Monday, March 30, 2015


Not blogging much lately.  The beginning of Spring has brought the beginning of a few seasonal farm tasks that can take entire days at a time.  Couple that with a 20-25 hr work week, a few afternoons/evenings of babysitting and, well, you get not much blogging from me.

The sap has been running pretty well in the past week or so, and I thought I'd show a few pics (again, crappy cell phone ones, mostly) of what I've been doing with that.

Right at the beginning of sap season, tractor broke, much to my despair.  And DH's too, as the needed part costs $400. . . The part, mind you, just one.  One, single--and pretty small--piece.  But without it, well, a tractor with 3 wheels instead of 4 isn't very useful.  So that left me scratching my head as to how I was going to get sap in from the woods without hand-carrying it nearly 1/4 mile.

That's when DH suggested strapping a bucket to the rack on the quad.  Sounded much, much better than hauling buckets filled with 40 pounds of sap each through the field by my own muscle power.  So, I tried it.  And, apparently, none of our bucket lids are all that tight fitting when they are being jounced and jostled through varying terrain with gallons and gallons of sap pushing against them.  After a couple days of coming in from retrieving sap looking like this:

I came up with a new method.  

Which, mounted correctly with the spigot hanging off the back of the quad, makes emptying the sap from the jug into storage buckets pretty nifty.  Less splashing, less waste.  Easier on my back, too.

I just drive up to each tree, take the lid off the Big Orange Jug (that's what it's been called at this little place here since, well, before there was a this little place here.),  remove the milk jug sap collector from the tree, unscrew the lid of the milk jug, and pour the sap into the Big Orange Jug.  Replace the milk jug lid, put the milk jug on it's spile, put the lid back on the Big Orange Jug, and drive to the next tapped tree.

From there, the sap goes to the garage, where I filter it through muslin (to remove bugs, etc) before it goes into food grade buckets to store until I have time to boil it down.

When it's time to boil, I am still using my turkey fryer.  Had hoped to perhaps get a sap pan welded up and an evaporator built out of cinder blocks back in the woods (so no more hauling sap through the thawing field!), but with other events going on this winter, that project had to be put on hold another year.  The turkey fryer works, it just takes quite a while.

I only set 8 taps this year.  Some of my storage buckets are in use storing other things right now (namely DH's barley for brewing), so I didn't want to end up with more sap than I could store between boils.  And with babysitting the grandkids two afternoons a week, that's two days I cannot be tending a flame-powered apparatus.  So, each boil is only netting a few pints of finished syrup.  I'm up to a half-gallon of syrup, so far after only two boils.  Sap is currently running well, so I foresee boiling at least twice this week.  Should be a pretty good year.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

When It's All Just Buzzwords and Money.

I used to grow organic veggies.  Then organic got recognized as being a potential money-maker, and the government got involved, and after that to say your veggies were organic you had to go through a certification process--which involved a fee, of course, to the tune of several thousand dollars.  So, even though my gardening methods have not changed one bit, I no longer grow organic veggies.

Instead, I had naturally grown veggies.  But now naturally grown has been glommed onto as a catch phrase by every major food corporation there is, and I don't call mine that anymore, lest it give people the impression mine are just as tasteless and probably nutritionless as the ones in the grocery store with that label.  Mine are just vegetables, you know, the ones I grew in my garden.

My chickens free-range.  But, apparently, so do some of the millions of birds in commercial growing houses; the ones whose corporate owners 'care for' enough to get to live in a giant barn where there are no cages--only masses of birds jostling for floor space around automated feeders and waterers, wing to wing with no grass or bugs or fresh air.  So I don't really say much about free ranging any more when talking about my chickens.  My chickens know bugs and worms, grass and weeds, dirt and fresh air, sun and rain and snow, and I know they know those things.  That's how my chickens spend their lives.

My meals have been homemade for years.  Meaning, I peeled, washed, sliced, cooked, and otherwise prepared the foods we eat.  Did you know that you can get homemade mashed potatoes and baked goods at many grocery stores now?  Yep.  Made in the store =  "Homemade". Who, exactly, lives in the grocery store in order for it to qualify as a home?  Kind of discounts my own culinary creations by implying that the ones with the homemade sticker from the store are equal in quality to my own.  Used to be, a homemade cake came out of your oven, not the oven at the nearest bakery.

Farmers' Markets have gone big time.  Used to be they were a place where local small producers, whether farmer, gardener, or baker, could come together and sell their wares.  I don't know about you, but what I have seen in the last ten years is that the Farmers' Markets around me have slowly become less about locally produced foods by small and/or family businesses/farms, and more about businesses setting up a weekly booth at the Farmers' Market to tap into the customer base that attends such things.  Maybe I'm biased.  I managed one of the local markets for two seasons, in 2007 and 2008.  For a number of reasons, I resigned my position before the 2009 season started.  Whenever I happen to attend that particular market now as a customer, I don't see the farmers that were the mainstay of the market seven and eight years ago.  I see a lot of vendors with other stuff, most of it not even food; and quite a bit of what food there is was made in the kitchen of a restaurant/commercial bakery.  A place that has it's own storefront elsewhere.  To me, that is not what a farmers' market was intended to be.  Where are the local people behind the vendor tables?  When did local stop meaning someone you knew by name, maybe even where they lived, and start meaning someone somewhere vaguely close to your area maybe?

It makes me sad.  A good thing, taken advantage of in the name of profit by companies (or municipalities) more focused on a profit goal than on the spirit of the item.  The spirit that made that thing so desirable in the first place. The spirit of community, of sharing your talent with your neighbors.  Of offering to them, something that you have that they don't.

This week, there has been a big blow-up on a forum that I've been a member of for more than a decade.  As long as that forum has been around, in fact.  It has changed ownership a few times in recent years, and now is in the hands of a large corporation that is also involved with other large corporations, many of whom most members of the forum (myself included) do not want to be associated with.  This latest change in ownership was not well publicized; in fact, most of us members had no idea until a few days ago.  And now those owners have been caught doing something unethical with the content of the forum.  Something very akin to what has been done with organic, natural, free range, and local.  Abused.  Violated.  Degraded.  In the name of profit.  And we, the people, the lifeblood of that forum, are supposed to be placated by "oh, we're sorry.  But we're going to take some of that profit and make this a really cool forum for you."

We don't want a really cool forum.  We were there in the beginning, we were the ones who made the forum cool.  And we made it cool because we shared our talents with each other.  Because we wanted to.  Not because we were thinking "Hey, let's make this an awesome internet forum so that someday a big company will buy us and do all sorts of socially desirable techie stuff and draw people not really like us to our forum."

We, those who have been the life and soul of that forum, are mostly un-techie, don't care about the latest social media crazes, and have been living lifestyles that 10 & 20 years ago were weird. Lifestyles we came under fire for, were misunderstood for, had to defend ourselves for.  But now that  all things natural, organic, free-range, homemade and local now are trendy, apparently we aren't so weird, and we should allow ourselves to be exploited for corporate profit.

I don't think so.  I've always just wanted to live my own life, in the way I want to live it.  And be a mentor to others with the same aspirations.  That's it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.12: Barn Sweater Begins

Joining with Ginny's Yarn Along this cloudy, drizzly Wednesday.

So far this year, everything I've knit has been something intended as a gift for someone else.  With the completion of the Rosamond socks last week, my knitting focus has changed.  It's time to knit something for me.

This new project has me both excited and intimidated.  Last summer, I determined that I would like to make an adult sized sweater (as opposed to the baby & toddler sized sweaters that have been my repertoire so far).  Not just any adult sized sweater, but a sweater for me.  And then, just a few months later, came Issue 11 of Taproot Magazine, with a sweater pattern in it!  Not just any sweater pattern, but an adult sized pattern with the name of Barn Sweater.

Barn Sweater.  Sounds just like me.  I mean, I spend a lot of time in barns.  And, I'm usually doing physical labor that induces sweating.  LOL.

But seriously, this sweater pattern spoke to me.  There it was, the sweater I am supposed to make. (Yes, I believe in signs from above.)

So now I had the desire, and the pattern.  I would need yarn, lots and lots (pattern calls for approx 1440 yards for my size) of yarn.  Hmm.  Cost might be prohibitive to carrying through this project.

What happened next?  A yarn sale, in November, at Knit Picks, that happened to include the perfect color yarn for me.  Wool of the Andes worsted in Forest Heather.  Green has always been my favorite color, and the tweedy look of the yarn was exactly what I pictured my Barn Sweater to look like.

Okay.  Desire--check.  Pattern--check.  Affordable yarn--check.  All I needed now was time.  Time?!? Uncheck.  Smack dab in the season of Christmas present-creating madness.  Barn Sweater shelved until after Christmas.

After Christmas, Mom showed up at my door with a skein of sock yarn and a request that I knit her a pair of socks for her birthday in February.  Commence immediate knitting of  these socks, and push back the start of the Barn Sweater.  Then came a scarf/cowl swap I wanted to participate in.  And a sock KAL after that. I had so much fun participating in the sock KAL last year (and learned so much, too), how could I possibly sit it out this year?!?  So I signed up for those.

Well, the Rosamond KAL is coming to an end.  Soon the socks will be off in the mail to their intended recipient (along with the very first jar of the first run of my homemade maple syrup for this year).

Now is time for my Barn Sweater!  I'm so excited to finally, nearly a year after getting the urge to knit myself a sweater, more than six months after being inspired by a pattern, and four months after purchasing the yarn, cast on for the collar of the sweater.

And, truth be told, rereading the pattern I'm a bit intimidated.  Can I really knit this?  Can I really knit a sweater of this size and have it turn out wearable in public?  I'm not even sure I totally understand all of the directions.


Be brave, Kris.  Be confident, Kris.  I can do this.  If I get stuck, I can ask the owner of the LYS (who taught me to knit in 2013) for help.  I can.  She's nice, she'll help even if I didn't buy this yarn from her.

So I cast on.  And then I just did what the instructions said.  Nearly one week and almost one skein of yarn later, I have this:

a completed collar for my sweater

Today, I will start on the directions for the next section of the sweater.

Of course, the Yarn Thief has been very curious about the box of yarn I have out now that this project is underway.

I'm not sure if she approves of my yarn choice and wants the rest for herself, or if she thinks I should have chosen a different yarn and is trying to 'kill' the remaining skeins so I will have to start over with a different yarn/color.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Not Many Words, Lots of Crappy Cell Phone Pics

More horse time this month than I have had in years.  As in, time 'playing' (as DH puts it) with my horses and enjoying them.

Lunging Mr. Cold Back before riding.

When I bought the Quarter Horse, he thought lunging meant running full blast in tight circles with his head up.  It's so very nice to see him in a relaxed frame enjoying his work now.

Nice tongue; perhaps his commentary on me taking cell phone pics.

And what does he do once we're done riding and I turn him back out into the sun and warm(ish) air?  Roll in the mud, of course.

Been occasionally riding The Mare too.  I have officially retired her from dressage work now that she's 26 (and having some hind-end issues).  My new focus with her is just riding out wherever we may roam.  All at a nice leisurely walk.

Once done, she's got to get her roll in the mud too.

muddy mess

Then there's the Old Man, 31 this year.  He has not been ridden yet in 2015, but he gets his share of the attention too.  Mostly in grooming, and then hamming it up for the camera.

"Hey Kris, put the camera down and feed me some carrots!"

Some days I'd swear he was 21.

Or maybe even 11.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Garlic Experiment Update

Things have been thawing around here for about two weeks now.  The soil in my flowerbeds around the house is mostly workable.  And, drum roll please, the garlic bulbs I planted in plastic cups and stuck in my cellar last month are growing!!

So, in light of the so far successful garlic experiment, and the fact that a few things are actually sprouting outside--like a garlic head or two I missed during harvest last year!--I decided it was time to go ahead and transplant my garlic out to the garlic bed.

Late yesterday afternoon, I cleaned off and weeded the bed, as well as lifted those heads I missed last summer. Then I mixed in a nice thick layer of composted manure off the pile out by the garden.  Today after lunch, I hauled my trays of garlic-in-cups out of the cellar and to the terraced bed behind the house.

one of four trays of garlic sprouts

Next, I planted the garlic in rows, and added markers noting which type was planted where.

Of course, as I mentioned in my original post on this garlic experiment, the seed garlic got jumbled together between harvest and planting, so I didn't know for sure which head of garlic was which type.  So I made notes on the cups as I planted the cloves.  Today I wrote those designated names on the markers (which are wooden 'craft'--aka popsicle--sticks).

This variety had 16 cloves per head, so I marked it "16".

This variety had few cloves per head, but they were enormous.

These cloves had red skins, so naturally they got called "Red". 
I'm thinking they might be the Spanish Roja. . .

These, well, they were a hardneck, not an extraordinary amount of cloves per bulb and not especially large either.

The ones I missed pulling in July, and sprouted in a few different rows, so could be pretty much anything, I unimaginatively dubbed "Mystery".

Once they were all tucked safely into the ground, I grabbed a leftover bale of straw from last year's garden, and scattered a few flakes over the sprouts as mulch, since our night time temperatures are still dipping below freezing most nights.  

So far, things are looking good.  If the garlic sprouts survive transplant, I think they will be right on schedule as if I had actually planted them in the garlic bed last October, when I should have.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.11: Grandmother's Tools, Finished Socks, and Dressage Books

Happy Wednesday!  It's Yarn Along time again.  Joining in with Ginny today to see what everyone is knitting (or crocheting) and reading.

In my yarn along post a few weeks back,  I mentioned having received a box of DH's grandmother's knitting needles and crochet hooks several months back.

Since that post, I've thought that maybe some readers would be interested to see what all is in that box.  So, let's pull the box out from under the extra bed in the sewing room (formerly my sons' bedroom when they were growing up), and take a look-see!

Tons of stuff!

A bunch of metal crochet hooks in tiny, tiny sizes.

Now I know what DH's grandmother made all her beautiful doilies with! Which is cool to have these in my possession, as I have secretly aspired to someday make doilies like she did.  I believe it's called thread crochet.

There are also many other crochet hooks in the box; mostly aluminum, mostly in 'normal' sizes, although there are some wooden ones and some double-ended ones and some really huge ones!  

Check out the size difference!

And then there are knitting needles.  Oh, my the knitting needles!  Straights, and circulars and double points.  Many, many sizes.  Also multiples of quite a few of the sizes.  What a treasure trove.  Most are plastic, some are aluminum, all are old.  Quite a few of the intact packages had an original price from 25 to 55 cents.

Meanwhile, I finished my Rosamond socks over the weekend.  They came out beautifully, if I do say so myself.

 I have also been doing a bit of reading.  Still reading Sylvia's Farm, and enjoying it.  Also picked up a dressage book titled Ridden: Dressage from the Horse's Point of View and am really finding it interesting, thought provoking, and best of all I am feeling much more excited about riding again.  Hard to explain, but it takes me back quite a long time, more than a decade, in how I feel about my riding. *My* riding, as in how I want to ride, when I want to ride, how often I want to ride rather than riding that is dictated (or hampered) by other people's opinions, needs, or desires.

That's probably as clear as mud, but trust me, it's a good thing.  I also stumbled across a hardcover copy of Centered Riding 2 in excellent condition last Saturday, so I bought it.  I've owned Centered Riding since my single, childless, I'm-going-to-be-a-world-class-rider-someday days (now that's a long time ago!), but Centered Riding 2 came out right about the time I was married with four kids and in the midst of building the house at this little place here (so, no cash for 'frivolous' purchases like a sequel to a book almost two decades old and a dream--of being an international dressage rider--that  had been shelved for quite a while).

Thumbing through it and reading the captions on the illustrations has really been a trek down memory lane--seeing exercises I did while a working student in 1991, or looking at a diagram of a movement I once did on a horse that was training for 4th Level in 1992. . .  Also eye-opening seeing some of the author's words that could be a direct quote from my trainer in 2000 (this book was published in 2002!) and wondering if the author might have trained under the same person my trainer did back in the 1960s, as dressage in the US was still in it's infancy back then with not too many American trainers nor European ones coming here to do clinics.  It's really nice to feel the old fire--my burning love of riding--get rekindled inside of me.  And I've been spending more hours on horseback lately.

Tune in next week to see my next knitting project, which will be horse-related, and is due to be cast on any day now.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Strange Things We Eat

In general, we don't eat all that oddly at this little place here.  Beef, chicken, pork.  Good stuff.  Corn, green beans, peas, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, onions.  Yum yum.  Most people would agree.

Then there's venison, which a large percentage of Americans have never tried, never want to try, and think is totally unnecessary to consume ("Poor Bambi").  And duck.  And goose.  Very popular in other cultures, not so common in the good old U.S. of A.

How about squirrel?  That's pretty tasty, although I've only tried it once, smoked.  In my opinion, you can make just about anything taste good by smoking it.

Rabbit?  Tastes like chicken.  Pretty scrawny chicken, but still like chicken.

Pheasant?  Pheasant breast makes a great Grilled 'Chicken' Caesar salad in the summer time.  I get so crazy excited over pheasant breast.

Lamb?  Oh my goodness.  Stuffed lamb chops.  So tiny, and so delicious.

Elk?  You haven't had sloppy joes until you've had elk sloppy joes on a December day in a cabin heated solely with wood and said sloppy joes were cooked over a wood stove.  Mmmm.

Even with beef and pork, if we are using home raised meat, we end up using some pretty unusual cuts.  Tongue.  Heart (awesome sliced thin and fried with onion and garlic).  Liver.  Beef shanks.  Ham hocks.  Short ribs.  Oxtail (very good for soup with winter veggies).

And then there are times like now, when we are gifted an occasional cut of something really rare.  If you were able to check my Googling history in the past couple of weeks, you'd see me using search words like  recipe for bear tenderloin and how to cook a goat arm steak.

Sounds pretty strange, yes?

I have to agree with you.  I grew up eating beef, pork, chicken.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would find other animals tasty.  Heck, to be perfectly honest, I was a super picky eater and really didn't even like pork unless it was in the form of ham or bacon or smoked kielbasa (I repeat, smoking makes pretty much anything palatable).

I also never imagined I would love to eat spinach, asparagus, eggplant, chard, kale, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, more than ten varieties of squash, peppers galore, artichokes, and other veggies that aren't normally encountered in a diet that comes from a can or a bag of frozen vegetables purchased at the store.

Same with dried beans and peas.  Not to mention crazy grain-things like barley, bulgur, and quinoa.  Brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice.  I'm such a lover of strange things now.

Growing my own, hunting my own, and becoming acquainted with other people who also grow and hunt their own has really expanded my horizons.  Not to mention my gustatory pleasure, and my culinary repertoire.

(Not only do I eat strange, I talk strange.  LOL.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lesson Learned

After 30 years of riding horses, I learned something new yesterday:

Always carry a spare pair of breeches!

Why, you ask?  Um, in case of funky mounting incidents where the saddle shifts a bit too much on your horse who tends to be a bit cold-backed (and therefore a little goosey at mounting from time to time), and you abort the mount just before getting to the point where you swing your leg over, and during the kick-free-from-the-left-stirrup-and-find-ground-behind-you-with-right-foot sequence, the inner seam on your full-seats gives out.  Like six-inches worth, starting at the crotch and going down the thigh.

It was not a pretty sight.  Because although if I stood perfectly still and in the right position the tear only looked innocent--or, at least, as innocent as a tear in that location could look. . . 

the innocent position

. . . mostly it gaped open, showing the world my winter white pasty looking thigh.


The Quarter Horse saying "Nobody wants to see that!"

I went ahead and rode anyway (riding time is precious!); although I confess it was a kind of drafty ride, and I didn't spend as long riding as I had originally planned because I was worried that someone else might come to the farm and get an eyeful of parts of my flesh that should be covered by breeches.

So, lesson learned.  From now on, I will keep a spare pair of breeches in with my horse gear at the barn.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.10: A Quick One

Busy Wednesday, so this Yarn Along post will be pretty brief for me.

As you can see, I found a book to read this week.  Actually, Ginny has talked about it on her yarn along post the last couple of weeks, and, since DD2 is kind of an apprentice sheep farmer right now, I thought it might be an interesting read for me too.

Despite a weekend of mistakes and frustrations of the knitting kind--where I could not for the life of me keep the same pattern on all three needles; I kept switching rows somewhere in the midst of needles two and three and thus having to go back and unknit to correct myself; sock #2 of the Rosamond socks has a leg and a heel.  I'm almost done with the gusset and hoping to finish this sock before next week's yarn along.

That's all for now; I've got sap to collect, a horse to check on (she was acting not quite right when I went to ride last night; think she might be having a bit of sand colic), more seeds to get started, and high school conferences to attend today.  Plus church tonight; church every Wednesday evening during Lent.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Seeds Are Started

Maple syrup is not the only 2015 crop that is currently underway at this little place here.  In the past week, I've gotten a portion of my vegetable seeds started too.

It took me a while to figure out a solution to the How Am I Going To Raise Seedlings Without The Grandkid(s) And The Cat Killing Them Before The Garden Is Ready? dilemma.  From past experience when my own kids were young, I know little kids and sprouting seeds do not a good combination make. Oh, it's educational for the kids, sure, but it's giving the seeds a death sentence because inquisitive little fingers just have to poke and pull and touch the fragile little plants that emerge from the soil.  When my own kids were little, my garden was much smaller (we only lived on about an acre and a half then, with a 20' x 30' garden) and I always resorted to buying my tomatoes and peppers as seedlings ready to transplant because any seed I started in the house inevitably got massacred before the weather outside got warm enough to move the young plants out to the garden.

I could clean out enough floor space (I think) for my seed trays in the study; the one room in the entire house that grandkids don't have access too because it is blocked off by a baby gate for the protection of our computer, printer, photo albums, books, etc.  But that didn't solve the problem of the cat. . .

I knew the Yarn Thief would have a heyday digging in the little pots of soil and would more than likely feel the need to taste and/or roll around on any seedlings that managed to emerge.  Another death sentence for my seeds.

I confess, I pondered this twin challenge for several weeks before hitting on the solution.  Honestly, the solution kind of smacked me in the face via an email from the local farm supply/feed store.  That email had a sale ad attached, and front page center of the sale ad was a 4-shelf mini-greenhouse for about 30% off the regular price.


So I bought one.  And, in hindsight a week after the sale ended, I should have bought more than one.  Ah well.  Live and learn.  And put mini-greenhouse #2 on my wish list (aka the list I give my parents when they ask what I would like for my birthday or Christmas) for next year.

Nearly as tall as I am, with four shelves, and ensconced in a zippered plastic case, my newly acquired mini-greenhouse is impenetrable to the Yarn Thief.  Erected in the study (albeit, blocking one book shelf), it is also out of the reach of K3 and Toad (who has recently become somewhat mobile at 8 months).  The manufacturer had intended it for use out of doors, on a deck or patio, but it works well in my study--I put some cardboard and an old beach towel (apparently 20yo and 17yo daughters no longer want a Big Bird beach towel) underneath it to catch any condensation that might occur.

I planted my first seeds, six varieties of tomatoes, last Tuesday.  I planted my second batch of seeds, 13 varieties of peppers and three kinds of flowers, yesterday.  This morning, the tomatoes began to show up as delicate green sprouts.

Batch three to be seeded (tomorrow?) will be the watermelons and the 'early' broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.  Most of the brassicas will be direct seeded in the garden, as I seem to have better success with that than with transplants, but I do like to have some seedlings to set out in May in the hopes that those will be ready to eat a bit sooner than the rest.

For the curious, here are what kinds I planted, and where from:

  • Tomatoes
  1. Federle (my favorite for paste/sauce) from Seed Saver's Exchange
  2. Roma (my 'backup' for paste/sauce) from Totally Tomatoes
  3. Marglobe (new to me this year for fresh eating--mmm tomato slabs on just about everything!) from  Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  4. St. Pierre (also new to me, for canning) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  5. Rutgers (for canning) from Baker Creek
  6. Homestead (for canning) from Totally Tomatoes
  • Peppers--I should say I am doing a pepper experiment this year and trying lots of new varieties
  1. Serrano (hot) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  2. Habanero (hot) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  3. Ancho (mildly hot--for stuffing) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  4. Jalapeno M (supposedly the standard for making into chipotles) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  5. Early Jalapeno (poppers, canning, and in my salsa) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  6. California Wonder (bell, for fresh eating and dicing & freezing) old seed from NK
  7. Wisconsin Lakes (a red bell, for fresh eating and dicing & freezing, ) from Seed Saver's
  8. Guajillo (for drying to make chili powder) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  9. Corno di Toro Giallo (Italian sweet pepper for cooking fresh) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  10. Sweet Banana (for pickling) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  11. Topepo Rosso (fresh eating or dry to make paprika) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  12. Bull Nose (red bell, for fresh eating and also for dicing & freezing) from Annie's Heirloom Seeds
  13. Alma Paprkia (for drying and making paprika) from Seed Saver's
  • Flowers
  1. Marigolds (for interplanting w/my tomatoes to repel tomato worms) from NK
  2. Blue Balloon Flower (for garden edging to draw pollinators) from Fedco Seeds
  3. Four O'clocks (for the shadier flowerbed behind my house--totally sentimental because when I was a little girl my maternal grandmother grew four o'clocks at the base of her house) from Fedco Seeds

Sunday, March 8, 2015

It's Time!!

Tree tapping time, that is! After a very chilly February, and even days last week where the high temperature was in the teens, warmer weather is finally here.  Which means the maples are going to be chugging sap up from their roots out to the tips of even their furthest branches in preparation for popping out leaves in a few weeks.  Which means that it is time to tap trees and make syrup.

The this little place here weather forecast for the next ten days sounds perfect: highs above forty every day, and nights hovering at or below freezing.  Yippee!

So, today I went out after lunch and set taps.  Boy, I can't tell you how much easier it is to get back into my 'sugarbush' on the road DH cut through the woods last summer than doing it the 'old' way of having to walk to the far north or far south corner of the field, east on the woods roads at either [north or south] end and then over almost halfway along the east line to get to where the greatest population of maple trees is.  Now all I do is walk through the field to the Maple Road (can you guess why we named it that?) and follow that road due east into the sugarbush.  Feelin' a little spoiled now.

Once again this year I'm using my poor man's maple syrup set-up: spiles given to me by Mother-in-Law years ago, saved and washed out milk jugs for the sap to drip into, 5-gallon buckets to haul and store sap, my turkey fryer for boiling down the sap into syrup, and canning jars for storing the finished syrup in.

poor man's sap bucket

trees with their white plastic appendages

a two-tapper tree!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Lunch Time Visitor

The other day, while I was eating lunch after returning home from a morning of work, a bluebird happened to land on the railing of the deck outside my dining room.  The day was kind of washed out dreary in lighting, and the wind blew; gusting now and then.

This little bluebird stood on the rail, buffeted by the wind, and fluffed up against the cold, just long enough for me to snap a few shots.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.9: Oh Snap!

Warm (okay, relative term; temperature is still not above freezing, but it's almost to 30!) and windy here today.  Joining Ginny for the Yarn Along.

Late last week, I was knitting merrily away on my Rosamond sock, when. . . SNAP!

Oh shi----I mean, oh snap!--I broke a DPN!  Ruh-roh, as Scooby Doo would say.  The cat all ready chewed up the end of one of my needles, making it very difficult to knit with.  Now I'd broken a needle, leaving me just three good ones in the size I need.  I have to have four to knit this sock.  Slight panic ensued. . .

Then I remembered the (very large) box of knitting and crocheting implements that Mother-in-Law sent down to us a few months ago.  All needles and hooks that had belonged to DH's grandmother.  Since DD1, DD2 and I are the only knitters and crocheters in Mother-in-Law's line of descent, she decided that this ancient collection (well, maybe not ancient but there are many antiques in the box) should go to us.

Maybe, just maybe, could I find a set of size 1 dpns in that box?  I couldn't remember if DH's grandmother ever knit socks or anything else requiring double points, especially ones of that size.

Well, it couldn't hurt to look.  If worse came to worse, I would just have to make a trip to the LYS (local yarn shop) and purchase another set of 1's before I could finish my Rosamond socks.

Guess what!  Not one, but two sets of dpns in a size 1!! One aluminum set (which, I confess, I don't care for aluminum knitting needles quite as much as I like wooden ones--too slippery),  and one plastic set (which are very flexible, almost rubbery).  PHEW!  Saved!

So, I was able to continue knitting and finished sock #1 on Saturday morning.

front view of finished Rosamond sock #1

Then, due to having several things going on over the weekend and early this week, I waited a few days before casting on for sock #2.  As of last night, I have the cuff and 1/2 of the first pattern repeat done.

Not currently reading anything.  Tried two different books after grudgingly returning The Nourishing Homestead to the library for the next person on the hold list, but could not get into either new book I opened.  My tolerance for 'bad writing' is getting less and less.  Either that, or with the ease of publishing these days, books that are badly edited and/or poorly written are getting more prevalent.  Whichever is the case, I'm bookless for today's post.