Friday, August 31, 2018

Winding Down the Garden Year

Oh, my, how the year has flown. My good intentions to post here more often went by the way. It just seems to take more energy and time to get things done!

The garden year started off uncertain as the weather seemed confused. Cold, then hot, then cold again. Only days before I took this picture we had a good 2' of snow on the ground. You could not tell there were garden boxes in the yard. Then it got hot and all the snow vanished.

I got everything planted by the new moon in June, and by the end of July the garden was growing well.

These were my four patty-pan summer squash plants from one of the garden boxes in the back yard. I could not believe how well they produced. I had a bumper crop of cucumbers this year, too.

Lara was excited for us to finally get to the farmers market in Park Falls. It really is fun to go to the  market! It's been so nice to renew acquaintances with the other vendors and to meet old and new customers.

Sadly, the deer devoured my big garden over at Dad's again, and I firmly resolve to get a fence erected around that garden spot. I lost all my winter squashes, corn, pumpkins, melons and tomatoes. They also munched to death the four apple and pear trees I started in a new orchard. So, enough is enough. Next year is sauerkraut year. I plan to grow lots of cabbage and I don't want the deer to get it.

I did notice a curious increase in customers wanting to buy finished, value-added products over raw produce. As a grower this disturbs me. I would much rather see people buy the raw produce and prepare it themselves. 

Since we did not have much to sell, we are finished going to market for the year. I am working hard to clean up the garden boxes and work my way through the forest garden. It looks like I may actually get ahead of my pruning and trimming tasks before the cold weather sets in again.

I have started red and black currant cuttings in the green house and am trying to see if I can get plum and peach trees to sprout from seed. I also have several kinds of hot peppers I started from seed in the greenhouse, but they are coming on so late that I fear I will not get any peppers from them.

Out in the forest garden I am enjoying my first plum harvest. I have enough plums to make a batch of plum jam. It isn't much, but I am so happy my trees are getting old enough to bear fruit. The hazelnuts look great, the new row of black elderberry plants took off grandly, and while the black and red currants didn't bear much fruit because they need to be pruned, they are also healthy. The rhubarb and horseradish in the hugelkultur bed are massive, and the grapes and hops are happily filling the trellis fence. Only one of the grape vines bore fruit this year, but it, too, was enough to me to make at least one batch of jam. I will be ecstatic when the apples and pears begin to fruit. 

Lately we have had a lot of rain and there is flooding both north and south of us, but thankfully we have been spared any trouble. Dad is still at the farm and doing well.  I am still on my diet and half-way to my goal. I am determined to reach my goal!

Canning, cutting a trail out to Tom's deer stand, and cleaning out the chicken coop to ready it for the winter are next on my "To Do" list. Might was well "make hay while the sun shines," as the adage goes.

Hopefully I'll post again soon. Take care!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Good Fortune

I had an unbelievable turn of good fortune a week or so ago:

I went for my annual physical and :( had to go to our local pharmacy afterward to get back on my high blood pressure medication. Now, downtown Park Falls is undergoing quite a bit of road construction, and I had to park some distance from the pharmacy and walk through the back alley to get there. After I got my medication and was on the way back to my truck I spotted the new bakery that opened a few months ago. It was open! So I decided to check it out and buy something sweet for Tom.

As I walked into the bakery I noticed that the owners were turning part of their space into some sort of yarn/craft area. It was obviously not finished, but I already liked it. There was a gorgeous spinning wheel there that I thought was part of the decor. I said, "I like your spinning wheel," and the bakery owner said, "It's for sale." I literally stopped dead in my tracks. I held my breath and hoped the eagerness didn't show on  my face. I mentally crossed my fingers and casually asked, " Oh. Well, how much do you want for it?" It turned out that the spinning wheel was being sold for another woman and the bakery owner knew nothing about spinning wheels or how much the wheel owner wanted as she had just received it from the owner that morning. My Providence detector started sounding loudly in my brain. So, I decided to take a chance and left my phone number for the wheel owner to give me a call. I bought Tom a cinnamon roll and went home. (Yes, I had a raspberry strudel!)

Later, the wheel owner called. We chatted a bit and then she told me she wanted $200 for the wheel and the spinning chair that was with it. I was ecstatic! I told the lady I would buy the wheel and chair for that amount and that I would meet her the following Tuesday after the bakery opened.

That Tuesday the wheel owner asked me if I wanted the wool she also had for sale. I told her I would have to see the wool and then it would depend on how much she wanted for it. She took me and the bakery owner's wife a few doors down the street, through the back of the business there, and into a large garage that was filled with all kinds of stuff that was for sale. She led me to a corner and kicked a plastic bin filled with various rovings. Then she kicked another bin and said she would throw that one in, too, for $15. About that time my eyes fell on a large Ashford drum carder that needed a belt and was sitting by its lonesome on a table and I asked what she wanted for it. She thought for a moment, then said she would give me the two plastic bins, the drum carder, a new in the box Harrisville warping board that just needed to be put together and the wood oiled, and a Harrisville rug loom with shuttle, all for another $100. I thought I died and went to heaven. I said, "OK," and we all went back to the bakery and celebrated with coffee and delicious pastries.

I would have loved to have stayed longer, but I had to get back home to take care of Lara, so the ladies helped me load the truck and off I went. When I got home and started going through the plastic bins, the good fortune kept coming. Among the wool rovings were luscious bags of llama and merino fibers, and in the second bin were one pair of antique and one pair of new in the box hand wool carders, a yarn swift, a Lazy Kate, two niddy noddies, several bobbins, extra spinning wheel maintenance parts, books on spinning, and I don't remember what else.  I just couldn't believe it. I was SO happy. That night I went on line to The Woolery  and ordered some extra drive belts for the wheel and the drum carder. I think God must have wanted me to have these things.

The spinning wheel is an Ashford Elizabeth. The chair matches it.

Here is the drum carder. When I can I'll get a packer brush kit for it.

You know what the best part of the day was?  I made some new friends. Thank you Pam, Heather, and Mike!

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Another Year

Wow, I can hardly believe how long it's been since I last posted! The time truly has flown by and there is a lot to update here. Let's see, where shall I begin . . . .

Since January of last year I have lost 44 pounds and counting. Hooray! I'm down three clothing sizes. I was a bad girl, however, and stopped taking my high blood pressure medication, but I am now back on it and will not do anything that stupid again.

I lost my sister, Anna, to pancreatic cancer last October, shortly after her 59th birthday. That totally sucked and that's all I have to say about. Second Saturn returns can be the pits.

Then, in November, I went to check on Dad and found him lying on the floor and no heat in the house. He was stiff as a board and did not know me. He wound up staying in the nursing home till this past March and was happy as could be when he came home just before his 87th birthday. He now has nurses aides and therapists coming to visit him regularly, and my sister, Mary, was finally able to get in the house and have major renovation done.

My Eddy turned the big 3-0.

Our Sarah, who works for the US Forest Service down in Arkansas, has decided to add Florida wildfire fighting to her resume. We are very proud of her!


Things are hopping here at the farm, too, but I'll save the updates for the next post. Talk to you soon. Until then, Be Safe and Well!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Summer Update

I know it's been a while since I last posted. How time flies, eh? For a quick recap, our Ed turned 29, Cousin It turned 31, and Lara turned 33. Tom and I are married 41 years, and our Yellow Lab, Sandy, is a creaky 12 years old. Dad turned 86 and is doing much better since he hooked up with the VA hospital in Iron Mountain. We had a family Father's Day gathering that turned out great. Just about everybody came.

Dad and brother-in-law John

Ed and Lara

Cousin It (Sarah) and Tom
 The big news and main reason I have not blogged is that I am participating in a weight loss study that keeps me on my feet and off the computer. Honestly, by supper time I am tired! (I'm only blogging now because I took the day off from exercising.)  Since January I am down 32 pounds and half of that since I started participating in the study. I am learning a lot about exercise, nutrition, shopping and eating habits, and strategies for dealing with eating in various social settings. I am enjoying all of it and am really working hard at making lifestyle changes. I would love to lose another 30 pounds by the end of the year.

The weather and the wild critters have been my plagues this year in the gardens. I had to replant my garden boxes three times because of squirrels. One morning I woke to find a turkey hen taking a dust bath in my greens box. Every so often she would kick up dirt and then deftly stick her neck out and snatch a bite of lettuce or mustard. Sheesh! The pole beans were eaten by bugs so as a last resort I have planted some in pots in the greenhouse and hope to harvest something this Fall. The deer have eaten most of my winter squash and pumpkins over at the big garden I have by Dad's, and because of all the rain we've had the grass has overtaken that garden, as well, though I am doing my best to keep the crops visible. It's hard to work that garden properly because of my family time constraints. There are still some tomato plants, a few green beans, and my Fisher's Earliest corn (I'm keeping my fingers crossed on the corn because there is a Sandhill crane nest in the field about 10 feet from the back of Dad's barn) that survive and I need to weed by hand. I'm starting some perennial plantings in that garden and started this year with putting in about 10 black chokeberries (aronia). Only one has died.

Speaking of tomatoes, my garden box that hosted tomatoes last year sprouted a number of volunteers this year, and amazingly they are my strongest plants anywhere in the gardens! Yesterday I cut some poles and staked them all. I have to mention that the Russian tomato varieties I planted this year don't look so hot, but I will give them another chance next year before I make my mind up about growing them after that.

Garden boxes in the front yard
The garden boxes in the back yard don't look nearly as good as the ones in the front yard and I will have to take a picture of them for you. About half of those boxes are dedicated to perennials now. There is a box for blueberries, one for bush cherries, one for domesticated raspberries, and I am in the process of making another box for just herbs, both annuals and perennial, culinary and medicinal. After I harvest the garlic, I will amend all the empty boxes and replant them for a late harvest.

Forest garden path (chop and drop)
I am learning much from my forest garden experiment and continue to read as much as possible about permaculture practices. I have found that by leaving everything to grow together as they will there is much less insect damage and increased harvest. For example, bindweed left to twist and climb becomes a natural trellis for raspberries, grasses, and red currants. Dogwoods seem to favor grouping with basswood trees and elderberries. Raspberries and ferns like fruit trees. Bergamot loves spreading in the sunny grassy areas. The black and red currants are simply overflowing with berries. My mugwort decided it didn't like being next to my hazelnut bushes and has, on its own, migrated to my hugelkultur bed next to the hops I have growing on the trellis fence. The grapes seem to like being left to climb where they will. The blackberries are definitely not happy and I expect that at some point I will move them elsewhere. Horseradish and rhubarb love the hugelkultur bed, and all of the apple and plum trees seem to be happy. Even the "iffy" pear trees have settled down and are beginning to gain growth. This year I added two apricot trees. I don't expect them to survive the winter, but I thought I would give them a try anyway.

Canning season has officially started for me. I wish your gardens a heavy harvest!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Computer Woes

Well, I'm ready to run around the house shrieking because of our computer trouble.  It all started when I was accepted into a weight loss for rural seniors research study from the University of Kansas that our clinic is partnering with. Part of the study requires video conferencing. Well, my computer has no camera and runs on Windows 7. So, I bought a camera and tried to set up Skype (which won't redeem the prepaid voucher I bought). Then because my computer frequently blue screens on me Tom and I decided to buy a new lap top computer. That one runs on Windows 10 and has a camera built into it. And, because I like to read a lot I bought a little Kindle Fire to ease the wear and tear on my poor old desktop. OMG! Trying to get everything to work together has been a nightmare. Now my old computer constantly crashes Firefox, and it and Internet Explorer are besieged with pop-up ads despite my installing the latest Kaspersky Total Security. I finally downloaded Google Chrome on the old computer and so far I can at least function. (I am able to be posting this!) My Kaspersky Total Security tells me everything is fine as does Windows, but I can't seem to get rid of the annoying pop-upson Firefox and Internet Explorer. I even reset the computer to an earlier time and reinstalled Firefox. At least the Kindle Fire seems to be OK. Now I have to figure out what is wrong with Skype (when I chatted with their people they couldn't find anything wrong even though I'm getting an "internal error" message). My husband thinks the Skype problem has to do with our being located in an area where cell phones don't work. I just don't know how that would affect a computer program. Ugh! Anyway, progress is being made slowly but surely and we are being dragged kicking and screaming into an updated computer era.

We are well into mud season now and most of the snow is gone though we could very well see more of it. May 15th is the latest I've seen it snow here, and the cold will be here a while yet because the frogs down in the marshes aren't peeping. Our town has instituted the annual weight limits on the roads and will no longer give a permit to the garbage collector to collect our garbage so we have to take our garbage down the road a ways (about four miles) to a drop off point in Ashland County. You'd think we'd get some type of refund or credit on our contract for having to do this because, after all, we are paying them to collect the garbage from the end of our drive, but no, not a word from either the town or the garbage company about that.

I cleaned out the chicken coop on the first nice days we had, and the ladies and gents approve. They are having great fun scratching through the old bedding. When I can I will shovel it all into the trailer and haul it over to the garden by Dad's. He wants me to learn how to run the tractor so I bought a can of diesel fuel and when the grounds firms up I'll give it a go.

And speaking of Dad, Mary bought him one of those emergency buttons you wear around your neck that you can press for help if you fall and can't get up. And she was able to get him signed up at the VA in Iron Mountain for health care. He seems satisfied and liked his doctor. She told him he needs "eyes, ears, and feet" and they will get him glasses, hearing aids, and send him to someone to check his feet out. We got a kick out of the appointment reminder:  "You must report to . . .", just like military orders. And so long as he doesn't get hold of any alcohol, he's ok. He also just turned 86.

I started seeds out in the greenhouse earlier in the month, but yesterday I brought the trays into the house and put them down in the basement because we are supposed to get a really cold spell toward the end of the week. I am trying several new varieties of tomatoes and would hate to lose the seedlings to cold. The seed trays with all the herbs I left in the greenhouse because they like a couple of weeks of cold before they decide to sprout.  My sunflower tray was ravaged by a mouse -- twice -- so the last time I went to town I picked up some mouse traps. I am now out of Fat Mama and Maximilian sunflower seeds but did find a pack of Burpee's American Giant seeds in my stash so all is not lost for a sunflower border around the garden.

No pictures for you yet, but I hope to take some soon. I just love it when the tree buds start to swell. The sand hill cranes are making a racket down by the creek.

Well, I have to get back to trying to fix this computer so I'll let you go. I hope all is well in your world!