Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer is Busy With So Much To Do.

Right now, it seems everything is about the garden.  It is doing so well.  Last year we had so much rain that it affected our tomatoes adversely.  They rotted on the vine, and between that and the stink bugs, we had a disappointingly small crop.  We have had wonderful weather so far this summer with just enough rain and everything is growing like crazy.  As for the stink bugs, which suck the juices out the the maturing tomatoes, leaving behind damaged spots, so far I have seen very few.  I am trying to be proactive against them. 
We do not use any chemicals on our garden:  no herbicides or pesticides.  So some internet research suggested using things that stinkbugs do not like to keep them away.  Sunflowers, which I happen to have planted in my tomato garden, are one thing.  Mint is another.  I have been spritzing the plants and the tomatoes themselves  with water that has a few drops of mint essential oil in it.  I am hoping this will help.  We have lots of lovely young tomatoes on the vines and lots more blossoms. 

 In the same area as the tomatoes, we have several varieties of pepper plants.  The peppers and tomatoes were moved to this location 3 years ago.  Here they get more sun and we have not tilled alpaca manure into this area.   We could never get peppers to grow well where we used alpaca poop.  These plants are now in the barnyard where we kept horses for 15 years and the people who had the place before us had cattle.  The soil here is very rich without the added manure.

Over by what is now my agility practice field is where we have corn, squash, lettuce, pumpkins, beets, onions, carrots, chard and cucumbers planted.  We have eaten some of the chard, which we had never planted before.  It is ok, but not anything I would rush out to buy at the store.

It is pretty, however.  The lettuce is about done and we will plant more for a fall crop in a few weeks.  The beets will soon be ready to harvest.  I usually pickle and can those.  I will likely do that this weekend. 


 There are lots of little butternut squashes coming on.


The pumpkins are in blossom and the corn is in tassel and forming ears and is much taller than I am.

I also dug up my garlic this weekend and hung it in the summer kitchen to dry.   It was a very disappointing crop.  We purchased organic garlic to plant last fall as we felt we needed to add to what we had been re-planting every year and I don't know if I planted it too deep, or if it was just not real good, because most of it never even came up.  So now I will need to purchase again.

My other harvest this weekend was honey.  I took 7 frames of capped honey off of one of the 2 hives I started last year.  From that, I extracted 2 gallons of honey on Monday.  In July 2013, I wrote this post about honey extraction:  honey extraction
so I won't go into detail again here.  I am fairly certain at this point that the other hive from last year swarmed this spring (which is probably the colony we caught on Mother's Day) because there are a lot fewer bees in that hive than there were and they are not producing the honey like the other hive.  The swarm hive is doing well.  I cleared the weeds around the hive and along the creek this week, so it is now quite easy to watch from the road across the creek.

By the time I got into the other 2 hives and took frames off of one on Saturday, my smoker had gone out and I decided to wait until I got the weeds knocked down around the swarm hive before getting into it again, so I will do that soon.

I am excited to say that I am going to finally have my very own studio on the farm.  Sam has started construction of a 20' X16'  building between the chicken coop and the alpaca barn.  It  is located there because water, electric and gas are close by.  It is also a spot that gets more hours of good daylight than other places we had considered.  Currently, I have looms and spinning wheels and yarn and fiber spread out in 4 rooms in the house and one room at our office.  There is no place in our house where I can put my big loom when I no longer want to keep it at the office.  We have no basement and the upstairs of our old farmhouse is not a good place for a large loom.  I tried a few years back to renovate our old summer kitchen to a usable space, but it wasn't really practical.  

So work has started!  More on that in future posts.

Check out these amazing bar stools my father-in-law made for me:

I sent a photo to my mother-in-law of similar ones I saw when my mom and I were in Amish country earlier this month and asked her if Harry could make me a couple.  I had no idea he would make them so quickly!  Obviously, he had a couple of old tractor seats in his "stash".  Now Sam has to make us a bar for the deck.  But for now, we are using this little side table on our swing and it works quite well.  I love these!

I finally took some time to finish the binding on my 2 rugs.  
Both are 28" X 56" .  

I am in the process of doing finishing work on 2 baby blankets and 7 kitchen towels, which involves washing and sewing the hems.  I am very pleased with how all have turned out so far.  So currently, both looms are "undressed".  But I have plans.

This is a shawl I am knitting from some of my own alpaca yarn.  It will be so soft and lovely when it is done.  I love how the variegated blue looks with the natural white.  

I think this post is long enough for today.  Summer is just a busy time of year.  


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

It's July, Which Means the Year is 1/2 Gone

July usually means hot days, but so far, it has been cooler than normal and we've had quite a bit of rain.  The garden is looking wonderful but I wanted to wait and take photos when it was sunny out and the weeds had been knocked back a bit.   My sunflowers are as tall as the cattle panels and the tomato plants have lots of blooms and also little green fruits on them.  The corn is waist high.  Everything looks really good right now.  

I am very behind on mowing.  All the pastures need to be mowed again, but it was too rainy and wet to get it done yesterday as planned.  Tomorrow Grover and I leave for a 3 day agility trial in Pennsylvania, so I won't be getting any more work done on that front until next week.    Speaking of agility trials, here are a couple photos from the trial in the Cincinnati area 3 weeks ago.

I hope we do well this weekend.  Our last class was not so good.  Grover just seemed out of it.  Everyone has one of those days once in a while I guess.

But back to what's going on on the farm.  I was unable to harvest any honey as I had hoped a week or so ago.  But the orange butterfly weed is now blooming, as is the buckwheat and the pastures are just full of clover since there are no alpacas to eat it down.  Even my agility practice field is so full of clover that I get nervous running out there.  If I stand still and watch, the clover is just alive with bees.  I mow the practice field about every 2 weeks, so it was 10 days ago I mowed last and the clover is taking over.  But all this means a good supply of nectar for the bees.  I should be able to harvest some honey soon.  At least I certainly hope so.

We have several creeks that run through our property.  There is a good sized creek along our hayfield which is the property line between our farm and the neighboring farm.  About 3/4 a mile from the house, there is a nice shady swimming hole that is best accessed before the hay gets too tall or right after the hay is cut.  It is about 2 1/2 feet deep and has a nice flow of water through it.  It is easy to get to for an old dog with arthritis, so Sam and I took the dogs there one evening last week.  

 The dogs and I really enjoyed the nice cool water.  

 I kind of wish this was right in our yard, but then again, the dogs would be in it constantly.  

I am weaving a couple of baby blankets on my large loom.  The woman who cuts my hair is due to have her second baby in about 3 weeks and I had this nice blue cotton in my yarn stash, so I warped the loom for 2 blankets.  I'll have one to give now and one to give later.  The weaving is going quickly since I am using only one color.  I like this textured pattern.  

I have started a couple of new knitting projects as well, but there is not much progress as of yet.  Knitting and weaving time is harder to come by in the longer days of summer .

Here is someone else who is on the lookout for nectar.  I love the tiger lilies that just grow everywhere this time of year.  I have even been known to mow around them.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

It's Summer on the Farm

I can finally post about the throw I made and gave to Ian and Michelle as a wedding gift.  I started spinning alpaca fiber for it way back in August, thinking I had lots of time to make this as they had yet to set a wedding date.  I think they called me the next week and told me they had set a date of June 4th.  No pressure.  Not only did I have to spin at least 2000 yards of alpaca yarn, but I had to dye it in no less than 10 colors.  Then I had to weave it.    I finished it in time to enter it into the Arts Council's April show, where it took second place to a basket (to be fair it was a nice basket, but the judge was given a score sheet calling this a woven other info or any clue as to how much work and how many hours really went into this).  I am so happy with the result and Michelle seemed to love it despite the fact I gave it to her in 90 degree temps.  The photo was taken prior to me trimming the fringes.  
We are settling into summer farm work.  The mowing and weeding is so hard to keep up with at this time of year.  The garden is growing.  This is just  shot of the area where we have peppers planted.  There are tomatoes on both sides of this area and the large plant in the foreground is one of the sunflowers.  We have a whole separate area where we have corn and squash and beets and chard and onions and lettuce and cucmbers.  I had yet to weed it when I took this photo, so I will post it next time.  I got a lot of weeding done last night and then we had lots of rain, so I will be weeding everything again I am sure.

I checked into the bee hives the Saturday after we got back from Portland and I will do so again this Saturday.  

 The Swarm Hive will likely need another box to grow into.  It seems to be a very active hive for as small a colony as it was when we caught it.  You can see that they are doing housekeeping and removing dead bees from the hive.  That is what is on the rug there in front of the hive.  

I hope to be able to harvest some frames of honey from the other 2 hives this weekend.  I had thought maybe I would be able to 2 weeks ago, but the bees were still busy filling and capping cells.  I decided to give them more time.

 My buckwheat and sorghum are coming up nicely.  These photos are from several days ago, and we have had rain since then, so I am sure everything has grown.  Buckwheat is below left.


And here is the sorghum:

The cicada noise has been dwindling as the days go by.  They are still around, but have mostly gone off into the trees at this point.  I posted about part of their life cycle as they were emerging from their 17 years of life underground and finding themselves in the daylight and becoming creatures of the air by shedding their shells and drying their wings.  The next step is to mate and lay eggs and start the cycle all over again with the next generation.  The females, once mated, choose the tender tip of a branch and cut slits in it and lay their eggs into the branch
 Here you can see the slit cut into this branch.  This is why many people cover new plantings or just simply wait until the cicadas are gone to plant young trees.  This really does not hurt large trees, but can kill new young trees.

I think the cicadas somehow chew most of the way through the branches, which causes them to die and fall to the ground:

Here are some branches that are hanging from the tree:

And a view of the entire small tree with damaged branches still attached:

Once these branches fall to the ground, the eggs will hatch and the little cicada larvae will burrow into the ground and spend the next 17 years there.  I imagine the adult cicadas dye shortly after their work of guaranteeing the next generation of cicadas is done.  I hope the short period of the freedom to fly and mate is worth the previous 17 years...I'm not sure it would be, but I'm not a cicada.

Quite a fascinating life cycle actually.  Now to wait 17 years to see it all again.  I will be in my 70's.  Wow. 

In addition to endless mowing, Sam has been pulling some fallen trees out of the woods to cut up on the sawmill.  I think some of this wood is destined to become     2 X 4s for my weaving studio.  He also acquired laminate flooring for it at an auction last week.  This may actually become a reality.

I have my small loom at home warped for some towels:

This warp will make 6 towels.  I am in the process of warping my big loom for a couple of baby blankets.  One is to be a gift for the woman who cuts my hair who is due in early August and the other will just be a back-up.  It's just as easy to warp for 2 baby blankets as 1, so why not?

I also finished a pair of socks for myself.  I started these back in February when we were doing maple syrup and got one sock done at that time.  Then I took the other along on our trip out west and managed to get a good bit of it done mostly on the flight home, and then finished it last week.

Oh and Grover and I ran in a trial last weekend.  We had no qualifying runs, but our 2 jumpers with weaves runs were pretty good despite no Qs.  Here is a link to a video of our Sunday run:

 Jumpers Run Sunday June 19th

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Oregon Wedding Trip

Spectacular view of Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake.
June 4th was the long-awaited wedding of our son Ian to his girlfriend of 8 years, Michelle.  It was at Silver Falls State  Park in Oregon and a large portion of my family made the trip.  It was really special to me that both my brothers were there, Larry's whole family drove up from Arizona and Mike flew in with Mom.  My aunt came from Michigan, and my mother-in -law from here in our area.Of course, younger son Sam/Zac/Satchmo was best man and he traveled from the Yosemite area with Ryan Evans, who was also a groomsman.  We had so much fun.  Of course our trip got off to an annoying start when our flight out Tuesday evening was cancelled due to bad weather in Chicago.  So we had to stay overnight in Columbus and take a 5:45 am flight out the next day, putting us in Portland around 11 am.  We were due downtown at around noon to get wristbands for our soccer game that evening, so we were kind of rushed for time.  But it all worked out.  The soccer game was a great experience.  The Timbers won    1 - 0 despite being down a man the whole second half.,

The next day, we shopped for the food for the rehearsal dinner we were preparing the following day at the wedding venue.  There were to be about 30 people and we were doing  pizzas on the grill, salad and dessert.  Son Sam was in charge of the shopping list and we got to pay the bill.  Then we traveled to the house we were renting for the next 3 days, about an hour or so from Portland. 

Friday we were at the Old Ranch (wedding venue) a little after noon with all the food so the prep could begin.  It was a long day, but the dinner that evening went quite well.  Sam/Zac/Satchmo, Sam and I prepared and cooked 15 pizzas!  The chef (S/Z/S) even got a standing ovation from the guests.   His sauce was declared the best some people had ever had.  It was pretty darn good.

So that meant most of my stress was over.  Saturday, Sam and I got up  and drove the the park and did their 8.7 mile "Trail of Ten Falls" .  It was a really nice fairly easy hike and we did it in about 3 hours and then went into the town of Silverton for lunch together.  Then it was back to the rental house to shower and change and head back to the park for  photos and the wedding.  

The groom and his groomsmen

The wedding was held at the "Old Ranch" which consisted of a huge old barn with a circular fireplace in the center.  The actual ceremony was outside under a tree and then dinner and dancing was in the barn. 

 It was very hot for Oregon, in the 90's. 

 There were bunk beds in the loft of the barn and many of the members of the wedding party stayed there overnight, though  we headed back to our rental by around midnight.  It was a great day.

On Sunday, we needed to get back to Portland because my aunt and mother-in-law had early flights out Monday morning.  We stayed at a hotel at the airport and after we saw them off in morning, Mom, brother Mike, Sam and I headed off to stay in the Mt Hood area for a couple of nights.  We visited the Timberline Resort on Mt Hood, where we saw people snowboarding and checked out the historic hotel.  We did not get to sit and have a drink however, as they were shooting a TV show episode in the bar and it was closed.  It was a neat building though, with interesting history.

That evening the 4 of us took a 2 mile hike around Trillium lake which was very nice and had lovely scenery.  On Tuesday morning, Mike and Sam and I headed off to do a 7 mile hike which included part of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Mt Hood Wilderness.  We ended up hiking 2 extra miles, because we got on a wrong trail.  We were lucky it was only 2 extra miles.

It was the Twin Lakes Trail Loop and the lakes were very secluded and beautiful.  The upper Twin Lake had spectacular views of Mt Hood, though it kind of faded out in the background of my photos.

 The following day, Sam and I had an early flight out of Portland and we arrived home Wednesday evening around 8 pm.  It was a long event-filled trip and it was just a wonderful time.  

Now that I am back home, it has been time to catch up on the garden and the mowing and everything else that got neglected for over a week.  

The cicadas had stopped emerging and shedding their shells.  They are now just making a horrendous racket all day long and they are flying everywhere.  I was even "attacked" by them when I tried to use the weed-eater and I ended up shutting the weed eater off and running from it!  I am told the cicadas are attracted to the engine noise.  Hopefully they will finish out their life cycle in the next couple of weeks and we can live without them for another 17 years.

Grover and I are off to the Cincinnati area this weekend for a trial.  We will be staying with my mom from Friday until Monday morning and trialing Saturday and Sunday mornings.  I have arranged to meet with 4 of my high school friends for a dinner out on Sunday evening.  It has been a couple of years since we last got together, though some of them came and watched Grover and I when we attended this same trial last June.  We have not been to a trial in 2 months, so we'll see how we do.  We have been practicing a lot, though not in the last 2 weeks.  Hoping for a couple of Qs!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cicada Invasion

First line of defense against cicadas!
Nymph stage
This is the year of the 17 year cicada emergence in our part of Ohio.  The last one was the summer after we moved to the farm from Indiana.  I remember it, but I don't think I was spending as much time outside as I do now.  For the last 3 or 4 days, the nymph stage cicadas have been emerging from the ground, where they leave a hole about as big around as a pencil, climbing up onto trees, fences, our deck, anything, to cling to while they molt into their adult form.  


 They are mostly white as they emerge and they will leave the empty husks behind as they become adults and fly away.

There are thousands of these all over our yard, trees, deck, just about everywhere.  I must say the chickens are eating themselves into a food coma and are not even making a dent in the population.  I will not be going barefoot around my yard anytime soon.

Here are the newly emerged adults drying their wings and allowing their exoskeletons to harden.  

So far it is still quiet.  I don't think the cicadas are ready to start their singing yet.    The females will eventually lay their eggs in cuts they will make in young tender tree branches, the branches will die and fall to the ground allowing the hatchlings to burrow into the earth and wait 17 years to start this process all over again.  

Meanwhile, springtime work continues on the farm.  I checked in on the swarm bees on Friday and gave them a new box to expand into.  I observed brood (baby bees) being raised in a couple of the frames in the hive, but it is still a very small colony.  We had used some plastic frames that Sam had acquired in the hive box and the bees don't seem to like it.  They had really not drawn out  much comb on it.   I think they will be happier with the new  frames with wax foundation that they now have to work with.    I also checked the other 2 hives  and will be putting another box on the larger hive this week and maybe taking some honey off.  They were really putting some honey away.  I'll check on them again this Friday.

buckwheat and sorghum planting
I have gotten a lot of the garden done.  I have planted tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers, pumpkins, butternut squash, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, beets and swiss chard.  We still have some carrots and more arugula to put in.  I also planted dill, basil and parsley in my herb garden.  Up by the orchard and bee hives I just planted buckwheat and sorghum yesterday.  >>>>>>

Buckwheat is great forage for the bees and it should flower in July when there is a dearth of other nectars.  The sorghum is an experiment.  We had some planted a few years ago and we got some wonderful dark honey that tasted slightly of molasses.  I am hoping maybe we can recreate that.  Plus, we can feed the sorghum grain to the chickens and if I can devise a way to squeeze the stalks, I will cook down the juice and make sorghum moslasses.  We shall see come fall.

We put in an orchard several years ago and we have had very little success with it.  However, that could change this year.  We have lots of apples and peaches!  I certainly hope the cicadas will not ruin our chance to harvest our first real apple and peach crop.


Just 2 days ago, Sam and I sheared all 5 of our remaining alpacas.  I remember not so long ago shearing was a huge multi-day event for us, doing 4 or 5 in an evening and up to 10 on a weekend day.  On Monday evening, we did all 5 in about 2 hours, start to finish.  3 of these alpacas are 17 years old, so most of the fleece is not worth much.  These seniors just deserve to live our their lives quietly and comfortably. 

This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer.  I was going to be vending at the Great Lakes Fiber Show this weekend, but due to a couple of weddings, Tari and I will not be vending.  We still think we may drive up just for the day on Sunday to enjoy the festival and maybe do some shopping.  And to enjoy each other's company.

Then there is the big wedding.  My older son will be marrying his girlfriend of about 7 years.  My whole family will be there (well most of it) and I am so looking forward to it.  I plan to take lots of photos.

Here is the most recent project on my rug loom.  It was kind of an impulse because I saw the pattern in an old magazine and I had the materials on hand and it is different from anything else I have done.   And I love it.  Even Sam commented on it.   It is made with cotton rug warp like I use for the alpaca rugs and then I am weaving with the same warp and a wool rug yarn in blue.  At least I think it is wool.  It was acquired with a whole lot of other yarn I bought from an estate and it is very coarse, but it is making a lovely rug.  And so much fun to weave.  I am in the process of putting warp for towels on my small loom.  I want to keep something on my looms at all times as much as possible.  

And here's what happens when I go up to take a shower after a long hard day working outside.  I come out of the bathroom to find the bed occupied!