Staying Productive

As I mentioned last time, the kids are away this week and so the pressure is on to get things done before they get back.  It’s actually more difficult than I would have thought, because with no one needing me every ten seconds I can lose myself in things for a lot longer than I probably should and before I know it I’ve spent far too long reading rather than cleaning.

It’s okay.  Relaxation is good for me, too.

Yesterday I spent the day with Susan and Caroline over at the farm working on sewing projects.  We had all been lusting after a dress made with  this pattern, and it just so happened that I have it.  We played with fabrics and zippers and sewing machines and in the end managed to finish a skirt from this Amy Butler pattern.  We’re not necessarily the most productive team when we’re having too much fun enjoying each others’ company.  But it was just what I needed to break up a week of sequestering myself for the purpose of house cleansing.  Being around the animals and hearing the sweet “baaahs” and “maaahs” is wonderfully rejuvenating.

And now, on to the BIG news.

I will be shortly giving away 3 skeins of Noro Silk Garden RIGHT HERE to one lucky reader.

Details to come!!!!!!

Gratuitous Wren picture.  Lord, I love that lamb!



Busy Week

This week the girls are staying with their grandparents in New York and the pressure is on to get things done!

Don’t worry, I am making sure to have plenty of relaxing down time as well.  Lots of Japser – cat cuddle time is happening, lots of knitting time with Gulliver in my lap, lots of catching up on the tv I can’t watch with kids around.


Also lots of cleaning out, throwing away, packing up for storage, weeding, steam cleaning, etc.  You get the idea.

Even better, lots of knitting and sewing.  I am getting ready to put the finishing touches on a strip patchwork quilt using all of my precious discontinued  Heather Ross fabrics.

It’s looking better than I could have hoped, and I found a queen – sized flat sheet at WalMart that looks very similar to one of the Heather Ross polka dot fabrics.  It’s doing nicely as my quilt backing.

But it won’t get done tonight.

Tonight I am taking Maddie to PF Chang’s as a belated birthday gift.


Scary Night at the Farm

I went out this evening to check for eggs in the front coop.  And got quite a scare.

Here I was thinking the only danger facing me was our surly one – eyed rooster, Roobert.  And yes, he pecked at me quite a bit.  But still I sauntered quite casually into the coop and was greeted by a horrifying site.  Something no poultry farmer wants to see, but inevitably will some day.

A big black snake.

Thankfully Paul was home to help, because I froze up.  I hated killing the thing, because Black Snakes are not poisonous and are good rodent control, but there was no way to get him out of there without endangering my flock, and now that he knew where the egg buffet was, he’d be sure to return.

In fact, you can see the egg yolks that oozed out of him when Paul got him with the pitchfork.  No eggs for us today.

The other scary bit is that this guy was only 3 or 4 feet long, and presented quite a challenge to kill.  Anything larger (or venomous) would be a much riskier proposition.

I might be going to the coops with a shotgun for awhile.

Just sayin’.

Another Solstice

It’s the summer solstice today.  The first official day of summer. The longest day of the year. The day after which all days will begin to shorten.

This is a day we enjoy celebrating.  There’s no commercial or familial obligations; most people barely acknowledge it.  It’s a day for us to celebrate something more basic – the change of seasons.  More specifically, today we celebrate the best parts of summer.

Traditionally, this is best done outside.  Swimming all day, or peach – picking like last year.  Eating all our meals outside, the last one under a growing canopy of night, the starts just beginning to twinkle and the fireflies and bats just beginning to show.  Later on, a campfire with marshmallows and games or stories.  Maybe even singing.

This year, the weather wasn’t that cooperative.

We tried swimming, but as today was the first day over 80 degrees in a week or two the pool water was decidedly too cold.  Besides that, various thunderstorms rattling through the area kept us inside as well. There won’t be any eating outside tonight (too muggy and buggy), no fireflies, no bats.  (Well, there might be, but between the clouds and mist, and whatnot, you know).

So we’ve tried out more of the quiet, unsung sweet parts of summer.

Making blueberry muffins (and eating them all before even one picture could be taken).

Quietly watching the approach of a summer storm (a non – threatening, no – tornado kind of storm) from the safety of the front porch.

Making a round of Butterbeer for the kids.

Reading (Emily is working on the 4th Harry Potter book, Neve the first.  I am reading the 3rd book of The Hunger Games trilogy.  Riveting!)

Napping (okay, that was just me).

And enjoying our favorite two summer foods for dinner: corn on the cob, and pesto.

We feel pretty good about this low- key solstice.  We’ll be back to our favorite summer activities soon enough.

Happy Solstice to you all!


A few weeks ago I was weeding all of the grass that likes to grow in massive clusters in my front garden box where I have my herbs.

Seriously if only the grass would grow on the lawn like it grows in my garden areas!

Anyway I spotted a bright caterpillar on a stalk of dill.  An unlikely place, I thought, to find such a creature, but I was happy because normally the only caterpillars we come across are the ones that turn into giant ugly brown moths.  Even a luna moth caterpillar would be welcome, but no such luck.

Until that day.

We brought him in the house, stuck him in a glass jar along with the stalk of dill he had been working on, and by the next evening he was spun into a nice chrysalis.

Then the waiting game began.

We looked up what type of butterfly we were growing – a Black Swallowtail Butterfly – and read all about how they grow and how they change and how long it takes.

And then two days ago….

Our patience and vigilance paid off.

We set him out on the blooming butterfly bush out front and watched him fan out and dry his wings for awhile before taking off into the world.

Good luck out there little butterfly!


Cherries Hit the Sauce!

I made two different cherry concoctions to preserve our substantial harvest from last week.

The first was the impetus for my wild over – picking and buying, and that was Local Kitchen’s Drunken Cherries.  This “Cherries Meet Booze” idea just begged to be re-created in my kitchen, and I made a few jars which are now sitting and waiting to be enjoyed.

At least one jar of these lovelies will be accompanying me on the annual Book Club Virginia Beach Weekend in August.

Once I had these done I still had plenty of cherries and I figured Cherry Preserves was the way to go……but what recipe?

Luckily, my friend Tanya gave me an idea – Brandied Cherry Preserves.

More booze.


And the upside is, the alcohol in this recipe cooks off so the kids can enjoy it, too!

I didn’t actually use a recipe with this.  Rather, I employed a method I found here and then tweaked a bit.

The basic idea, is that you stem and pit as many cherries as you want.  (Hint: Get a cherry stoner!!!!  You’ll thank the heavens you did!)

Wash them well, chop them up good and chunky (leave some big pieces) and put them in a big non – reactive pot and cook them until they are nice and juicy.

When they appear soft and juicy, measure the fruit and juices together.  However much it is, you’ll add three – quarters that amount of sugar to the pot.

Then continue to cook it all together.  It will get pretty foamy.

You’ll want to put a clean plate in the freezer while you’re doing this.

After quite a bit of stirring and foaming the cherries and juice and sugar will start to thicken.  It will still be kind of thin and liquidy, but when you think it’s a little less so, drop a dab onto that plate that you put in the freezer.

Put it back in the freezer for a few minutes and then push it a bit with your finger.  If it gels up as you push it, it’s ready (check the pics on the site I linked to for this – they are quite good).

Remove it from the heat, and you’re ready to add the brandy.

I added a small amount at a time and used a clean spoon to put taste – test sized globs onto a plate.

I could snort the result, truly.

Personally, I did not process the resulting jam jars in a hot bath, because I decided to keep them in the fridge instead.  Believe it or not I did not have an overwhelming amount of jam, and after giving several jars away, we have enough in the fridge to keep us through fall, which is about how long it’s supposed to be good.

If you want to can it in true fashion, check out Ball’s Fresh Preserving site for instructions.  You’ll basically just pour the jam into hot sterilized jars, put on the lids and boil them for probably ten minutes or so.

Happy Preserving!

Cherry Picking

I’ve been trying to post this for a few days now, but I’ve had technical difficulties.  You know, the kind where your computer develops a nasty case of I hate you and I refuse to do your bidding.

But we’ve solved (fingers crossed anyway) our glitch and I can tell you that we went cherry picking at Spring Valley Orchard and brought home TWENTY POUNDS of cherries.  Sweet, dark, delicious juicy cherries.

You know, at first I thought maybe twenty pounds was a lot. Too much, even.  But you know what?  It takes an hour to get to this place, and it takes a whole lotta cherries to make pie, make preserves, make drunken cherries (more on these to come), give some to friends and family and still have plenty left for just plain snacking.  It makes me wish I could grow my own.

We lucked out that they opened on a day that was not too hot or humid, or too sunny either.  In years past we’ve finished up at the orchard red, hot, thirsty and grumpy.

Not this year.

Of course, stopping at Starbucks on the way and picking up a giant Mocha – Coconut Frappuccino didn’t hurt.

We also didn’t sample them this time.  We realized that they spray the bejeebers out of these trees to ensure decent yields, so we washed them thoroughly before using them.  It was very,very hard to wait.  It would be nice for there to be an organic orchard here, but I don’t honestly think it’s feasible in these parts on a commercial scale.

When I got home with my 20 lbs of cherries I had the idea that they should sell cherry stoners at the check – out stand.  I ended up going into Charlottesville to buy one.

It was hard tearing the girls away from the trees – they would have kept on picking all day if we’d let them.  And I might have, if not for the cost (cherries aren’t cheap!).

It’s quite a remote spot, this orchard.  You feel as though you’re heading further and further into nowhere (though it’s beautiful).  There’s a quaint old cemetery behind the stand surrounded by a stone wall, giving the impression that it may have been an old homestead at one point.

It felt remote and somewhat lonesome, but what a view!

As soon as we got home we ate at least two big bowls full of cherries.  Then I began the arduous task of washing, drying and freezing several bags.  One bag went to Juniper Moon Farm and two bags went to my parents as an early Father’s Day and a Happy Birthday to my mother. Yet another bag became a cherry pie.  The pie barely lasted a day.  Even my husband, who professed a deep dislike for cherry pie all his life, devoured it.  I believe he may have eaten half that pie himself.

And that’s when it hit me.

Twenty pounds of cherries is nowhere near enough.