S|NO|wpocalypse ’17

We were so hoping for a snow day. They’d been calling for a foot or so for us, and everyone was out in force yesterday clearing the stores of eggs, milk, and bread (not to mention the liquor store).  I had no appointments or places to be the next couple days, and was prepared to give the kids a day off from school to play in the snow and enjoy our one and only day of winter.

We got 4 more Pekin ducklings a few days ago, and I  beefed up their bedding and made sure they were good and cozy and the heat lamp wouldn’t be affected by ice or snow.  We have gallons and gallons of kerosene in reserve for the heater, just in case. In short, we should’ve known.

This was our glorious snow storm:

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SO DISAPPOINTING.

It looks like winter has passed us by this year, and we may as well keep on our path to spring.

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So what do you do when you’ve lost out on your much-needed snowday?

First I put together dough for cinnamon bread and made a good strong cup of coffee.

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Then I worked on cutting some pieces for quilting.

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Of course, Widget wasn’t going to allow that to last without some “help”.

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I can’t resist him. I’ve put away the quilting supplies and moved on to transferring some of my seedlings out of the starter kit that Widget keeps sitting on and trying to eat the sprouts out of.

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It was a decidedly NOT snowday thing to do.  It did, however, make me happier about the impending spring and summer weather. I can’t wait for those  juicy tomatoes, fresh off the vine (if I can keep the deer out this year!).

I did make the kids do their schoolwork today, as well. They didn’t mind, since there was no snow outside to frolic in. Plus they were all gathered around the table once the cinnamon bread came out of the oven.

I’ll be making a giant batch of Bolognese sauce and knitting more hats the rest of the day while I resign myself that winter is pretty well done.

Someone better tell my hens it’s time to start laying some eggs!

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Makers Gotta Make!

What have you been doing with your January?

I haven’t been as productive as I’d like, given my broken finger, but I’m doing what I can. I’m knitting quite a bit, but it’s very slow going (again, finger), and I’ve gotten very little farm work accomplished (though honestly, being that it’s winter, there’s not much to do on that front). I’ve been trying to check the ewes to see if they’re possibly bred, but I can’t catch them right now to really check.  Most times I go out there and crouch down to keep them comfortable with me out there (to observe what I can), and I have to leave after a few minutes because the goats seem to think I’m a climbable object.

As for Orzo, he’s adapting to being inside. It’s become abundantly clear that he is Paul’s dog. Figures!

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And I apologize for the blurry photo, but he absolutely refuses to sit still once he sees the camera out.

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School is continuing along, seemingly at a snail’s pace. The cats have made quite a distraction of themselves lately, stretching out all over the table in the sun while we are trying to work.

Oona has been focused on the Harry Potter series. And when I say focused, I mean obsessed.  She’s halfway through book 4, and she’s watched all of the movies, at least 3 times. We signed her up with a Pottermore account, and she was sorted in Slytherin House. When she seemed puzzled about that, I explained that, when given a choice between love, family, home, etc, she chose power. Of COURSE she’s a Slytherin!

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She’s embraced it fully, using all of her christmas money for Slytherin regalia.

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She and Paul spent last weekend working on carving a wand for her.  All it needs is some varnish.

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It fits her hand perfectly.

While she has been working on crafting Slytherin items, I’ve been working on making hats. Slowly, but surely, enough for each of us will be complete. I know I could be actually finishing up my sweater (I’m stuck on sleeve island, as my friend Tanya would say), but this feels more important.

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I’m hoping things will be calm enough at home the next few weeks that I can spend all my time working through my yarn stash.

A good snowstorm would help with that! Hint, hint, Mother Nature!

 

When Summer Comes

The solstice may not be until next week, but it is summer nonetheless!  We are winding down our school year (it just never, ever feels finished!) and will be done just in time for our yearly week with Missoula Children’s Theater at the end of the month.  The kids are burnt out, I’m burnt out. It’s going to feel great to be on summer vacation (then I can listen to the Hamilton soundtrack ALL DAY LONG without guilt!).

We HAVE been swimming already, and we have been busy making s’mores in the evenings.  We’re hoping that the weather will cooperate so that we can go peach picking for the first official day of summer. I’m dreaming of peach chutney, peach salsa, peach cobbler, and fresh peaches for mid-afternoon snacking. We’ve already stuffed ourselves silly with cherries this season – though sadly we had to buy them at the grocery store, as our local orchard lost their crop this year due to the early heat followed by a late frost.

As for my own fruit trees, it’s a mixed bag. I still have 3 cherry trees chugging along out there, growing, but very slowly. The challenge here has been deer.  Three of our apple trees are HUGE and doing really, really well (though I can see that I will eventually have to break down and spray them with fungicide….ugh), and one is puttering along at its own leisurely pace. As for the peach trees – one remains.  Most likely I will try and put more in this fall; I’m not giving up that easy!

My grapevines on the other hand….they are not only growing, they are THRIVING. With luck, one day I’ll be flush with concord grape jam!

This year has been a bit trying for the vegetable gardens, as well.  Such a prolonged, wet, and chilly spring meant that the hot weather veggies took longer to grow, and not all of my seedlings survived. However, those that did seem to be loving the heat lately.  The early and generous coating of diatomaceous earth helped a bit as well, but not quite enough (we really do have quite the epidemic of squash bugs here), and I was sadly compelled to use a permethrin powder on the summer squashes.  Fortunately I was vigilant and aggressive this year and I was able to apply the powder well before the flowers grew and opened, thus avoiding problems for the pollinators. As a result, we may yet have a pretty decent squash harvest.

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I planted about 32 tomato plants this year, and I have just over a dozen doing well now.

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Cantaloupe sprouts!

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Watermelon

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Little tiny cucumbers!

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Pumpkin plants as far as the eye can see!

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Acorn squash!

I am amazed every time I go out to the very back garden, where all the pumpkins, winter squash, and corn are planted. It seems to quadruple every day. It’s not a well organized garden, as this year was more of an experiment to see how a garden out there would fare, but it sure it growing like mad!  Next year I’ll have to spend time tilling it and spreading out the earth into more even rows.

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I’m feeling really optimistic about this year’s progress. I’d better get the pressure canner ready!

All That Summer Holds

We are so close to all things summer. We’ve had a few campfire nights with marshmallows, we’ve cleaned off and fired up the grill, and the animals have had their summer haircuts. We’ve even prepped the pool for opening. All we need now is to be done with school and we can really dig into blissful warm-weather activities.

I’ve been pushing hard to finish our materials, but it’s likely going to be a few more weeks before we are done (if you’ll remember, we didn’t start until after labor day, so we are actually right on track).

The gardens are going well, so far. I’ve given up on the peas – they took forever to sprout and now I fear it’s gotten too hot for them. Everything else seems to be thriving, more or less.  I’ve had to replant my cantaloupes, cucumbers, and watermelons due to voles, but tiny sprouts are coming back up and I’ve sprayed some gross organic garlic and egg stuff around that’s supposed to keep rodents away.

Of the 32 tomato plants I put in the ground, 28 are still going strong. I’m calling that a win.  I’m also calling my basil a win – I grew it all from seed this year, and we have about a dozen plants now. With luck there will be an abundance of pesto this year!

We’ve got several different herbs going strong, and I’m hoping to propagate more from them soon, to spread around.

The sunflowers and the corn are nearly knee-high, and the winter squash plants seem to love the composted hay and manure in the back field.

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The wild blackberry bushes are loaded with new berries.

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Little flowers on the tomato plants.

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I’ve spread A LOT of diatomaceous earth on the squash, and a little on everything else, as well. I’ve seen this method work wonders for friends, so watch out, squash bugs!

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The pumpkin plants are getting HUGE. They’ve grown a ton of new leaves since I coated them with DE  last week.

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Down at the stream.

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The back pasture has become downright meadow-like!

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The ducks are all ready for hot weather, too:

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Aside from school, working in the garden, and taking care of the various animals, I’ve started making yogurt again.

I used to use my crockpot, which worked out very well, but it was big and unwieldy and didn’t fit in the dishwasher.  I also had to be very attentive with it, keeping a thermometer clipped to the side and wrapping it in towels to keep it warm after adding the culture (the “warm” setting on it was too hot for the yogurt).  Recently, though, I bought a bigger rice cooker (now that we have two extra people here, our little 2-cup machine wasn’t cutting it), and I specifically got the model that also has a yogurt setting. I don’t have to do a thing, AND I can put it in the dishwasher afterwards.

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I’ve been doing 2 quarts at a time, and it’s been setting up much firmer than with my old method.  This is good news, because I don’t need the greek yogurt strainer to have a good consistency yogurt. But….

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I do love a good, thick yogurt.  I’m already deciding what various fruit purees I can make to mix in, now that making yogurt is virtually zero work.

The BIG news around here, though, is Maddie and John’s new little meatball. Or chicken sandwich, if you will. Or even Nacho. All of the food-related nicknames you can imagine.

For this:

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Her name is Twyla, and she’s a 6 month-old Pekingese/Chihuahua/Dachshund-ish mix. We are enjoying her so much while they are here (until late August, or so).  All of the other dogs are just fine with her, and the cats are more or less unconcerned, so long as she leaves them alone. Only Widget seems to have an issue with her, but considering she did try to chase him, it’s understandable. Of course, he outweighs her by a large amount, and his being afraid of her is rather ridiculous and entertaining.

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Oona is going to enjoy every moment of it she can.

 

The Land of Aches and Sneezes

Greetings from cold virus central!

I had thought we made it through with relative ease, but then either we had a second virus hit right away, or this cold had a nasty one-two punch. This second wind has been much, much worse. With Maddie nannying for a friend’s family, we seem to be passing our germs back and forth between the households (sorry, Lisa!).

Today I’m directing school activities from the couch, under a wool blanket.

Oona has finished most of her reading and is knitting. Emily will draw out her reading assignment for as long as possible while she cuddles various kitties. Neve is handling the home-ec portion by cleaning the kitchen and taking out the garbage (you know she’s desperate to escape another day of schoolwork when she volunteers for dish and garbage duty). They’re all feeling just a bit salty that they didn’t get a buttload of snow days like their public school counterparts did.

Hey, algebra waits for no man.

Also, Happy Groundhog Day!  We’ll be watching the Bill Murray movie after schoolwork has been completed and Oona has made us popcorn.

We’ve also been talking a lot about weather; it’s warmed up quite a bit, and we had rain yesterday. With the smell of fresh, green earth in the air we all felt ready for spring. It’s a cruel joke, of course. There’s still plenty of time left for winter to hit us with more snow or polar air. Still, a couch-bound girl can dream, and spend time looking at seed catalogs and planning out the 2016 gardens, right?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this year’s gardens, and farm work. We didn’t breed, so there won’t be any lambs or kids this spring, but that’s okay. We wanted to focus on getting our current flock healthy and fat, and repairing fences and outsmarting our escapee dogs and goats.

We ARE expecting a shipment of chicks sometime later in the spring, since our current hen situation is lacking; we have maybe 15 hens, and a few of them are getting on in years.

Not only will we be adding to our chicken flock then, but we will also be ordering more bees. My hive seems to have absconded sometime since Christmas. There’s a complete lack of any bee in there, not even dead ones. There is one potentially erupted queen cell, but it’s hard to tell.  I HAVE noticed honeybees flying around the last few days, however. They are going into the old hive and stealing honey from the stores that were there. I only ever see maybe 8 or 10, but I’m hoping that means that my absconded colony found a good home to overwinter.

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There’s also these lovelies that recently arrived. When I’m feeling better I’ll be in the kitchen whipping up some of her yummy recipes. The challenge is choosing one to start with! (well, actually, the challenge is not eating 10,000 calories worth of baked goods every day).

And, since I’m unable to manage much else, I’ve of course been working on my sweater.  I finally got to the point where I put my sleeve stitches on a holder and I’m working on the lower body. I’m really pleased with how it’s going.

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Now let’s all keep our fingers crossed that today is my last day of feeling like garbage; Emily gets her braces on tomorrow!

 

 

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!