Monday, August 27, 2018

Spider Morning

Our days are still hot, but the mornings are a little cooler.

This morning we had fog, so I roamed around the farm and took pictures that hint at the season change. Spider webs. Flourishing loofah blooms. Cedar galls. Green sweet gum balls.

 


 

The open grass was scattered with little spider web pockets.
I visited my old chickens.
 Punkin was camera-shy, so I waited until she turned around.

On their fence is a passion flower vine.
 My zinnias continue to cheer up the world! I've picked so many.
 

 I finally cut most of my large sunflower heads and put them on the front porch to dry, out of the beaks of greedy birds. I grew these to feed my own birds, who have names and give me eggs.
 Tall, bright sunflowers in full bloom are beautiful, but there's something lovely about this dried flower head too, with its curling petals.
 Virginia Creeper is ... well ... creeping, right across our front porch.
 

 I've found one, and only one, ripe, luscious fig this year :(

Today Adam declared that he would back the Jaguar out of the garage and begin the task of putting it all back together.
He drove it part-way to the farm three years ago, so it's not an issue of its not running, so much as putting all its little parts back in all their right places. The front dash is removed, and one front seat, and the wires are everywhere. When he lifted the hood to inspect the engine, he discovered that others had been there before him.
Mice. They pulled in everything they might possibly need for a massive nest in this dark, protected space. Twigs, paper, chicken food (sigh). Well, when that engine revs up, they'll be glad their babies aren't in there trying to sleep!

Last question, friends: We hope to paint the shutters on our house sometime (like ... in the next year, haha). Here's their color now, kind of a bleached-out pale blue/gray.
With the bright red roof, they look all wrong. Should we paint them:
1) black
2) green
3) red to match the roof

Please advise!!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Weary August Farm

This was a hard summer for gardening. Way too much rain (about 35" so far), too much heat in June, but 3 weeks of drought thrown in there too .... I must admit, it didn't help that I was emotionally unmotivated! But amid the knee-high weeds, a few things are still alive out there. Here's what I found this morning:
 Sunflowers! At last!


 The verdict is still out on the loofahs this year.
 

My gourd hill is doing well.
 I picked one and have at least eight more on the vines. I'll let them dry there.

 The only part of the garden that looks loved right now is the potato row. Adam planted the little potatoes from the first harvest back in, for a second harvest this fall ... we hope.

 

A handful of small carrots. A few last tomatoes.
 I threw some overripe cukes to the chickens. 
All in all, an exhausting summer and a less-than-encouraging garden yield. I didn't even can or freeze a single tomato; I still have some frozen from last year! But the farm is still a beautiful place to live, and if we can get our spirits up, and our "mojo" back, we may have a fall garden yet. Adam plans to clear out all the beds. (He is doing better in the motivation department than I am.) I would be happy to see a few fall/winter crops there and tend to them in the cool of the year.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Summer Ups and Downs

I'm happy to report that our new roof is functioning perfectly, and we've had the weather to test it! Since the first of June we've had at least 34" of rain here on our farm. We are quite soggy. Adam can hardly mow. The dogs' paws are soggy. The chickens' feet are soggy. The garden weeds are out of hand.

Needless to say, the rain (plus the 3 weeks of horrible heat with no rain) has been detrimental to gardening, and not much is coming from the veggie garden these days. But aren't we glad we got a new roof before this rainy summer?!

The hatching of new chicks has been up and down too. Here's chick #1, the prettiest baby chick I've ever seen:
 She's about 2.5 weeks old now. I'm fairly sure it's a pullet (i.e., female) by her wing feathering and wing length, and her fluffy tail feathers.
 Such pretty colors! And I love her Cleopatra eyes.
Three eggs in the clutch were not viable. The last one of these was broken open with a perfectly formed chick inside, dead :(  That's hard to see, after waiting all this time.

Then yesterday morning, this little one was born!
 I could tell from its shell color that it's from one of the silkie mamas, which is great. He/she will have some pretty coloring too.
One of my two silkie mamas was pecking at the baby pretty hard, so I removed her from the broody box and put up a barrier to keep her out. The silkie mama still sitting on a few eggs has been at it for a long time. I hope she's okay.

The only plants looking quite happy these days are my gourd plants and my loofah vines. No loofahs are dangling from them yet, but I do have some gourds coming along. Here's the one I picked this morning:
It was a volunteer, probably from some little decorative Thanksgiving gourd I dropped in the yard.

I'm skipping the farmer's market tomorrow because somebody's here for a fast, flying visit!
He's much loved by doggies. It will be nice to have a break tomorrow, stay home, and make pancakes like I used to on Saturdays.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Being Industrious

Today I was awake at 4:00 and up before 5:00. We're getting old.
Yes, that's the back-end of a hen you see.
That's Lady Grey, who is broody on a clutch of eleven eggs, give or take. This morning she hatched out the first one!
I spent much time this morning in the chicken coop making the nesting box better for chicks - cleaning, gently shifting eggs, cleaning water and helping the new chick drink, getting chick feed, etc., etc. I enjoy chicken work.

I sat down about 6:30 to watch Mary Berry on "Who Do You Think You Are?" Did you know her great-great grandfather was a baker too? After a bit, I got antsy and decided to make a new product for my soap business: shampoo bars. (By 8:00, I had them in molds and was eating breakfast at last.)

Gumbo Lily recommended that I make this item, and I agreed. As I poured it into the molds, the shampoo was the color and consistency of lemon curd.
It's scented with rosemary and a dash of peppermint.
I don't think I'll be going back to my Prell. 
The recipe came from Wellness Mama, a respected site. We'll see if it's up to snuff!
 
I bought premium all-natural lard. In the past, people have been turned off by lard, but it's lovely for your skin and hair and makes a good bar.

I'm also making warming pouches filled with flax seed. Have you tried one? I bought one about five years ago from a friend in Oriental. She's since moved, so I feel the market is fair game for warming pouches. They're easy to make. Flax seed is the best filler for these lovely muscle helpers. Pop them in the microwave for 30 - 60 seconds and put them on your neck. I've used mine so much. Here are the fabrics I chose:
I still need to price these new items, and I promise I'm crunching the numbers to ensure I don't lose money on their sales. 

Oh! And guess what? I got a new piano student this week. An older gentleman called me after seeing my advertisement at the post office. I take that as a good indication that I'm on the right track. Now it's 9:00, and soon I'll drive to the music store in town to choose practice books for my new student. That will be fun! All that I've done since 5:00 this morning has technically been "work," but it doesn't feel so. Many, many thanks for your kind words of support for me as I step out into more avenues of from-home work. You have been wonderful, friends!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Farm Update: July 3

I haven't done a farm post in nearly two months. I have various excuses: rain, rain, and then a bit more rain. A wedding. The outrageous heat. But truthfully, I had energy for one blog, not two. There you have the unvarnished truth.

For future reference, here are a few stats:

*3 chicks survive from the May clutch. I think two are hens, but unsure still. They are nine weeks old today.
*Ethel is broody on four Ameracauna eggs, one week in. 
*It's a bad tomato year. I have about 25 plants in the garden, but the Mini Orange plants are performing badly because of excessive rain - rotten fruit. The 2 plants in pots with drainage did better.
*Matt's Wild Cherry tomato plants are doing okay. The 3 plants that overwintered on the porch have done extremely well. I should try that again. I had abundant cherry tomatoes all through June, which is early. The rope trellising is not a good solution for tomatoes. We need a new plan. Cages are too short for vining varieties.
*Cucumbers are bearing very well. The pickling variety turn yellow quickly. But the rope trellising is perfect for cucumbers. We will do that each year.

*I started my Blue Lake bean plants too late. I have 8 plants in a bed fenced against rabbits. Difficult to weed. Pepper plants also in there, and growing well.
*The greens bed was fabulous. We could not eat or sell even a majority of it.
*Babies' Breath and Chamomile did not grow well. Heavy rain destroyed the first and heat/weeds destroyed the second.
*Carrots appear to be growing well. No sign of orange root yet. I sowed seeds on March 29.
*A good year for onions, which were put in as sets last fall. At the end of June their tops were down enough to pull them. They're curing on the front porch. Then I think we'll store them in the frig.

* Each year our potato harvest improves. Adam harvested them today. He'll brush off the dirt and we'll store them in the spare bedroom.

*I've had decent farm sales at the market, selling nearly everything. 
*I have so much tomato sauce left over from last year that I'm cooking it down and turning it all into tomato paste, which Adam uses most readily in cooking.
Reduced by half, after simmering for a day

*We ate some peas this year, but did not freeze any. We don't tend to remember what's in the deep freezer, and garden produce sits there for a long time, uneaten. Need to improve on that.
* I made a batch of tea tree soap in February, one of lavender in March, and just made a mixed batch last week. I've steadily made batches of Healing Herb Ointment, Bee Balm, and Insect Repellent Lotion Bars, all of which sell well. I'll make a bit of ointment for ourselves today because we use it so often.
*Herb beds are doing very well, if weedy. I made a large batch of herbal tea (mint, lemon balm, tarragon, lemongrass), and sold the first tin of it at the market on Saturday.

*Adam's willow tree starts are doing extremely well. Thicker wands have grown better than thinner ones. 
*My seven loofah vines are looking very good. They won't bear until autumn. I sold almost all of my last year's loofah scrubs.

I think that's about it! If you want to know more about what's happening in our lives -- the roof, the wedding, the dogs -- skip on over to my other blog, Through a Glass Darkly. Thanks for stopping by!