Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Wishes

What is Christmas all about?  Little Linus tells it best.

From my heart, God bless you all.  I thank all of you readers for sharing my life by reading this simple blog.

We had another full house today, and everyone is comatose.  I will leave you with a short prayer: "Peace Be on Earth and Among All Things."  Please say it often -- the world needs it.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas is Coming

The first week of December I went to Family Dollar and bought everything I needed for Christmas baking.  I baked and baked and baked.  Ed helped me; he loves sampling! (Lara preferred to listen to the cooks on tv instead.)

Czech checkerboard cookie dough

Drop butter-butterscotch chip cookies

Ed helping out
 There is Nutella fudge and cheesecake (I used crushed gingersnap cookies instead of graham crackers for the crust); double chocolate chip cookies; plain and raisin/craisin oatmeal cookies; drop butter cookies with butterscotch chips; orange, almond, lemon, and chocolate shortbread; raspberry/black currant, apricot, and cream cheese kolackys (see my kolacky recipe on the right hand side of this blog); gingerbread; Czech checkerboard cookies; and a plate of Alton Brown's truffle recipe.  The freezer was duly stuffed. Yum.

Wouldn't you know it, when I got home from taking my ham radio exam I went to the freezer to get me a piece of shortbread to celebrate my passing the exam with and found every last piece of shortbread in that freezer gone! And the empty bags were left in the freezer with their crumbs.  I couldn't believe it! The gnome who lives in the chicken coop must have gotten hungry and sneaked into the house while I was gone . . . . The oatmeal cookies and kolackys are about done for, too. 

Good thing dark pfeffernuesse takes a week to make. (I use the recipe in the Meta Givens Cooking Encyclopedia -- best cookbooks EVER!)  I finished it on Sunday afternoon and dutifully put it in the freezer.  And I always leave the Christmas morning cinnamon sticky buns till last to bake.

Here's a picture of the gingerbread house I built this year with Ed.  The store manager at Family Dollar where I bought the candies for decorating the house wants a picture of it to send to corporate.

As I am in "food mode", I decided to try making some preserved lemons from the wonderful Nourished Kitchen web site.  I found a neat old Atlas canning jar and was able to put 8 pounds of lemons in it.  I can't wait to try them.  The kitchen smelled so good while I was tamping them down in the jar.

Preparing lemons to preserve in salt

Fermenting lemons in antique Atlas canning jar
Our family has always been big on gathering around the table for occasions of all kinds.  Food is a great medium for communing with people.  One of the things I've noticed this year is that most of the gifts I bought for people this year was food of some kind.  Maybe subconsciously I'm equating food with comfort.  There are so many people all over the world who desperately need comfort in these awful times.  As you take care of your family this Christmas season, please also remember others less fortunate than you both in your words and in your deeds.  


Finally, the computer is not acting so badly and I can actually get a blog post up!  The Internet has been horrible lately.

Ta Da! To paraphrase Professor Higgins in the movie My Fair Lady, "I did it. I did it. I knew that I could do it, and, indeed, I did!"  I am now W9SCF/AG. (At least until I show up in the government database.)  Yep.  I drove down to Wisconsin Rapids during a short break in the snowy weather this past Saturday, and I passed the upgrade exam to obtain my General class ham license.  I was ecstatic!  There were three guys beside me taking tests.  I also took the Amateur Extra exam and although I did not pass it, I did get 22 questions correct, and the examiner told me that I know more than I think I do.  All of the examiners gave me some tips for studying for the Amateur Extra exam.  I was feeling great!  I didn't even mind the 3 1/2 hour horrible drive home (the snow had started up again and the roads were re-freezing).  

When I got home I tore the house apart looking for my Gordon West Extra class book to start studying again.  I'm currently reading the Emergency Power for Radio Communications book to figure out what off grid power system I want to build and how long it's going to take me to squirrel away the money for it.  When I finish reading that, I'm going to try taking some of the free FEMA courses, too.  Those should take about 3-4 hours each to finish, so I think if I dedicate one full week to those classes I should complete them all.  It would be nice to get into some sort of public service. 

With all the snowing and blowing and absolutely frigid temperatures, it is nice to sit inside and dream.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tis the Season

I can't believe we are going into the last of November already.  Time is simply flying around here. 

I'm another year older. (Sorry, no picture this year of my German Chocolate birthday cake; it was inhaled before I could get a picture of it! But here is a pic from another year.)

For my birthday I took a drive to the Yarn Barn in Phillips.  I bought enough yarn for two practice traditional style gansey sweaters and enough self-patterning sock yarn for two pairs of socks. While I mosied around the store I came across some spinning wool from my friend Jane's farm, Autumn Larch Farm.  I'll have to tell her I bought some of (her ram) Noah's wool. Then, from Interweave I bought a DVD called "Three Bags Full" about what you need to know to buy a good fleece.

The cold weather has settled in, and we have about two inches of snow on the ground.  Right now the temperature is -14°C and dropping.  Good for hunting!  Tom went out with his rifle early this morning.  A few weeks ago he shot a doe with his bow, so this morning he was going to try to get a buck for our daughter, Sarah.  (Doe tags are all sold out.) Lo and behold, by the time I got up, he was already back to the house and waiting for me to help him drag a buck out of the woods.  He says he thinks it is the biggest deer he's ever shot.  It was a big deer, for sure.  Thankfully it wasn't too hard dragging it out of the woods and load into the back of the truck.  Then, Tom cleaned up and headed to Butternut Feed Store to swagger -- I mean -- register the deer. 

Naturally, the feed store was already crowded with hunters shooting the breeze and checking out each other's deer.  Tom's deer was the biggest one yet in the day.  Ooooh.  Big deer.  It's a guy thing.  Tom was supremely satisfied.  There was a woman DNR warden there who wanted to check Tom's deer to see how old it was.  She opened the deer's mouth with some contraption and checked the teeth.  She said it was 3 1/2 years old.  It would have been an 8 pointer, but one of the antlers was broken off.  "Scottie", the butcher, (whose shop is conveniently across the street from the feed store) said he could tell the antler broke off in a fight with another buck.  All in all, it was a good day.

I have been studying for my General Class ham radio license and am doing pretty well with the practice license exams on  I hope the weather is good for me to drive down to Wisconsin Rapids on December 14th.

I've also been working to finish sewing the quilt blocks for the quilt I started last year. Only ten blocks to go.

I got Tom to mooch some tallow from the butcher for me, and I rendered it down for a future soap making project.  It was the first time I rendered tallow, and it turned out beautifully.

I am still dehydrating my tiny onions, and I bought a bag of cranberries to turn into craisins.  My first and second attempts turned into an awful mess, but I am determined to learn how to make them well.  So far, all of the recipes for making craisins I've found on the Internet are wanting in final presentation so I am going to give it another try and use the dehydrator instead of the oven. If I get them to turn out well (i.e., like raisins), I'll tell you how I did it.

Turkey Day is coming this Thursday and we will have a house full for dinner.  I ordered a pumpkin cheesecake from Junior's in Brooklyn, NY as a special treat. If I don't get to post before then, I wish all of you a safe and happy holiday!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Small Farm Conference

Salutations!  I'm finally back to tell you about this year's Small Farm Conference.  It was a long day but lots of fun.  Our host for the conference was Stoney Acres Farm in Athens, Wisconsin.

To start the day, my sister and I always tend to get to appointments early, and this was no exception.  We decided to stop at a farm shed sale we saw a road sign for before going on to Stoney Acres.  We wished we had brought a truck!  The lady had some really nice furniture and her shed was absolutely stuffed with things she wanted to sell.  You will be happy to learn I was very good in restraining myself.  I bought a beautiful, still in the box, wooden salt and pepper mill set for 50¢ and I bought Tom an old gas can that the woman said she thought was from an Army jeep for $10.00.  She didn't know how old the can was, but it was sound. There was "US" stamped on the bottom of the can and it looked like something that would fit on a jeep.  (And Tom did like it, too, when I gave it to him.)

Then we arrived at Stoney Acres farm.  The first thing that caught my eye was the solar panels on the shed.

This long shed held a large, what I would call a community room, a second smaller community room, a commercial kitchen, bathroom with shower, large produce cooler, and somewhere in there was the solar battery bank and charge controllers that I could not find.  I was really interested in the solar set up because I am reading this book while studying for my General class ham license upgrade. There just wasn't time to see everything.

I really liked this oven.  The farm owners bake pizzas they make from their farm produce in this oven and sell them.  And boy, are they good!

Here's a shot of some of the rows of grape vines that are growing between the barn and the big shed.

See that blue silo?  I'm told that is spelled M-O-N-E-Y.

Farm Sign

 This high tunnel was still loaded with tomatoes!

You can see Kat, one of Stoney Acres' owners, in the center of this pic, giving a brief run down of the farm's diverse activities.  At first I wondered why she wasn't wearing a coat (it was FREEZING), but then I realized that she was very pregnant. (I remember being that way!) (I think it's another boy ;D)

Garden boxes done for the season. See the long dresses on the little girls?  There are a lot of Mennonite farms in this area.

Unfortunately, at this point my camera batteries died and I was unable to get pictures of the 1 acre of raspberries, apple trees, additional high tunnels, sugar house, happy pigs, really neat pastured turkeys, and everything else this wonderful farm contained.  You should have heard those lovely turkeys singing while they watched us.  They were grazing on a great patch of pasture mix that looked like peas, oats, and vetch.  And I would have liked to walked down to the sugar house, but the actual farm tour was only about 45 minutes long. 

The learning sessions I chose to attend were Berry Production and Maple Syrup Production and Marketing.  Brian Smith gave the berry production talk.  Boy, I learned a lot about raising raspberries and blueberries! And Ray Melander and Dan Marzu gave a wonderful talk about maple syrup production.  You can really spend a lot of money making maple syrup. Sheesh! Here and here are links to some more information if your are interested.

There was a young woman attorney who spoke about various legal farm issues named Rachel Armstrong.  As an old, former legal secretary I would give her a thumbs up if I needed an attorney. 

For supper we were treated to some of the farm's homemade pizzas.  I think this new venture is a winner for them.  After supper, Mary and I trekked homeward.  It was a long and very cold but enjoyable day.  Good luck to Stoney Acres and thanks for hosting the North Central Wisconsin Small Farm Conference!

I was glad to get home . . . .

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First Snow

Our first snow arrived on October 20th this year and put an end to St. Luke's Summer which was quite lovely.

Early morning in the front yard
Before it snowed I was able to get quite a bit of work done around the house.  Like the enlarged chicken run

Enlarged chicken run

and the fixed up maple syrup rig

Winterized maple syrup rig
I raised and re-oriented the bricks surrounding the fire ring so that North and South winds are less able to blow onto the fire.  There is a piece of scrap plywood topped with a plastic tarp for a cover and should keep the set up pretty accessible.  I will maintain a path through the snow to the rig so when maple sap season starts up it should be easy for me to quickly get started boiling down sap.  (The other two paths I'll keep will go to the compost bins and the greenhouse.)

I also cleaned up all the garden boxes, planted the garlic, and moved all the perennial onions into one box.  Boy, did the chickens love all the garden refuse!

Walking around this morning let me take some nice pictures with Tom's camera:

The worm fence
The log pile

My sister, Mary, and I went to the annual Small Farm Conference sponsored by the Agricultural Extension.  I left my camera in her car so after I get it back I'll put up a post about the day along with the few pictures I was able to take before the camera batteries died on me.  It was a fun day and I look forward to telling  you about it.

Till then, may you all be safe and warm!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Harvest In Full Swing

Once the leaves start to change colors, they don't waste any time.  We are almost at peak color here already, and the leaves are starting to drop in earnest.  The wind kicked up today and was blowing the leaves off the trees so much that I had to get out and take some pictures before the first Fall rain comes and washes them off the trees altogether.  The only thing yet missing for you to know it is Fall here is the smell of wood smoke in the air.

My annual pilgrimage to Bayfield yesterday for apples netted one bushel mix of McIntosh and Wealthy apples for making apple sauce and apple butter, and one bushel of Cortland apples for fresh eating and baking.  I was also able to find 20 lbs. of pears at Apple Hill Orchard. (I really like Apple Hill.  The people are very friendly; you can buy great apple pies; they have nice dogs; and it is the only orchard I found where you can take your family and pick your own apples.  I suppose there are other orchards that let you do that, but Apple Hill is the only one I have found.)  At Hauser's I bought some delicious local apple wine. I hoped to buy a couple of gallons of cider at Erickson's, but they were just pressing their cider to have for the Bayfield Apple Festival.  I tend to go up to Bayfield early because I hate the crowds and driving through Bayfield is awful.  Thousands of people go to the Apple Festival which is a fun event, but I'm just not a crowd person so I take my chances and go up the week before the Festival.

The house smells real good today. . . .

We dug Tom's potatoes.  He had some nice Kennebecs and Red Norlands. I like my Red Cloud potatoes, but I sure wish I had some winter squash to put up.

Red Cloud potatoes, pears, and apples
I still have one more batch of apples to cook down before I can the sauce up, so I'll let you go.  Blessing to you all!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Pass It On

Just had to include a link to this Forbidden Knowledge TV movie.  I sure wish this lady was my doctor!  As a side note, the Forbidden Knowledge web site has links to all sorts of great informational videos.  Check it out!

My Favorite Time of Year

I love Fall. I revel in its colors and smells.  It is always a rush to try to get the outside work done before the ground freezes, but work in brisk cool air is welcome, especially after this summer's heat and humidity.

We had our first frost the other day so I was busy in the field garden.  I dug up my Red Cloud potatoes and picked all the tomatoes.   Most of the tomatoes were green so when I got back to the house, I put them in brown paper bags that I then stashed beneath the buffet in my kitchen. I check them every few days and sort out the ripe ones for processing or fresh eating. Tom doesn't understand why I plant heirloom tomatoes because I always wind up picking them green.  I suppose I just like heirloom flavor and don't mind waiting for them to turn red.

While in the field I also checked for winter squash and found nary a one.  I planted a new variety this year called Winter Keeper, and started the plants in the greenhouse so they were a good size when I put them in the field. I expected at least some fruits, but there were hardly any flowers on the vines.  Was it the weather?  I don't know.  Everything grew so late this year.  Well, I like my winter squash so you know I won't be planting Winter Keeper again! 

Out of the melons I planted this Spring, I found a solitary itty-bitty Moon and Stars watermelon, but a deer ate it. And there were only four tiny New England Pie Pumpkins that I picked before the deer could find them.  What a disappointment! The white Patty Pan summer squash, however, was a nice surprise.  I never grew it before and had to look up how to eat it, but I really like it.  I slice it into pieces and dip them in a little homemade salad dressing; a great lunch when teamed with a nice ripe tomato and raw greens. 

Closer to the house, I picked all of the Old Homestead Brown pole beans and Scarlet Runner beans.  Some of them I strung on a string, like I would if I wanted to make leather breeches with green beans, and I hung them up to dry for planting next year.  I canned the rest.  My late planted Provider green beans have managed to stay alive under row cover, but I don't think I'm going to get any beans off them as they are just starting to get flowers. 

The late planted beets are looking good so I might get some beets this year after all. If no beets, surely we'll get some beet greens.

This Spring I planted 75 heirloom variety Jupiter and California Wonder sweet green pepper plants.  I harvested about 10 small peppers.  The plants looked great and were loaded with flowers; there was just not enough time for them to fully mature. Same with the okra. 

I canned all day today -- tomato sauce, chickens, and chicken broth.  The house smelled so good!  And I had to laugh thinking how the chickens make out so well getting all the canning scraps to eat. 

I didn't make it down to Wisconsin Rapids to take the General Class ham license exam and will try for the December session.  In the meantime I keep studying.  It's hard to stay focused when there is so much other work to get done.  I keep telling myself that I can't become an Amateur Extra until I obtain the General Class license.  That sort of helps. 

Well, that's the latest here at Swamp Creek Farm.  Take care and Happy Harvest!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Snap Your Fingers

And it was just like that I felt the seasons change.  The sun is not as high in the sky, and its light is not so bright. The heat of the day is not as intense, and the leaves on the trees are drooping and losing their lustre.  This morning the dew did not dry off the grass till almost 1:00 pm. 

Today I worked in the forest garden "chopping and dropping" as Geoff Lawton says to clear the pathways and fill the swales with mulch.  I was both delighted and amazed to see all the beneficial insects that were buzzing in the golden rod and other "weed" flowers.  I tried to be careful and not unduly disturb them.  I cleared the path around the black and red currants from one garden entrance to the other.  It doesn't look like much was done, but at least it is a start. Using only a hand sickle gave my arms a work out!  I uncovered the spearmint and lemon balm, and I will transplant clumps of each to the raised bed herb box as I don't want to see them get lost in the taller grasses.  When all the pathways are cut out I will take some pictures for you.  The new apple trees I planted this spring are all doing very well, and there are even some grape clusters on one of the grape vines I transplanted.  When the grapes are a bit riper I will take some seeds and start some new vines.

So far I have collected lots of cilantro, chervil, and dill seed.  The pole beans will be harvested for dry beans so they will stay on the vines till just before we get a hard frost, and I have lots of radish pods to hang and dry, too.  The tomatoes are just coming on and I expect I will have to pick most of them green.  I have harvested the hot red Thai peppers and have them in the dehydrator along with lavender and rosemary stems, nettle seeds, and summer savory.  Lara's fig tree suffered in the greenhouse when we had the recent heat wave.  It does not look happy.  I hope to move it into Lara's room some time this week so it gets used to being indoors before the cold weather comes.  I hope it will perk up.  The little lemon trees are all growing well. 

Lara and I made it to the farmers market in Phillips once so far.  We had our little onions and garlic, some carrots, zucchini, pickling cucumbers, and lots of collard greens.  I also bought some horseradish roots.  I sold all the carrots rather quickly, and even managed to get some people to try the collard greens.  I have a few customers that like my little onions and garlic, but there were no takers for the horseradish.  That's ok; horseradish for many is an acquired taste.  I do wish more people would at least try eating collards; they are so very nutritious.

If Tom plants any cucumbers next year I think I'll have a fit! I have canned enough pickles to last us 10 years.  I'm sick of pickles.  What I'm looking for is beets and green beans, and so far I haven't been able to find any.  I still hope to get some from my late planting in the garden boxes, but time is running out.  Hard frost cannot be far off for us.

Speaking of canning, I discovered that my water bath canner had somehow warped after nearly 40 years of use, so I bought a new pot.  It is a good 40 quart, stainless steel brew pot that I can also use for brewing beer (after I get my hops yard back in order!). It weighs 20 lbs. so I have to put it on the stove and fill it with water there or else it is too heavy for me to lift.  It also takes longer to heat up so I get it heating first thing when I know I'll can. The pot holds 12 quarts at a time.  A large inverted pizza pan works just fine as a bottom base on which to set the jars.  I'm very pleased with it and bought it through Amazon .

Tom harvested his cabbage last week so you know what I did --

Making Sauerkraut 2013
Using the water seal suggested by a commenter on my old making sauerkraut post (scroll down the right side of this blog to find the link) worked very well last year so I am using it on both crocks this year. You guys make great comments.  Isn't it wonderful how people from all over the world discussing a subject can enrich us all?  I wish the habit would rub off on certain people, don't you?

We should have about three more days of clear weather so tomorrow I plan to start cutting the grass in the field and will check on my potatoes, winter squash and pumpkins. I am glad to have the BCS tractor back!

The chicks are growing quickly.  Thankfully,  I have not lost any more chickens to predators since the wolf came through.

I am studying hard for the General class ham radio license exam.  I hope to take it the middle of this month down in Wisconsin Rapids at the McMillan Library, but I must confess I'm not sure I'll be ready.  I am finding all the different math formulas quite intimidating. I guess I just don't learn things as quickly as I used to do.

Well, it's getting late and I have to go lock up the chickens.  Blessing to you all!

Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories

Friday, August 02, 2013

Working Feverishly

It took me two days to build the three new garden boxes and three days to dig and sift dirt from my "dirt hole" to fill them.  What I did was lay a thick layer of paper to cover the inside bottom of each box.  That was followed by a layer of poultry bedding.  And finally, the rest of the box was filled with dirt.  Talk about sweat equity!

The dirt hole deepens
The dirt hole doesn't look very deep, but I figure it is nearly 5' deep.  You should have seen me dig out that big rock.  I'll leave it in the hole until I figure out how to get it out without hurting myself.  By the way, this is the source of most of my rocks -- remember my ubiquitous rock pile? Conveniently it is next to the dirt hole. (In the background you see two of the new garden boxes already planted for a hopeful fall garden.)

My Rock Pile

In the new garden box next to the greenhouse I have planted Provider green beans and yellow wax beans.  If I am lucky I'll get some beans.  In any event, I'll turn the plants under and add some aluminum sulfate because that box is intended as a permanent blueberry planting for Tom next spring. 
Future Blueberry Box

Tom and Ed are making a dent in the big wood pile.  They cut and stacked these three rows and added a fourth one today.  Tom says he wants to cut one more pile and that should be it for next year's wood. We'll see.  Making maple syrup burns up a lot of wood.
Next Year's Firewood
It took two days for me to freeze four gallons of collard greens from Tom's garden, and today I canned one batch each of kosher garlic dill pickles and sweet pickles. I would rather can food than freeze it because of the way the power goes out up here.  If we have an extended power outage I don't want to do double the work by having to can food I have already processed. But I agree with Tom that frozen collards taste better than canned.

I always forget it takes my back a while to get used to canning each year.  I have tried different work heights, but my back still aches so I suppose it is the repetitive nature of the work that causes the problem.  I do love to can so I tough it out until my back stops complaining.  Looks like I need to buy a new water bath canner because the pot I have used for the last 35 years has finally warped.  It was one of the first pots I bought when Tom and I got married.  I think I'll buy a good stainless steel pot that can double for making home brewed beer and use this one for making maple syrup.

The chicken saga continues!  My sister stopped by last week and told us that Dad saw a wolf jump over the fence she had around her chicken coop and gobble up six of her chicks, feathers and all. It then jumped back over the fence and dashed off into the woods.  She said that since I erected the second fence around my chicken coop the critters thought her chickens were easier pickings.  Not so!  Tom went for a walk the other day after supper and surprised a fox that was running around the coop terrorizing the chickens.  The fence held that time, but yesterday the wolf came and terrorized a chicken into hopping in the space between the two fences.  It literally tore the outer fencing off its posts and snatched the chicken.  When I went to lock everything up I found a torn up fence, five rattled hens, and a pile of feathers.  What was so unnerving about the incident was that Tom, Ed, and I spent most of yesterday working outside and we didn't hear or see a thing.  I can't figure out when the wolf made his attack.  So, this morning before I started making the pickles I fixed the fence and put some cement blocks down around the base.  I ordered some deer fence stakes from A.M. Leonard Tool Supply, too, as they are currently on sale.  Of course, like eagles, it is illegal to shoot the damn wolf.  Can you see the steam coming out of my ears?

The garlic and onions are curing in the garage, and I hope to make it to the farmers market next week with them and some of Tom's collards and cucumbers, dill and chervil, and my spring planted carrots.  I'll take a run out to the field to check on the potatoes and squash.  Maybe I'll find some patty pan summer squash.  Last week my pie pumpkins and winter squash were just starting to run.  There are very few tomatoes on any of the plants.  I planted lettuce, beets, and beans for the fall to go with the potatoes at the market.  It seems I have better luck with a fall garden these last few years than I do with spring planted veggies.

We have already had some very cool nights in the lower 40'sF and even one night that got down to 38°F.  Not good for any sort of fruit set.  So far I have flowers but no beans on the Kentucky Wonder Homestead brown pole beans and Scarlet Runner beans that are twining up the ladder fence trellis surrounding the forest garden.  I have had poor blooming on Grandpa Ott's morning glories, too.  Still, the fence is very pretty and I'll leave you with some pictures.  I'm tired.

Kentucky Wonder/Old Homestead Brown Pole Beans

Scarlet Runner Beans and Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories

The Worm Fence

Peace Be and God bless you all!

Year Three in the Forest Garden

I am really enjoying my forest garden experiment.  It is so interesting to observe how this garden progresses in time.  This year, the dominant plants are raspberries and ferns.  Now ferns like moist areas, so I wonder if my digging swales throughout the garden earlier this spring are a factor in the rise of the ferns.  Raspberries also produce better when given extra water, and the bushes are loaded with berries.  They have just started ripening and I have already picked a quart of berries. 
raspberries ripening

Year of the Ferns
What I notice this year is the lack of insect damage.  Remember in the first year of the garden when my red currants and gooseberries were chewed down to nubs by nasty little worms?  Well, the following year I had wasp nests everywhere.  This year there are no wasps and no insect pests.  I discovered that wasps are great beneficial insects.  Most of the plants in the forest garden are healthy and growing wonderfully.  You should see the black currants! While there were no wasps this year, I did have a tremendous number of dragonflies that ravenously munched on our pernicious mosquito hordes.  I was very grateful!  All of the fruit trees, including the new apples planted this spring and the pears, which are very iffy in my location, look great.  I notice that the ferns and raspberries like growing around the fruit trees.  Perhaps this growth pattern helps protect the trees from marauding four-legged foragers.

 I have come to understand what "progression" means in a forest garden. Some of my herbs that did so well the last two years are now being crowded out by other plants.  I will need to move them to the new raised bed herb box.  For example, the oregano and peppermint can be found only by walking on them and I can smell their delightful fragrances.  The lovage definitely wants to be somewhere else.  Valerian on the other hand seems to have acclimated quite well to its location atop a rotting stump.

Determined Chocolate Mint

Unhappy Lovage
As I strolled through the garden yesterday picking raspberries, I wondered what might be the dominate plants next year, and it occurred to me that I noticed little trees growing strongly everywhere underneath the raspberries.  My guess is that trees -- maples, basswood, cherries, and yellow birches, as well as others, will take off next year.  If so, they will be the trees I dig up and transplant down by the creek buffer zone.  Transplanting my own trees will save me loads of money otherwise spent at a nursery.  The only trees I want to buy now are butternut trees.

Wild and Wooly in the Forest Garden
All in all, the forest garden looks wild and wooly, but if you know what to look for you can see the pattern of it.  Perhaps the hardest part of monitoring this garden is resisting the urge to take pruners in hand and make it "neat".  I have disciplined myself to cut only walking paths throughout.  I think the garden likes that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Despite the purchase of a bug baffler shirt (which I am VERY pleased with) and numerous days and evenings of watching with rifle in hand, the foxes (yes, I discovered there are two of them again) have whittled me down to just six hens.  There was a thicket of trees and shrubs on the east side of the house that was one of their hiding places, so I spent one day limbing up and thinning out that thicket. 

Limbed and thinned thicket
I haven't seen a fox since, but I know they are still out there.  I heard Dad shooting one day (he watches Mary's chickens) and you can hear the sand hill cranes and crows squawk when they are being bothered.  My neighbor has bear hounds and they usually sound off when a critter is around; that gives me a heads up to be more watchful, too.  Yesterday Tom helped me put up a second fence that is 7' tall around the existing fence that surrounds the chicken coop.  I have come to the conclusion that I cannot let the chickens run and expect to have any kind of flock or regular supply of eggs.  As much as I hate to keep the chickens fenced, it is something I have to do if I want to keep chickens.  I live just too deep in the woods.  When I get a chance I will enlarge the chicken area to include the wild roses that they love to hide under.

Wild Roses with "Chicken Cave" entrance
I love the scent of wild roses.  Tom thinks they smell like a funeral parlor.  Sometimes I wish he'd just lie when I ask him some questions.

Wild rose bloom

Can you see the mesh of the second fence? 

Second fence around chicken coop

I am determined to raise my own flock of chickens -- preferably Dominiques.  Tom doesn't like my chickens.  He was not happy when these arrived yesterday:

Dominique chicks
I ordered 15 pullets and 5 cockerels.  Cackle Hatchery sent me three extra chicks.  How nice! This Fall I'll pick the best to keep and butcher the rest.  I figure learning to raise and breed my own flock of chickens is like studying for my General class ham radio license -- I'll get the hang of it at some point and accomplish the deed.

Well, that's all I can think of to share with you right now.  Summer is a time for eating cherry pie so I think I'll have a piece.  Cousin It says my pies "have heart".  A great compliment like that makes a piece of pie go down all the sweeter! 

Cherry Pies
Be safe, Everybody!

P.S. to Mavis -- Spinning, weaving, and knitting belong to my "winter" tasks so right now I'm not weaving anything.  I am still practicing moving the shuttle back and forth to get decently even edges and playing with the pedals to study how different combinations create patterns.  This winter should be fun though!