Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tomatoes, Chickens, Soaps, Rains

Yesterday, my ripest little tomato looked like this:
Today he looked like this:
Tomorrow he'll be ready to eat! Yippee! I have loads of plants with cherry and full-sized fruit. I can't wait! This particular plant is a Matt's Wild Cherry. So many look like this:
Adam is busy working on a chicken coop. A good friend offered us four young hens if we could make a good, safe place for them. We weren't really planning on chickens just quite yet, but I'm quite excited! The chicken area is this:
 That door opening leads to what will be their coop.
It's on the left end of the barn.
Adam bought a new roll of chicken wire to add new fence and reinforce existing fence.
He also put in two new solid posts.

He's building a new fence so that we don't have to walk through the chicken yard to get into their coop to collect eggs and clean up. He will build a small door for them in the side of the barn that will lead straight into their yard.
The back of the fence has openings too large -- they would go straight through it. So he's layering chicken fencing over it.
inadequate fence
Just having Ned in the barn, on his rope, with his door open, should cut way down on any predators. We've discovered Ned is a mouser and a rat-catcher. We're quite pleased with that!
I mentioned I made a second batch of soap. It turned out so pretty! Look!
lavender, tea tree, sandalwood
 I sprinkled little soap shards I had leftover from the previous batch, all along the top. I love the look.

a long block of lavender soap, ready to be cut
 Close-up view:
And the rains. Hurricane season is beginning, and I'm concerned about the heavy rains we get sometimes. On May 11, our entire house lot was under water, like a lake. We have low areas.
They drain right into a hard black pipe.
It feeds directly into a ditch that has remained absolutely full since May 11. It isn't draining out.
That ditch in turn drains into a larger ditch on the side of the highway ... which is also still full all these weeks. This is the reason the side ditch won't empty.
This ditch is the problem, and it's the responsibility of the department of highways, DOT -- I called today and filed a report with them. Hopefully they'll attend to the drainage before we get another gullywasher.
I'm off to work! I hope your day is going great!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Summer Business

Part of Red Robin Farm is Red Robin Soaps, a small (very small) business I've been running for about six years. Christmas is a busy time for selling my products, and summer is somewhat busy too. I never know when the farmers' market will give me a crazy successful day, or a  r  e  a  l  l  y     s  l  o  w   day. Regardless, I have to be ready for my customers! So I've been making soap and lotion bars this past week. If I need soap a month from now, I need to make it today because it must cure for weeks.
Saturday afternoon, I made soap.
Those three types are clove/lemon, chocolate/coffee, and coconut/mango. The first kind I made for myself. I tried the clove/lemon combination this spring, and it's my new very favorite soap aroma. Many of those tall square bars will be for my bathroom. The other two types sell well with customers looking for something very aromatic and fun. Coffee lovers adore that middle soap.
I also made a bunch of new insect repellent lotion bars.
That's fourteen bars, 3 ounces each. It may last me for two markets or for five. Hard to say. But with the rains we've had, and the mosquitoes that inevitably follow, I'm thinking they'll sell out. They are $5.00 each.
Today I'm making a second soap batch. I don't usually make two batches so close together, but my inventory is quite low. On Saturday a fellow crafter bought ten soap bars to put in her booth at an antique mall in another city. I'm down to probably only 20 - 25 bars of soap. My new packaging makes my soaps sell a bit faster.

Today I'm making lavender, tea tree, sandalwood, and lemongrass. The dining room table is full of soap-making paraphernalia and the house smells wonderful.
It's quiet here on Memorial Day. Adam is at the hospital visiting a parishioner. Julia is with friends in town. I'm sipping tea and doing laundry too. I hope you have a lovely day!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Adam Is Converted

As you know, I make a product called Salve Plantain. It's fabulous for burns and minor skin abrasions. It's also good relief for minor cases of poison ivy. But my family are not fans of my 'green goo,' and they turn up their noses at what Adam kindly calls my "prairie medicine."
old tub of salve plantain from my medicine cabinet
But Adam is severely allergic to poison ivy, and when a man is clearing as much weed, vine, and brush as he is, he's bound to catch a bit of that nasty rash. He did, Wednesday. In spite of correct clothing, immediate hot showering, and immediate clothes washing, he caught it all around his lower legs. Inevitably he will need a shot at the doctor's office. His poison ivy always gets that bad. By Wednesday night it was already seeping and oozing.
the area that Adam cleared of brush that day
But Adam's doctor moved, and his appointment for today was postponed. Oh no! Late Wednesday night, after I'd gone to bed, he scoured the internet for home remedies and solid advice. And you know what they told him to do. Oh yes. Plantain!
plantain leaf
plantain seed stalk
It must've been as hard for him as for Naaman to wash in the Jordan, but he did it. He took a blazing hot bath, and then he went outside in my lovely plantain patch ...
one healthy plantain plant
Oh, didn't I tell you that I'm cultivating my very own big patch of plantain? No?
The center bed is a shade bed for flowers.
All the green stuff around it is my plantain bed!!
Adam has told me it looks weedy. Whatever.

But he gathered big handfuls of straight plantain leaves, ripped them up and crushed them, and rubbed them vigorously all up and down his lower legs.

The next morning he told me his poison ivy has dried up. It's stopped oozing and is scabbing over. I can't tell you how amazing that is! His poison ivy never, ever does that on its own. He even used the word "miraculous," which is something, coming from a pastor.

And I'm feeling ever so slightly vindicated. :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Spring into Summer

First, peas. They are fading. These are the English peas, which we've enjoyed so much.
We've decided that next year, we want LOTS more of these. They are sweet to eat right off the plant, excellent cooked, and easy to preserve by freezing. The sugar snaps, on the other hand, are okay to eat fresh, but are awful when cooked, and cannot be frozen. We want very few of them next year.
Second, tomatoes. This morning, these ten plants were all I had left in the greenhouse! And a spindly lot they were.
I had 65 plants in the two long beds, about another dozen in cages, and then I put a handful in two of the compost beds. I just dug out a little hole and plopped them in. They won't get much sun there, but the soil can't be beat! See them in there, mingling with a random gourd plant?
Here are more in another compost bin also occupied by some happy onions.
But I still had homeless tomatoes. So Adam dug some holes along the orchard fence. There's sun, but the soil was utterly unamended. Ah well. Twenty-two plants went in there:
I'm not quite sure, but I think that got me up to about 111 tomato plants in dirt.
But I still had those ten plants left. I stuck them in random spots on the back of the pea trellises where the peas are starting to fade. That makes 121 plants ... I think. We will be swimming in tomatoes.
Speaking of random gourd plants, three sprang up right on top of the dead puppies' graves.
Look at that! This is so appropriate because Sandy and Maggie loved playing with those small gourds that I brought back from my brother's farm. They played with them like balls until they fell apart, and the seeds inside were strewn about the pasture. Three were left in the soil of their graves by them, before they ever died.
The tomatoes in the second bed are looking so good. The Matt's Wild Cherry plants are just spreading out and so healthy with lot of fruit.
 This is a terrible photo of its fruit, but it's so pretty.
Surprisingly the Black Prince tomato is bearing lovely fruit; the Black Princes in the first bed did very badly, and we ripped them out.
One of the Blue Lake beans is sending out runner shoots. Adam will put up strings for it to grab a hold.
The scuppernong grapes are growing like crazy, and I have found a few teeny-weeny clusters of grapes on there. So cute!
Regarding the orchard, we've been studying those trees, wondering what type they are. You can examine bark and peer at leaves, but sometimes you just have to wait for the fruit, to figure out what something is. People can be that way too.
Well, this big tree, which we thought was an apple, is probably a pear.
Whatdya think? Pear-shaped?
And the tree we were so hoping was a peach because of how it was pruned? It's definitely an apple.
Otherwise, my most mature Cherry Chocolate tomato has great fruit. Soon it will be ripening. The corn is well up, about 8" tall. I've put both pumpkin type seedlings into their mounds. I put the cayenne pepper seedlings into the same bed as the garlic and lettuce. The final sweet pepper seedlings went right next to the larger plants. Three elephant ear plants joined other shady plants in the large shade bed on the west side of the house.

The greenhouse is now empty. Praise the Lord.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Peace on the Farm

There's lots growing at Red Robin Farm these days. These are just a few pics. My biggest Cherry Chocolate Tomato bush has two clusters like this, and more coming:
Our big fig tree is starting its yearly bounty. I can't wait to make 
fig preserves this year and pick the fruit right on our deck!
The herb bed is looking very happy, even after our little flood when it was submerged. The borage is shooting up. It's all quite healthy. I might move the chamomile and chervil to a shadier bed if they begin looking weary in the sun. But May is quite cool this year, so they're good thus far.
Adam bought a couple of lemongrass stalks at the Asian market in New Bern. After cooking with it a bit, it sat in a glass of water on the counter. Later I noticed it had rooted in the water nicely, so I transplanted it into the herb bed. It made the move very well.
On the other hand, a few of my 65 in-ground tomato plants were quite peaky. Look at this pitiful thing:
I would have yanked it out by the roots but for that one piece of fruit hanging on. It's hard to kill a plant that's trying to please you. But yesterday we did yank out four, and their root systems were just pathetic. We replaced them with four healthier ones from the greenhouse. Adam thinks this patch of bed has a nitrogen deficiency.
Two days ago I turned a pot of this:
Into this:
It's been so quiet here this week. All our kids are off doing their thing elsewhere. Even Julia is on a road-trip with Peter. They're traveling all over the east coast. I know they were in NYC, but have no clue where they are the past couple of days. As long as they're safe and having fun, that's the goal!

All that to say, it's been peaceful and slow here. A slow rain falls today. I've sat in the cedar tree's shade with Ned and felt the calm of God's good Earth around me. Lately, this poem by Wm. B. Yeats reflects my mood (except I would not live alone):

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean rows will I have there, and a hive for the honeybee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the road way or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the heart's deep core.