Saturday, November 28, 2015

It Runs In the Family

We have all the family here for Thanksgiving, and that means our 24 year old and 21 year old sons are both here. And that means some good Man Work can happen!The day after Thanksgiving Adam dashed to town early to get some more pipe. He's desperate to finish up those trenches for his watering system. He did finish the line to the garage today.
One job for the boys was to help their daddy push this semi-dead Jaguar into the garage.
First the garage had to be tidied:

The car still has a rather terrifying-looking dashboard. Adam actually drove it part-way to the farm when we moved. But the power windows didn't work, and it got really hot in the car. So he stopped to get out and cool off (it was summer), and turned off the car. And it wouldn't start again. It's a project he still needs to finish off, but he did successfully put in a new wiring harness, which is no small thing.
It really will be a pretty car someday.
A Black Friday sale at Lowe's was this shelf system for the garage to assist in the Great Garage Project.
Another big project is the clearing of the orchard. Peter is such a hard-working man machine; we gave him a mattock and sheers and such implements, and let him go.
Here's the grape vine on one side, now visible. He dug out almost all the saplings, mostly pine trees.
He reached about 2/3 of the way to the back of the orchard, to the biggest apple tree:
Look how clear it is! Lots of vines left though, but he took out so, so many of the saplings, roots and all.
The orchard gate:
I know it's hard to see, but this represents so much progress! I hauled away much of the big stuff Peter hacked down. Later this winter Adam will prune back the trees (that are alive) and the grapevine.
Long avenues are clear now. There's one line of fruit trees in various states of neglect. On the other side is a line of wax myrtles. Adam wants to save and transplant these if he can, to the front of the property as a break between the house and the road.
Thursday night we had a massive bonfire with the tree branches Adam cleaned out a couple of weeks ago.
The orchard will provide many bonfires, I'm sure. All the 'kids' go back home tomorrow morning, and our work schedule will return to normal. I'm so thankful for all they've done! Can you tell that they get it from their daddy? It runs in the family.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tree Out, Tree In

Adam and I visited the local nursery again. I told the girl, who was displaying her Christmas wares, that I'm always only interested in what's 50% off :) So I bought some perennials. (Who wants to waste time on annuals that die?) I got the following:
Three artemisia that are quite spindly from the wet weather we've had. They'll come back in the spring.
Two sedum of the stonecrop variety. I usually get Autumn Joy, but not this time. I love sedum.
These we put in the newly tilled sun bed on the side of the house.
And one hardy amarylis that will handle the winter weather.
I know some of you are bored by photos of green tufts in pine straw. But some of you know the excitement I feel. And I bought three astilbes and put them in the shade bed that already has lambs' ears and hostas:

And then! I saw what I wanted for Christmas!
A eucalyptus tree! I adore eucalyptus -- so unusual-looking, so lovely, delicate. Rather tropical. We have several in the area, so I know it can thrive here. Sometimes the cold temps will zap the leaves, but the trees survive.
We perused the yard when we got home, looking for the perfect spot for her. At last, I knew I'd found the location -- no wires overhead, lots of sun, center stage. Problem was this: a large crepe myrtle already occupied the spot. That meant Adam would have to dig out the crepe myrtle, root system and all, and do it the next day (Saturday), so we could put the eucalyptus in before the cool weather came.
I came home from the market and found he'd already made good headway.
He used a mattock and a shovel. Toward the end he put a car jack under the root ball, 
and shoved it out that way.
Meanwhile, the puppies played. Sandy and Maggie have stick wars, in which they bark loudly at each other, back and forth, proclaiming ownership of the stick. Sandy wins.
The eucalyptus waits for her place. I didn't want the root ball to sit out in that pot when it gets cold. I want it in the ground, watered in and snug.
Just around supper time, he finished. He was exhausted. That was back-breaking work, and without either of his sons here to help him!
 Well, he might wait until Thanksgiving to let them help him haul it away to the burn pile.
It's quite heavy.
He will keep the branches, which are straight, for various poles and stakes around the farm.
While digging it out, we found many, many (about 100?) daffodil bulbs. Just tons of them. I'd been told there were many daffies on the property. I put them in a bucket, separated them, and planted about half of them new in the sun bed mentioned above. I still have a pile left to put ... somewhere.
And there she is!
You'll all be glad to know:
The roof is fully fixed. At least we think so, so far :)
The septic system is fine. The whole system is actually owned by the company, and they came and checked and worked on it twice, no cost to us.
We got a total of six Knock Out roses for the front of the property, all at the sale price -- quite a steal!

Mr. BeeKeeper

On Tuesday Adam spoke to a local bi-monthly group of oldish folks at their "Lunch and Learn." He was the "learn" part. The "lunch" part was chili with cheese, sour cream, and fritos.
Because it's November, Adam couldn't bring a teaching hive (enclosed in glass) for people to view. And because their projector doesn't talk with his computer, Adam simply talked to them. And he was
funny! He had them in stitches. He did quite well. It was a full house!
There wasn't time to tell all he could tell about bees, but he told enough and they were fascinated.
He brought along his newly-handmade bee toolbox. It has everything he might need to work with a bee hive. The box itself is really a nuc box. It has a strap for shoulder carrying, a smoker, a veil, and the wire rack on the side will hold bee frames if needed.

He didn't take questions during his talk, but he invited people to come chat afterward who were interested in beekeeping. He had a small crowd around him. Adam wants to sell bees and queens to hopeful beekeepers, so perhaps this talk will lead to a few contacts like that.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Apple Butter

I mentioned that my brother Marshall gave us some apples (about a bushel) from their orchard in West Virginia. At last this morning I have a few hours to devote to making apple butter from them.
Beautiful apples:
My mother and I split the Jonagolds and Golden Delicious. I chop them in half.
And load them into a big stew pot with a little water in the bottom -- not much, because you don't want watery, tasteless applesauce or apple butter.
Here's my apple spoon. A strong, sturdy, unbreakable spoon is needed to push the apples down as they cook and implode. My oldest brother Max made two of these spoons for me many, many years ago, before either of us were married, I think. It's stronger than all my metal spoons. I love them.
While we're on that topic here's a set of salad servers he made for me too. I love things made of wood.
I've posted about making applesauce (but cannot for the life of me find those blog posts right now!), and I've used WalMart apples to do so. They work, and the sauce is certainly better than any you get on the grocery shelf. But here's a comparison of apples:
Left: WalMart Ginger Gold; Right: Marshall's Jonagold
Quite a difference in size. And all that volume difference is apple flesh -- the good stuff.
After the apples are soft and mushy, I put them through my food mill. It presses the apple flesh through, but keeps the stems, seeds, and skins above. It saves so much time not having to peel and core the apples! I bought this nearly 20 years ago in Iowa.
This metal paddle squashes the mush apples and presses the flesh through the little holes.
One the bottom of the mill a thin metal wand rotates and scrapes the applesauce off the bottom and into a bowl underneath.
A crock pot FULL of applesauce! I'm following the advice on this site, cooking it on low with lots of sugar and spices for about 11 hours, until it's dark. I've made lots of applesauce, but this time ...
I want apple butter!
UPDATE: The next morning ...
I used the AllRecipes site because I wanted to know whether I should leave the apple butter covered or uncovered for the long, low cook. Hmm. The site seemed to indicate to cover it, so I did ... all day long. For about ten hours it cooked, and it did darken some. But it was still the runny consistency of applesauce.
So Adam recommended removing the lid, but this was at 10:00 last night, so my only option was to leave it cooking on low overnight, with no lid. Made me nervous. But I did it. And in the wee hours this morning, I found this:
 Lovely, dark, thick apple butter. I had it on toast this morning.
Apple butter calls for much more sugar than apple sauce. I didn't measure. I also added a good amount of cinnamon, and smaller amounts of clove, allspice, and nutmeg. The flavor is quite good.
I canned two-and-a-half quarts of it, saving a bit for immediate use. This is a perfect item to make around Thanksgiving. So glad I have this on hand before next week, when the house will be full to busting! Our whole family will be here. I'm so happy!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I went to Lowe's this morning to buy two more ceiling fans. I got good deals on both of them. Then I drifted into their plant area. I was hoping for some discounted plants, and I was not disappointed. Just as I was perusing the discounted ones, a Lowe's employee came up and said, "They're not 50% off. They're now 75% off. Oh, and that includes the Knock-Out roses over there."
It seems everyone down here has Knock-Out roses. They do well here, blooming all spring/summer/fall. They thrive in the salty air, apparently. These were discounted from $19 to $4.50, So I bought three, not wanting to be piggish.
Adam did the digging. You see how close we are to the road.
They look quite happy, nestled in there, and they will be well watered in tonight with a good rain coming.
The temperature today was perfection. The breeze was brisk and pleasant. No mosquitoes. I sat out side briefly and watched the wind blow Beau's fur as he closed his eyes and smiled into it. My sentiments exactly!
So I turned off the heat, opened the windows, and let the breeze blow from the front door (where I'm standing) straight through to the kitchen on the far end in this photo. Nice breeze! As I write this (10:28 PM and I'm up too late), the rain is gently falling outside.
I had pity on a sad little $1 plant at Lowe's and we gave it a home too. It has a name I never can remember that starts with "Eu ..." something. I call it "specklety bush." It's ugly. One must have at least one ugly duckling.
Hello, ugly duckling.