Strawberry Plot

Two days ago fifty strawberry plants arrived ready for planting.  FIFTY. The only problem was…..I hadn’t finished the spot to plant them!

Luckily we had plenty of cinderblocks so I could put up a small retaining wall of sorts, and I dug up several bucket loads of composted manure and hay from the back field to fill in the with the dirt.


It’s not the best handiwork that an afternoon has ever accomplished, but all fifty plants are safely and happily in the ground, ready to overwinter for a June fruiting.


Paul is going to drive some stakes into the “wall” for support and to give me something to hold up the netting we need to hang to keep the birds out.


Now I can’t wait for next June!

It’s A Pig’s Life

I’ve been thinking lately that the pigs are really the best animals we’ve got here.  They’re easy, they’re entertaining, they’re friendly, they’re pretty well self-contained, and they eat just about anything.

In addition to the store-bought pig feed they get twice a day, we feed them lots of our kitchen scraps.  Whenever I chop celery, they get the heads and ends.  Those apples gotten a tad too mealy for us to enjoy? The pigs adore them.  Watermelon rinds? Heck yeah!

It’s pretty convenient with our set-up, because I can open the back door and just toss it out to them.  Sure, they have to fight the chickens a bit, but it’s worth it, because those chickens tend to lay their eggs where the pigs like to nest in the shed.

Yes, pigs nest.  There’s a ton of hay in the goat shed that the pigs have burrowed into and made their own, and the chickens love to go in and lay their eggs in there.

The pigs LOVE fresh eggs.

Spoiled rotten, those two!

As they’ve gotten to know me they are vocal in their affections.  They’ll nudge at me and grunt a bit until I reach down and scratch behind their ears (or give them the tops from the carrots we’ve pulled from the garden).  Charley has always been a love, but Churchill took a bit longer to warm up to people.  He’s still stand-offish with new faces.  I feel crazy proud that he’s let me into his affections.

Another thing I’ve come to love is what we call “The Piggy Chorus”.  It happens twice a day.  When they decide it’s high-time to be fed they start singing and squealing for us.  Then, when they’ve spied us headed out with our buckets, they grunt appreciatively.


Check out the little tusks!  Even though they are neutered, they’ve both grown a small (but impressive!) set of tusks.


Isn’t Churchill such a handsome boy?


As for Charley, he tends to develop pig alopeocia every summer. It’s due to how much he likes to roll around in the dirt and mud, and his bristles wear off.  When it first starts he walks around with a pretty bitchin’ mohawk until he manages to rub off that as well.


Tonight I brought out some little watermelons for them to enjoy; Charley was too busy rooting around for something in the mud.


Churchill was more than happy to have Charley’s share!



A Late Summer Wedding

Brace yourselves – this post is picture-heavy.

This Saturday my father got remarried in a beautiful location in the Hudson Valley.  I drove up with Maddie on Friday and we met up with our brother, who we hadn’t seen in over a year. It was immediately the most fun we’ve had in ages.  Sibling sleepovers are  more fun when you’re adults.  It doesn’t hurt that my brother is the funniest guy I know. My abs hurt from giggling so hard.

Before the ceremony Saturday we struck out for Kingston to explore the town we had spent so much of our childhood in (well, Caleb and I anyway; Maddie’s been a Virginia kid since she was a year old).  It was surreal and weird to be there and see it all again.  So very little had changed, except that it looked so very much smaller than when we were children.  We had several spots to visit, as we moved around a lot during our time there.


Every corner we turned was an “oh! Remember?”  It quickly became a delightful day together, just the three of us, reveling in nostalgia.



The Old Dutch Church was a highlight; I’d always loved its architecture and history, and this time we got a tour of the inside. I still miss hearing its chimes throughout the day.




While driving past my old elementary school I remembered that there was a stunning view just over the hill.  Standing there, I remembered why I miss New York State so very much. The landscape simply speaks to me in a way that no other place does.



I was surprised to see the ruins of the old Hutton Brick factory still in place near Kingston Point Beach.  I was even more surprised to discover that the beach itself is still, in fact, covered with old bricks that have washed ashore.



After the beach we hit the Rondout Strand area for a quick lunch.  Or it would have been, if not for the worst service and even worse food.  Oh well, can’t win then all, right?

It did mean that we had to scramble to get back to the resort in time for the wedding.  Fortunately, we were able to make it in time to shower and change just in time for the ceremony.


The resort is backed by the Esopus Creek, which made for a lovey setting for a wedding.


My aunt, Diana, sang during the ceremony (and made us all cry).


Crying or not, I still made faces at my brother up there (he was best man).  I think he was ignoring me.


Julie, the bride, was radiant (as brides should be!) and I especially loved the tartan ribbon she wore about her waist. That’s her son to the left of her.  I think that means I have a new sibling?  And he has an adorable 18 month old daughter.  I have a step-niece!


Maddie looked beautiful, as always.


Looking at this picture, I think it’s apparent they will be very happy together in the years to come.

I hadn’t been to a wedding in ages, and I’m happy to say it was a wonderful time.  My cousin Jim came, and having him there along with my brother made my whole weekend.  Two days and a looooooong drive back home later, my heart is still full from their company this weekend.  I need to make sure we connect more.

Congratulations to the happy couple! Here’s to many years of happiness ahead!


Heading Out!

Despite the squash bugs destroying so much in the gardens, we are still seeing a lot of tomatoes and basil:


Perfect for pesto!  Pretty soon I’ll spend a weekend making  large batches pesto ravioli to freeze – just around the time we’ll be starting school.

As a matter of fact, I’m seeing more and more of this lately:


Summer’s waning, alright.

This weekend, though, I am headed out to a wedding up in the Hudson Valley. Fall’s going to have to hold off for at least a few more weeks!

Paul will be holding down the farm with the kids while I enjoy a mini reunion with family I haven’t seen in ages.  I’m a little nervous leaving them again so soon, and it’s a long drive north in the morning. I know Paul will do fine, though.  He’s been bonding more with the guard dogs than I ever anticipated he would; he even tries to invite them inside when the weather’s bad.  Nevermind that it’s their job to be out there, or that they were bred for harsh weather. Between that and all the kitten cuddling lately, I think he’s going soft.

There’s plenty going on in the next few weeks: apple picking, labor day, school, mine and Paul’s birthdays, and Emily is coming the first week of September to shear the goats.

Have a great weekend and enjoy it still being summer while you can!

Another Weekend, Come and Gone

The thing about blogging is that sometimes you’re at a loss for what to say after a weekend of lounging around with your cats, watching a Top Gear marathon on BBC.  Hardly makes for exciting reading, right?

I CAN tell you that we have gotten new neighbors, and Lucy and Orzo helpfully went over to personally greet them.  As it turns out, the woman over there is terrified of dogs.  *Sigh*

If we are very lucky they will be much like the previous neighbors, whom we barely even knew were there.

As for the neighbors behind us (the church) we discovered that (adding insult to injury) the clearing for the cemetery behind us was only part one.  Part two is the absolute clearcutting they will be doing to make themselves a new septic field for their new building (oh and the new neighbors want to clear cut as well – buhbye privacy!).

Thank goodness for cheap trees at Arbor Day Foundation. Looks like we’ll be buying spruce trees by the ton!

I did some more weeding in the gardens and pulled out all of the failed/failing squash plants.  The squash bugs beat me thoroughly, yet again.  I tried picking them off every day, twice a day.  It did no good.  I even tried the dish soap spray.  It made the plants look even worse.  Next year I’ll be using floating row covers and Neem oil.

The thing about Neem is that there’s no solid evidence of how it affects honeybees, so I have to be very careful.  The squash will only get sprayed at night when the bees are in their hives, and not at all once the plants have flowered.  Unfortunately it’s too late to try it this year.  The second planting of cucumber and zucchini I put in in July hasn’t grown very large due to the cooler weather.  If we don’t get a heatwave for the remainder of summer and into September I doubt they will fruit at all.

My tomato plants are looking great at the moment, and I’ve pulled a few nice cherry tomatoes off already.


Unfortunately the only varieties that are doing well are the Chadwick Cherry plants and the Mortgage Lifter plants.  None of the Cherokee Purple or San Marzano made it.

To hopefully remediate my garden woes I’m working on the soil this year.  We have had historically poor soil; fortunately we have crazy amounts of compost!  The area that was the lambing pen this year has broken down into the blackest, slickest dirt you could hope for (hay plus wood shavings plus lots of pee and poop sitting in the sun alllll summer).  I’ve been digging it up with the tractor and dumping it on areas of the gardens that are done for the season.  We also have plenty of fallen hay (full of poop from the livestock) that I will till in this fall and leave for next spring, in hopes of helping build better dirt for growing.

But for now my focus is on fall. The spots where the squash was pulled out were planted with brussels sprouts, parsnips, kale and chard. Garlic seeds are on order, and strawberries will be ordered soon for a spring bloom.

My mums are already blooming (crazy, right?).


Once they start selling these in stores I’ll buy a few more to continue lining the walkway out front with them.


This little jealous mister hung out with me while I tried to clean the craft room a bit. I didn’t get very far.  I got all of the coming year’s school stuff sorted and that was about it.


We DID make time to roast marshmallows.


Orzo and Lucy were on hand in case we dropped any.


And maybe to try and sneak one from the bag if Maddie would just look away.



There’s a whole lotta kitty lovin’ going on.


It’s going to be a sad day when she can’t fit in the napkin basket anymore.


Of course, it will be nice to have a place to put the new napkins I made.

And these ones for Halloween:


I guess as it turns out that for a weekend where it seemed like not much happened, I had a lot to say!


Losing Time

How…and I mean how did it get to be mid August already?  Yesterday the local public schools had their first day of school.


Honestly I could never understand this area’s fixation on being in school in August of all months.  Isn’t that vacation month for most people?

Not that it matters for us; my kids won’t be back to school until September.  Still, that isn’t all that far away, and that is where today’s hang ups are coming from. That and the fact that it is rainy 76 degrees.  Fall weather.  Fall weather in a month that is traditionally oppressive and over the one hundred degree mark.


The morning glories are blooming, which makes me crazy happy, and it means my birthday is just around the corner. Yet it’s still weird because I am just now getting my first ripe tomatoes off the vines (having planted them late didn’t help).

I am in no way ready for back to school, though. I am enjoying mornings of lazing about and reading whatever I please. I am not ready for the stress of worrying about making sure everyone is learning what they need to be.


There does feel like a lot of pressure to enjoy summer as much as we can for the next few weeks, and I’m not sure how to accommodate that other than to just let us all enjoy doing as much nothing as possible.


There’s been plenty of staying up late watching far too much crap tv, and I am loathe to give it up.

Fortunately I have one last get away between now and then.  I’ll be headed up to a wedding in the Hudson Valley in a few weeks, and I am excited to see family that I haven’t spoken to in far too long.

I guess my point is, I need to slow down a bit and enjoy the slower pace while I can and not let all the back-to-school/fall-is-coming messages all around me sink in too deep.


Fall and school will get here soon enough, and I don’t want it said we didn’t enjoy summer as much as we could first.



Chicken Noodle Soup

It seems a little nuts that this summer has been mild enough to have us craving soup, but you won’t hear me complaining.  By all rights we should have been experiencing temperatures in the 100’s by now, with crazy oppressive humidity.  Instead, we are seeing mere 80’s. It’s wonderful.  I could love summers if every year was this way. That’s not to say we won’t get punished by a brutal September or October (hey, it could happen….in fact it HAS happened in the past), but for now I am going to revel in actually being able to work in the garden without wanting to die from heat stroke.

But back to the soup.

Before I left for my long weekend away, I made sure to put up several meals that my family could reheat easily and not resort to ordering pizza every night.  At the same time, I was cleaning out the freezers and came upon a whole frozen chicken carcass from a roast chicken dinner this spring and several bags of frozen vegetable scraps (bell pepper cores, carrot and celery tops, onion skins).  An idea was born. A big pot of chicken noodle soup would take care of using up that food before it went south, and would make several meals to leave behind.

To begin with, I let the carcass thaw a bit, but since it was already cooked and mostly just bones and some fat I wasn’t too concerned.  I seared it a bit in a big pot with olive oil to brown it up a bit.  While that was going, I did the same thing with the vegetable scraps in a saute pan.


Once I had both the chicken carcass and the veggie scraps browned up a bit, I threw the scraps in the pot with the chicken and filled it up with water.  Then I dumped several tablespoons of Herbs de Provence on top and stirred it all up.




A few grinds of black pepper and a shake or two of sea salt and then I brought it all to a boil.  Then I reduced the heat to low, put on the cover, and let it simmer for nearly 12 hours.

In the meantime, I picked a decent bunch of carrots from the garden and washed them up to add to the soup.


Yummy heirloom carrots!  I sliced them all up, and since I wasn’t sure if they’d be added the next day or the day after (depending on when I got to finishing the soup) I put them in a food saver bag and packed them tight to keep them fresh.



Nifty, right?  This was not nearly enough carrots, though!  I had to add a whole bunch more that I bought at Trader Joe’s so the soup would be nice and full of them.  I think I used 3 or 4 cups of chopped carrots for my pot.

When my stock had simmered down to where I wanted it to be volume and flavor-wise, I browned up some boneless chicken thighs I’d also found in the freezer clean-out.

While they were sauteeing away, I strained the bones and scraps out of my chicken stock to leave only the liquid.  Then i added the meat.


I like using thigh meat for soups because it is so much more flavorful than breast meat.

While that was going on, I also whipped up a batch of homemade pasta dough using THIS recipe.  I rolled it through the linguine cutter and then cut that into smaller strips and let it dry for about an hour.


I threw all of the carrots into the soup with the broth and meat, and then, for good measure, chopped up some celery and onions and threw that in as well.  I taste-tested for salt and herbs, but I honestly didn’t have to add any.  The slow simmering had made a very flavorful broth.

The pasta went in a handful at a time to keep it from sticking together.

At the end it looked and smelled divine.


The kids LOVED it.  I was able to freeze several quarts of it for them to enjoy while I was away, and enjoy they did!

Neve has been calling this the “Summer Chicken Soup” so as to differentiate it from the Garlic Chicken Soup we make all winter which is so medicinal for us.

I loved it because I went in with no recipe, just a knowledge of what I hand on hand and how I wanted it to taste.  Improvisation in the kitchen is really fun for me, and this was no exception; particularly because so much of it was grown here and made completely by hand.

I’ll certainly be doing this again!

Beach Weekend 2014

Every year I pack a suitcase and head to Virginia Beach for a long weekend with some of my closest friends.  It’s always a much-needed respite from family and farm responsibilities, and it’s wonderful to have my meals brought to me for a few days!


Unfortunately, it rained much of the time we were there this year, but we did manage to take part in our yearly Stand-Up Paddle Boarding tour and spend a little time on the beach before retiring indoors.  Besides, just being out with your besties makes everything better!  I’ve known for quite a long time how important it is to find your tribe, and it means so much in my life that I have found mine.


That’s Elizabeth and Gabi under the blue umbrella.  It definitely came in handy for the smaller rain showers (I took this from the balcony of our room; those ladies are early risers. Me? Not so much when I don’t have to worry about feeding the animals!)



The theme of our weekend was “Looking on the bright side”, since I had just lost Jerry and we were essentially rained out.  Gabi showed us how to have fun walking to dinner in the rain with crappy ponchos. 08.05.14e



The bright side of rainy beach days?  No crowds!


The morning before we left there was a pod of dolphins just offshore.  It was hard to get any pictures from where I was, but it was such a wonderful and calming sight to behold.


As every year, the time goes by far too fast.  The ocean is such a calming and recharging force, I wish I could spend more time there throughout the year.

Thankfully I have my friends close by, even if we aren’t always in a swanky hotel room overlooking the beach!

Tribute to Jerry

For those of you who do not follow me on Facebook, the sad news this week is that our beloved llama,  Jerry, passed away from Meningeal worm.

He had been sick for about a week, but we were hoping that with the aggressive treatment he was getting there was a possibility he would pull through.  Meningeal worm is a very serious parasite, though, and very few camelids recover from a serious infection.  It’s a very tough parasite to prevent and even harder to cure, and though he’d been on a steady dose of Dectomax and Ivomec for the last several years we just happen to live in the perfect climate for raising worms of all kinds.  But, one thing we’ve learned in farming is that death is always lurking around the edges, and you can’t avoid it.

This has been a rather traumatic loss for us; Jerry has been our mascot of sorts since we embarked on this journey.

When Modern Farmer sponsored Lambcam last year he was hands down the star of the show.  Everybody loved Jerry, and his loss will be deeply felt.









So long, you crazy llama.  It’s not going to be the same around here without you.