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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.