September, Honey!

It’s September, and it’s sweeter than ever around here, because we got our first honey harvest!

I’ve been keeping a careful eye on the hive all summer, after they attempted to swarm this past spring. Actually, they may have actually had a successful swarm, but if so, it was a very small one.  The hive has been crowded and busy and super productive.  I administered two feedings of sugar syrup early in the season, but they’ve done well on their own since. One entire 8-frame “super”, or box, was filled to the brim with beautiful honey.  They actually began making comb and filling it with honey in between supers as well, and every time I picked one up to check on them it would break and leak, so I gave them an extra box to fill.

As it turns out, they didn’t bother with it much, but it was also late in the summer at that point.  Out of 8 frames, I took 3, so I could leave them with plenty to get through the winter.  That gives us enough for a decent amount to enjoy and I don’t feel like we are robbing them entirely. Especially since I keep them expressly for pollination; honey is a secondary benefit!

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To get the honey off the frames, I used the “crush and drain method”. You can get special centrifuge extractors, but with only 3 frames, it didn’t seem worth it.  I managed to get the comb and honey off of 2 frames without damaging the wax frame, but I mangled the third.  Oh well. Can’t win ’em all!

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I drained it all over a very fine mesh sieve to filter out the wax and any bee parts.

In the end I got 9 jars’ worth, or about 5.5 lbs!

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I’m so proud of my little honeybees!

Sweet Stuff

Have you seen Magic Custard Cake????

Alicia Paulson blogged about it recently and I just had to try it. And now, you should, too!

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So creamy and delicious!

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I’ve made it twice now; my family keeps asking for more! It was super easy, and though I was sure it wasn’t going to turn out properly either time, it “magically” did.

Speaking of sweets, Oona turned 8 this past Friday.  As usual, she requested a Carvel ice cream cake. She decorated it herself, and where Neve usually writes “Treat Yo Self” or similar on her cakes, Oona wrote “This cake is MINE”.

Can’t say I blame her – those things are so terribly good (and bad for you!).

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You see the size of that thing? She has eaten almost all of it now – two days later – on her own. We all have some of it on Friday, but she has claimed it all for herself since. I told her to enjoy it, because at this rate I’m going to withhold all sugar from her until Halloween!

The news I am particularly happy to share, however, is that I finished the second sleeve of my Shepherd Sweater!

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I am now working steadily on the hood. In fact, I’ve done precious little else all weekend. My needles are on fire!

Summer’s Sunday

I’ve been seeing a meme on both Facebook and Pinerest lately about how August is summer’s Sunday, and I quite like it.  It’s appropriate this year, given the changes I’m already seeing.

Though, to be fair, it isn’t always like this.  This summer (and last, too) was pretty mild.  In Augusts past we’ve had brutal days and nights where it’s still 90 degrees at 10:00 at night. Now may days are bracketed by farm chores completed in downright comfortable temperatures.  Three years ago I had to be out by 8 am to beat the awful oppressiveness of it. Evenings I would just sweat through it.

But these last few……..

It’s been perfect.  My friend Lisa and I agree that we can put up with frigid “polar vortex” type winters if it means we can have these summers.

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The stream is totally overgrown, but it’s a lot of wildflowers and color.  It’s so difficult to properly photograph.

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See that wild morning glory in there? It’s that time!

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Alabama, in our pasture wasteland.  The grass (not that we had much to begin with) is all gone for the year.

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Happy Sabine.

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Roquefort is so “majephtic”.

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Sweet Keswick

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Yeardley

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Basil, who has never lost his cuddliness.

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Chicken watering hole.

Our curriculum for the school year is submitted, plans for share dyeing are in the works, Emily the shearer has been contacted about shearing the Angora goats. Our first tentative steps toward fall have been taken.

Another Beach Trip In The Books

One last summer getaway, and now I’m back.  Local schools started up again yesterday, and though we aren’t starting until after labor day, I’ve realized just how precious little time I have to enjoy summer’s remainder and finish my before-school tasks.

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I did get to put my toes in the water before the “Hazardous Water” warnings went up.  Friday the beach and the water were perfect, but Saturday and Sunday we simply sat and watched the waves, as the red flags warning of rip currents were up.  We couldn’t believe how many people were still swimming. Worse than that, how many little kids were playing in the dangerous surf. The news yesterday ran a story that lifeguards rescued 22 people from the waters on Sunday. Crazy!

Despite that, we enjoyed our time immensely and it was just the respite I needed.

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Look at those beach colors!  I want to knit with those colors.  Time to go stash diving!

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Looking down to Gabi and Theresa.

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Laura enjoying the breeze

The great thing about our beach trip each year is that we’ve been there enough times now to know where to eat, what’s fun to do, and how we”re going to manage it all.  Our traditions mean we don’t have to think too much or worry about planning.  We can simply enjoy our time together.

It’s also, apparently, Neve’s signal to herself that summer can be over and we can start doing “fall” things.  That kid.

I’m not ready to give up summer, though. There’s more swimming to be done, more marshmallows to roast, more fresh pesto to eat, more mornings to sleep in.

Slow down, August!

August Again

There’s something about August.  I want it to be all about enjoying the last month of summer, of no school, of swimming. I want it to be about never-ending fresh garden tomatoes and basil.

In a sense, it is.  But there’s something else. There’s something in the late afternoon light, and something in the way the garden starts to stretch out and look ragged and ready to give over to the cooler-weather crops. Something in the way the wool starts to look ever so much longer on the sheep than it seems it did just last week. There’s something in those first tendrils of Morning Glories stretching up the porch railings that reminds me to think about getting the canning jars ready and spend the next few weeks putting up the summer’s bounty.

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I’m starting to get lots of monster-sized “German Johnson” heirloom tomatoes out of the garden.  The basil looks just awful, and I may have to harvest it out and make pesto a few weeks earlier than usual.

The butternut squash looks great; I’ll probably cut them up and freeze them in cubes for soup. I’m completely over the zucchini, as per usual this time of year. Thankfully, the plant itself has had enough as well.

Egg production has slowed somewhat as the heat has intensified lately.  We also have two broody hens who have stopped laying in an effort to hatch a few, and that’s not helping matters.  I’ve marked two eggs and left them there for them to hacth; whether or not they do only time will tell.

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The tomatoes that we are not eating right away are getting slow roasted for sauce. It makes the house smell divine to have these lovelies roasting all day long.  Sometimes I like to throw them on some fresh pasta with a bit of olive oil, some garlic, and some basil.  Fabulous summer dinner!

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The jars are patiently awaiting tomatoes and pesto.  If things continue to go well in the hive, some of those honey jars may get filled as well.

As for the milking buckets and milk bottles, I’m about 85% sure I’ll start to look for a rental buck soon to breed the dairy goats. I’m craving fresh goat cheese for the spring.

But that is a concern I will focus on later, because tomorrow I am headed to Virginia Beach with some of my favorite people.

Summer’s not over yet!

Of Gardens And Sewing

As much as it pains me to admit defeat, I’m throwing in the towel on the pumpkins. The squash bugs have won that battle.  I got one good pumpkin picked before they destroyed it, and managed a photo of one that was being turned to mush on the backside by the bugs.  Those fifteen days I was in Europe set the stage for a mass takeover of pests that I could not reverse.  But, it’s okay.  I’m still calling this year’s garden a win, and every year I learn a bit more and get better at how I manage growing food.

I did get several jars of green beans canned, and a good dozen or so jars of pickles made.  I picked lots and lots of zucchini.  I got three butternut squash, one field pumpkin, and four delicious cantaloupes (we are SO growing those again next year!).   There are two watermelons looking pretty decent still out there, and many, many large tomatoes waiting to turn red.

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Next year I will use the deep mulch method again (it helped dramatically with the weeds!) and double down on the diatomaceous earth and Neem oil early on.

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As for the rest of this year, I have carrots, beets, and parsnips going in now, and at the end of the summer I’ll put Kale and Chard in again, along with some brussels sprouts starts. And THIS year I have floating row covers so I can hope to avoid little critters munching down my plants!

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September will once again see a massive basil harvest and several solid days making pesto ravioli. Tradition!

I’ve also been trying to get back into the craft studio on the rainy days (when I can’t get work done outside) and work on finishing up projects that have been languishing (Shepherd Sweater, anyone?) and working on my skill set (I need to work on fitting and finishing techniques).

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I cut out another Washi tunic in cotton jersey, hoping to give it a bit of Alabama Chanin flair.

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The animals in the house LOVE when I work on crafty things.  It’s their cue to hover.

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Three big dogs piled onto the tiny round carpet in the studio. They’re pretty good company, actually, when I’m not tripping over their gigantic-ness.

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The tunic is coming along nicely; I added a ruffled edge to the neckline and left the waist with a ruffled raw edge as well.  I’ll be adding cap sleeves and hemming it  next.