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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wow, Today it Feels Like Fall!

Yup, it was 42 degrees down in the holler this morning.  Yesterday was gorgeously sunny with some wind and a high in the 70's.  Quite a change from just a few days ago.  It is most welcome, though we have yet to  turn any heat on in our office (or at home) and I think it is around 60 in here.  But I am wearing a nice warm wool poncho that I finished knitting a couple of weeks ago.  When Sam took this photo is was about 80 degrees outside.  Today it is much more comfortable for the wearing of wool.

The bounty from the garden has continued, though I think it will sadly come to an end soon.  There was a comment on last week's post about making tomato jam with a link to a recipe:
smoky spicy tomato jam   that I decided sounded really good.  I made it, though I made a bigger batch and I ended up with 3 pints.  Boy is it yummy!  And so much easier than ketchup.  It is kind of like a ketchup with texture.  Thanks Karen, for that suggestion.  I also made another double batch of pesto and divided it up and put it in the freezer.  I am glad I did because the basil won't last a lot longer now that it is dropping into the 40's overnight.  I have lots and lots of butternut squash still on the vines and just a few sugar pie pumpkins, including this one that is growing on the fence.  And there are still oodles of tomatoes in the garden....


 The studio is coming along nicely.  Sam has run electric and gas lines to it and I am trying to figure out lighting.  There will be a central ceiling fan with lights, but I think I may want more lights.  It's hard to visualize at this point.  

My small loom is now warped and has 1 scarf about 3/4 of the way woven on it.  I will get 2 on this warp.  I plan to start warping the big loom today for a couple of baby blankets.  They will be pink and white.  No special reason except that I have a huge cone of peach-y colored cotton and I want to use it.  I figured since I have a blue baby blanket in my stash I might as well do a pink one (or two).



I did some charity knitting recently.  I made these 2 bears for the Mother Bear Project, which sends them to Africa and distributes them to children whose lives have been affected by AIDS, usually having lost one or both parents.  They are fun and quick to make, so I will  likely do more in the future.  They are about 12" tall.


I don't recall if I mentioned that I took a class in pastels at the Arts Center back in August, but I did.  Here is my resulting picture.  I really liked working with the pastels and I hope to acquire some in the near future.  I have tried to do drawings of Grover and Rowdy, but pencil just does not do them justice.  I think they would be much nicer in pastel.

There is not much upcoming on the farm.  This past weekend was nice with nothing on the schedule.  I managed to fill the time, however.  Never a problem there.  October comes in on Saturday, already.  Another quiet  weekend seems to be in the works and I hope for some really nice fall weather.  Bow season for deer started last weekend, but it was much too warm for Sam to think about hunting.  He may get out this weekend.  Then Mom will come the second weekend in October to pick up her dog, Luca, who is here with us while she travels.  Grover and I have an agility trial in Zanesville Oct 21, 22 and 23.  The month will be gone before we know it. 

The trees have yet to start to change color, but in the woods, the undergrowth has died back and the unmowed fields are full of goldenrod.  Change is definitely in the air.

 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Up Before the Chickens

Rowdy seems to love to nap in this position.  Maybe it is cooler for him.

Summer is really hanging on here.  I am not complaining, really, I'm not.  We have had above average temps, upper 80's, during the day for the last week or so.  And yet the sun is rising later and setting earlier and I am generally up and out before the chickens are even stirring in the coop.  That will change once it is cold in the mornings, though.  But for now I will continue to be up before the sun.  

The extremely warm weather made for a hot weekend for me at the Wool Gathering.  Storms were forecast for Saturday and while there was a big gust of wind at one point and very dark and ominous skies a good part of the day, there was minimal rain, for which I was grateful.  I do think it kept some attendees away as sales were a little slower Saturday than on previous years, for me anyway.  Sunday was just plain hot and humid.  But in general I would say it was a successful event.  I have not decided whether I will attend next year.  I should.  But I really hated missing the agility trial this past weekend.  I need to see if the 2 will coincide again next year.  I fear that they will.
 
 Meanwhile, back on the farm, the garden continues to pump out tomatoes like crazy.  Sam made a huge batch of salsa on Sunday, which I canned most of on Monday.  So far, we have a dozen quarts of marinara, a dozen quarts and 7 pints of whole romas, a dozen jars of salsa, 2 pints of ketchup, and 2 pints of dried romas.  Plus we have had BLTs, pasta with fresh sauce and even fried green tomatoes.  It has truly been a bumper year for tomatoes.   Monday I made a double batch of pesto and I think I will make more this weekend as I have a lot of basil.  I have also frozen basil in ice cubes, which is nice for cooking in the winter.   The pesto was wonderful on some cheese tortellini.

I still have sunflowers to harvest seeds from. I have been giving some of the flower heads to the chickens since there are way more than we can eat.  There are still 3 large flowers waiting to be cut and several smaller flower heads.





I am glad this gal chose to make her web on a sunflower stalk from which I had already cut the flower.  She seems have no trouble securing a meal.



I have lost the weakest of my 3 bee hives.  I will take it apart this coming weekend and see if I can determine what happened.  They never really got up to speed over the summer.  The other 2 hives however are doing very well.  I may harvest some more honey this week.  There have been so many bees on these yellow flowers that grow wild at this time every year.  We will stop next to a big patch of them on our walks and stand still for 30 seconds and soon realize the entire patch of blooms is in motion with honey bees.  It's pretty neat.

My studio is coming along.  This photo is from last week and since I took it, the rest of the OSB board has been put on and the windows have been cut out the rest of the way.  The deck is also on, but there are no stairs as yet.  Sam put his back out last Thursday, so he spent most of the last weekend taking it easy, which is hard to get him to do.  I know he is suffering when he sits in his chair all day.  But at least he got to watch football.  


I finished this sweater a while back, but finally got Sam to photograph  me in it a few days ago.  It really has not been sweater weather, and still isn't.  I also just finished a hooded poncho I have been working on and I love it.  I hope to get Sam to take a photo of me wearing it when I get home this evening.  It will be kind of warm to put on a wool poncho with a hood, but I have to take advantage of opportunities for photos when Sam is home (and I am not in grubby farm clothes) when I can.

Both my looms are empty right now and I have no big knitting projects going.  That's how busy the canning and gardening has kept me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Unofficially Fall

While it won't officially be fall for another 2 weeks, Labor Day weekend is now behind us and I think that is pretty much the end of summer to most people in the United States.  Kids are back in school and the days are getting shorter and the weather should be getting cooler.  Should be.  It is still quite warm here, though the weather Labor Day weekend was ideal here in this part of the country.

Which was nice because we had our annual party once again on Saturday.  I think there were fewer people here and definitely fewer kids than in past years, but it was a good turnout regardless.  Lots of food and homebrew on tap.  It was a great way to spend an afternoon and evening at the end of summer.  

Meanwhile, work on my studio has made fabulous progress.  I helped Sam get the second half of the roofing on and he got some of the sides on all before party weekend.  It will still be getting rough sawn exterior siding which I will need to stain.  Now he is getting ready to put the front porch on.  I dug post holes for that yesterday.  It is really coming along well.


 I thought I was done canning tomatoes over a week ago.  I had done 5 quarts and 6 pints of whole roma tomatoes, along with a dozen quarts of marinara sauce.  But the tomatoes keep on coming on and yesterday I picked enough romas to do up 6 more quarts of whole tomatoes.  Sam made salsa for our party and plans to make more.  We have had spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce 3 times  recently and still, there are tomatoes in the garden.  I will likely can again Friday.  I am not complaining, but it is either feast or famine.  We have had several poor years for tomatoes and this year is making up for it!



I also need to harvest sunflower seeds.  Most of the flowers are bent all the way over and drying on the stalks.  They look so sad now.  I probably have 8 or 9 big flowers like this, 12" or so in diameter, all ready to be harvested and roasted.

I am also going to have a good crop of butternut squash, though I have found only 4 sugar pie pumpkins so far.  They are difficult to find among the vines and leaves until they start to turn orange.  They are not large.  I had a few more than that last year and actually just used the very last of my frozen puree to make a pumpkin cake this past weekend.  Yummy.




I grew a bit of sorghum up by where 2 of the bee hives are and it has gone to seed heads.  Hopefully it provided a bit of nectar for the bees and I will likely try to make some sorghum molasses with it in a couple of weeks.  I don't have a lot, but this will be just an experiment to see if we can do it.  We will save at least one of the seed heads to re-plant and the chickens will likely enjoy the rest.

This weekend we are taking a road trip with the dogs to visit friends in Indiana who we have not seen in several years.  They have a big party every September as well and it just happens that this year we are able to attend.   The last time we attended Rowdy was only 2 years old.  I am very much looking forward to going.

The weekend following that, I am vending at the Wool Gathering just outside Yellow Springs again.  I missed it last year due to a delay in Sam's hunting trip plans, and while I am missing an agility trial to attend this year, I am looking forward to being there.  Here is the link to the event:  A Wool Gathering  It is by far my favorite "local" fiber festival.  I still have a lot of yarn and other alpaca products to sell even though most of my alpacas have moved on to other pastures.  I will be staying with Mom and she will help me out on Saturday and on Sunday I will bring her dog, Luca, home with me because she is off to be a tour guide in Italy once again.

Most of my time at home lately has been spent on canning and preparing for our party, so I have not finished any knitting or weaving, though I do have 3 rugs ready to be taken off the loom (which I need to do before the Wool Gathering),  and a woven scarf that only needs to be washed, pressed and have the fringe twisted in order to be finished.  I have a poncho on the knitting needles that is about 2/3 of the way finished and should be done by the time the weather will allow it to be worn.  No worries, there will be a lot of spinning, weaving and knitting weather coming before too long.  

The fields are full of color right now with bright yellows and purples.  The undergrowth in the woods is starting to die back and the evening light is becoming golden.  These are all things I love about this time of year.  I don't love the multitudes of various burrs that my dogs carry home in their coats and then pick out and leave all over the house.  Grover also gets seasonal allergies this time of year which seem to be particularly bad this year.  We have him on a new allergy medication which seems to be helping.  He is no longer scratching out all his fur.  Rowdy had some skin issues for several months but I am happy to say that a second round of antibiotics seems to have finally cleared that up and he is no longer scratching out all his fur. I think he will be happy when cooler days arrive.

 


 

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.