn Work

I received the "All Clear" from the doctor when I went for the last x-rays of my ankle so I happily have no more activity restrictions, and Tom and I have been making up for lost time. The weather has been decent lately so we have been busy trying to get the outside work finished.  I have been cutting back the brush around the house and cleaning up the "fire safety zone".  Let me tell you, that is a job.  I'm pooped! Even after three full days of sawing, pruning, and slashing with my brush sickles, it hardly looks like I've done anything.  The chickens delightedly follow my progress because I haul the cuttings inside the coop area for them to peck. I'm surprised they like eating dogwood leaves; the grasses and brambles I can understand, but dogwood leaves? I hope to finish cutting back the slope by the chicken coop tomorrow.  If I can keep up my steady pace, I should be finished with everything I want to cut back before I need to plant my garlic in mid-October.  I will save cleaning up the garden boxes for last.

Speaking of garden boxes, take a good look at the front yard:

Tom and I are going to be filling this entire area with new garden boxes.  He cut the lumber today, and we have been hauling mink poop from our good neighbor for the last few weeks.  I told Tom I just can't shovel that stuff any more for a while so we are going to take a break from getting any more trailer loads.



The very stinky stuff
The leaves are changing very rapidly now.  I actually think we have reached peak color already. I always love being outside enjoying the trees at this time of  year.

Of course, being inside can be fun, too. A day in my kitchen makes everyone smile.

Enjoy Autumn! Be Safe and Well, Everybody!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Change of the Season

I think Summer left a few days ago in the last rain we had.  The air is much cooler; the leaves are starting to change color; the light of day is different.  We are busy getting ready for winter. Tom and Ed cut, split, and stacked our wood.

They filled the firewood frames in the garage and all the kindling bins. The wood he didn't want to burn was put in a stack by my maple sugar rig. Then they went by Dad's and stacked his wood for him that my sister and her husband had cut and split. We bought tarps and covered all the wood piles and my syrup rig.

I cleared a nice spot next to the chicken run where Tom can park the truck after we put the snow plow on it. And I am working on clearing back the fire zone around the house.  There is more to do, but the yard is already looking much better.

 My ankle is better though it gives me painful twinges most days.  I go for x-rays again next week and hopefully will get the all clear on activities. I just have to admit that I cannot work at the pace I was used to working at any longer.  Well, "slow and steady goes long into the day" is one of my favorite aphorisms and now it has a slightly different import for me!

After I got off crutches I managed to gimp out to my garden boxes and plant three of them with collards, mustard greens, and kale in one; Provider green beans in another; and lettuce, beets, radishes, patty pan squash, and onions in the third.  The lettuce and beets just didn't grow, and the squash will not be able to mature before frost comes, but the rest are looking good.  I figure I will have to put on hoops and row cover for them all soon because we may get frost and possibly even snow next week.  We already had one night down to 38°F. Tom had planted one pole bean trellis and a handful of cucumber plants, and even with just a few plants I have been able to make several batches of sweet pickles, East India and cucumber relish, and several quarts of green beans. I would love to get another bushel of beans and a bushel of beets from somewhere. I am all out of beets. Fortune also shined on me this year with a bumper crop of black currants and raspberries from the forest garden, and Tom's black chokeberries in back of the house. I may yet get enough elderberries to make some cough syrup.  I made lots of jam and a fine supply of brandy cordials to soothe away any winter blahs.  I haven't tasted the black chokeberry jam yet, and as it is something I have not made before, I'm wondering if I should have made jelly instead of jam because when I tasted a raw berry it was awfully mealy. We'll find out soon enough! I read that chokeberries are very popular in Europe.

Titania Black Currants

I worked on filling in and strengthening the brush fence, and I must say I like the way everything looks.  I think it's rather picturesque.

With all the rain we had this year, everything grew spectacularly. (Too bad I didn't have my big garden!) The forest garden is a veritable jungle and I wonder if digging those swales last year was a factor.  And I am glad to report that the red currants are coming back and looking great. I only lost two apples trees to last winter's wrath; a Paula Red and one Smokehouse.  One of my remaining tasks is to cut paths through the forest garden.  In another week I will check the hazelnut bushes and see if I have any nuts this year.  Last winter was so long that I never even saw any blossoms on the apple, pear, or plum trees. And speaking of winter, our last snow came on May 15th.  We had a visiting Chinese priest speak at our church earlier this year, and he commented that our area really reminded him of Siberia!!! I guess our little rural towns, marshes and woods are similar to what is over there in Russia.  Maybe Dmitri Orlov ought to visit out here and give us his opinion. LOL.

The rose bushes in the chicken run are still blooming and they are heavy with hips.  I think I will try to make some rose hip jelly this year and dry some hips for tea. I just love the rose scent on the air when I let the chickens out in the morning.

Speaking of chickens, one of my projects for this year was to build up my flock of Dominiques.  I bought an incubator and gave it a try --

Fourteen of twenty eggs hatched and I have nine pullets! A man on one of the gardening/homesteading forums I frequent said that if you want pullets, put eggs that are more rounded at the small end to hatch.  Rooster eggs will be more pointed at the small end.  Some people say that is folklore and has no basis in fact, but the advice worked pretty well for me.  I'll give it a shot again next Spring. I plan to cull the flock next month and these replacements should work out well.

Till next time, Be Safe and Well!

P.S. It sure feels good to sit down and blog again :)