Thursday, August 18, 2016

Harvest Time

I have managed to keep myself well occupied in the week and a half since I got home form my trip to Michigan, which was very  nice.  All kinds of things are ripening in the garden, and I have processed and frozen about 4 dozen ears of corn which we will use mostly in an old family favorite, chicken corn chowder, when the weather turns cooler.  We have also eaten about as much sweet corn on the cob as we can handle.  This is not a complaint.  We still have some immature corn on the stalks in the garden, but I don't know if they will amount to anything at this point.  We'll keep checking on it and eat it if we can.
I also picked lots of bright red hot chili peppers on Tuesday.  Sam bought an assortment of pepper plants last spring and there were 4 of these plants and they have really thrived.  And boy are they hot!  So I thought I would make some hot pepper vinegar sauce from them.  I looked online for recipe ideas and of course I needed some bottles to put them in.  I found a blog post from 2010 with nice bottles from the Dollar Tree and I happened to be going to Marietta on Monday and wouldn't you know, they still had the same bottles there?  So I did up a couple bottles.  They are so pretty.  I think it will take a while for the full flavor to develop, but in the meantime, it just looks nice.

I harvested a sunflower on Monday and hung it in the summer kitchen to dry.   I have many more which will be ready to harvest before too long.  The one I cut was the first one to bloom and the tallest and I was unable to see if it was ready to cut without climbing up and cutting it.  It was probably 10' tall.  I stood in the bed of the ATV and reached over my head to cut it.

We have one interesting sunflower.  It is like a siamese-twin sunflower.  There are 2 flowers sharing one edge.  Hard to explain, so here's a photo. 

 We have been enjoying tomatoes on BLTs and hamburgers and I made one of our very favorite pasta dishes on Sunday that I only make when we have fresh Romas from the garden.  The sauce is nothing but Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and garlic (also from our garden) and a little salt and crushed red pepper.  It is simple and wonderful, but a lot of work.  

This evening when I get home I will be canning a batch of marinara sauce.  I have cooked down 3 pots of tomatoes and will be adding garlic, onion and basil tonight and cooking it down a bit more and then canning it in quart jars.    I have to do it tonight because tomorrow I am taking a class in pastels at the arts center during the day and then Grover and I are leaving in the evening for an agility trial in Youngstown Ohio.  I won't be home until sometime Sunday. So I won't be able to do much else until Monday.  I am sure there will be more tomatoes ready by then.    

This is a photo of the tomato plants from this morning.  Many of these plants are taller than I am.

Our weather has  been very stormy and rainy.  And hot.  And humid. Last year we had second cutting hay in the barn on July 30th.  This year's is still standing in the field.  There has not been a window of time without rain the forecast in which to get it done.  Sam thinks he may be able to cut it on Sunday.   

A lot of progress has been made on my weaving studio, despite the weather.  This is how it looked a few days ago in the early morning just after a storm had passed through.  

Yesterday I got home from work in time to help him set the last 4 of 9 trusses in place.  He did the first 5 on his own, which I hate for him to do.  Too many things can happen.  But you can't tell him that.  Today, I told the neighbor to drive by once in a while and "supervise".  The metal roofing was delivered on Tuesday and I am sure Sam will be working on getting that up today.

We still have gloomy skies today, but less chance of rain than yesterday.  


I finished the baby blanket I wove for my hairdresser.  I was waiting to hear when baby was born so I could cross stitch the his name and birth date on the blanket.  She had him right on her due date I was told.  I still have another blanket just like it on hand for a future baby gift.  The scarf I was weaving last post is off the loom, but I need to twist the fringes on it before it is considered finished.  Most of my time lately has gone into outdoor pursuits, but I will get to that one of these days.
Here is some more early morning dramatic weather moving through.  We've had a lot of this lately and a couple of afternoon/evening power outages. 



Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer is Flying By

So fast!  Fall will be here before we know it.  But there is still a lot to be done in August.  This week I go to Michigan to visit my family there.  It will be a quick trip involving a lot of driving, but worth it to spend some time with my aunt and my cousins and my mom.  When I return, I will likely have to start harvesting and canning tomatoes, because there are SO many green tomatoes out there.  Then the weekend of the 20th, Grover and I have a dog trial up near Youngstown Ohio.  Then it is only a couple of weeks until Labor Day weekend.  Wow.

We had our first corn and tomato from the garden last night.  The corn was probably a little early, but not too much so.  It was quite good.  Only 1 ripe tomato so far, but I expect 100's to ripen all at once.  I think we have about 3 dozen plants.  More or less.

My weaving studio is coming along.  Sam got the framework all done and put on the sub-flooring this past week.   

 I had supervisors while I was screwing the sub-flooring down on Sunday evening.

The next step  is to start the framing, I think.  I know Sam has been hauling logs out of the woods and leaving them by the sawmill and trusses have been ordered.  I, of course, have been trying to figure out where I want lighting and windows and the sink and that kind of thing.  I will have gas heat and there will be a sink, but no hot water.  I will have a microwave that I can heat water in when needed.  That's the plan for now anyway.

It has been pretty hot around here lately, as one would expect for mid-summer.  Grover and I have been working on agility, but we aren't out running around too much.  We are working on getting him to do a 2 on 2 off at the end of contact obstacles, to prevent NQ fly offs.  Grover needs to touch in the bottom contact zone with at least one paw or he does not Q.  So we have a little board we are using:
 The 2 front feet are supposed to be off the board and the 2 back feet are to remain on until he is given a release command.  We work on  this for a few minutes every day.

I also bought a remote controlled treat dispenser 
manners minder treat and train and I am using that to try to encourage him to work ahead of me especially in the weave poles.  I set the dispenser 10 feet or so past the end of the weave poles.  When I send Grover into the weave poles I can use the remote to dispense a treat once I am sure he is going to finish the poles.  I stay behind him and encourage him to go on.  It's too soon to say we are making progress.  But I think it will work.

 I planted sunflowers at the end of my tomato garden this year and this weekend the first one bloomed.  I think several more will bloom very soon as well.  This is by far the tallest one, probably 9 or 10 feet.  In this photo it is just starting to open up.  I can hardly wait for more to  bloom.  I love them.

Another scene from around the farm this week is Road Runner the cat.  She came to us at least 4 years ago from the local shelter where I used to volunteer .  She is semi-feral, preferring not to be touched or petted, but she shows up every day at meal time.  This was the second time in 2 days that I looked into the barn and found her lounging in  this bucket. 

I was looking for bees in the Rose of Sharon that is blooming in the backyard, and I found this one.  She is just covered in pollen.  After she left this bloom she flew to a higher spot and sat on a leaf and cleaned some of that off of herself.  She was too high up for me to get a photo, though.  I am sure that much pollen would cause her to be weighted down during flight.

I finished a shawl yesterday.  This is made with 100% alpaca from my farm.  It is close to 6' across, which is hard to tell from this photo.  This will make a nice booth sample for the Wool Gathering, at which I am vending once again in September.  I missed it last year due to the re-scheduling of Sam's hunting trip, but this year I will be there.  I still have a lot of yarn for sale even though I don't have many alpacas left.

I just warped my small loom at home for some tencel scarves and I have alpaca rugs on the big loom at the office.  I am doing pretty well with my goal to keep those looms dressed with projects.  The scarves are from a towel pattern in a recent issue of Handwoven magazine, but I thought it was too pretty for towels (and I had just done towels), so I decided to make it into shiny silky scarves.


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