Happy Summer!

I can’t believe how long I’ve been going between posts. I have no real excuse, other than my life seems to be an endless stream of appointments for the kids coupled with hours of weeding the gardens (followed by removing dozens of ticks every night).

Thankfully, there’s something else that’s been endless recently: wild blackberries. Every year I’m astonished at how much more there are than the previous year. It’s also a time game, though. You have to pick them just at ripeness or risk losing them all to japanese beetles and birds. Since I don’t always have time to do anything with the bucketloads I’ve been picking, I’ve been letting the kids eat them all in one go. With the solstice, though, I decided something special needed to be done with them. So I made ice cream.

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I started by heating up the berries with some sugar and cinnamon on the stove and lightly mashing them to release some of the juice.

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While that was cooling, I used a Ben & Jerry’s recipe for the base. It basically entails whipping eggs with cream and sugar until fluffy. Super easy and quick.

Then the berries were added, and I poured as much as I could fit into the trusty Cuisinart ice cream maker.

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There was just enough left over to make popsicles.

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When the machine had finished churning, I froze the ice cream an additional few hours before serving.

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Success!

 

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Still Waiting

Waiting for winter, waiting for spring, waiting to see if my ewes are bred. If they are, they’re not telling.  If they aren’t, they are getting pretty fat anyway.

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I’ve been organizing my lambing supplies and ordering what I need, just in case. I’ve also been trying not to bother them too much, though that isn’t as easy.  I want to keep my hands on them to make sure they’re gaining enough weight, and checking their mucous membranes for signs of anemia. So far, everything seems okay, but one thing I’ve learned is to never count on it staying that way!

Last year’s baby chicks are finally starting to lay and/or crow, and I’m dreaming of ducklings now. I won’t order any chicks, but if one of our hens decides to go broody, I’ll put together a little maternity ward and hatch some eggs that way.

Signs of spring are definitely everywhere. The buds are really popping on the trees, and daffodils and forsythia are blooming everywhere. Mine are a little bit behind, owing to our little micro-climate in our hollow. It’s tough not to be out every day prepping the garden beds and getting the seeds started, but it’s only February.  Winter has been known to come back and smack us hard in March, so I’m not counting on this warmer weather to last reliably.  I have been out covering over troublesome weed areas with cardboard and feed bags, though. The war against weeds knows no winter!

I’ve also been cleaning up my beehive components and getting them ready for new occupants.  For Valentine’s Day Paul ordered me a new colony set to arrive in April from a local source. It’ll be so good to have bees again! I’m debating moving them a bit closer to the house and away from the neighbor who sprayed bifenthrin all over their property the summer before my previous colony failed. They haven’t done so since, and I’m hoping they won’t again.

On cooler days I’ve been trying to catch up on making stock from the leftover chicken carcasses from dinners. I’ve been keeping them frozen until I had a chance to let them slow cook, and whenever I can, I put them on the stove in my giant  pot and make up gallons of stock. It’s one of the most satisfying things to make in your kitchen!

Despite the warmer temperatures, Pussy Hats have been flying off my needles. I’m on my fourth at the moment, and keep getting requests for more. I’m more than happy to oblige, though I realize I could have finished my Chimney Fire sweater a few times over by now!  It is gratifying though to have smaller projects that work up quickly and are portable enough to bring to appointments during the week.

Maybe my sweater will be done before winter is, but it’s not looking like it. Secretly (or not…), I AM still hoping for one good wallop of snow before spring.

Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

Solstice

“And so the Shortest Day came and the year died

And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world

Came people singing, dancing,

To drive the dark away.

They lighted candles in the winter trees;

They hung their homes with evergreen;

They burned beseeching fires all night long

To keep the year alive.

And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake

They shouted, reveling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them

Echoing behind us – listen!

All the long echoes, sing the same delight,

This Shortest Day,

As promise wakens in the sleeping land:

They carol, feast, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And now so do we, here, now.

This year and every year.”

 

Susan Cooper

 

It’s the Winter Solstice, once again. Slowly but surely the light will come back now, as we round the year and tilt toward summer again.  But first, winter is upon us (though it remains relatively warm here, and aggravatingly snow-free). It felt fitting to spend the day baking cookies and enjoying each other’s company. In the late afternoon I took my usual walk around the pastures and found my center among the natural world.  This is my favorite time of year for walking in the woods and bringing treats to the sheep. Though low, the stream is full of tiny minnows. The dried-up weeds and vines and fallen trees become like hedgerows, teeming with birds. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a huge animal crashing about out there, the birds are so plentiful and noisy. It’s hard to get pictures of them; I haven’t got a zoom lens and they fly off in huge clouds of winds and chirping if I get too close.

I can see now that the small, wild holly trees are thriving, and I’m hoping I can transplant them at some point to a better location. I also found the remains of a skunk in the back pasture, who I assume was killed by one of the many hawks we see out there every day. We’d been smelling the pervasive scent rather strongly back in October, but never found the source.

After dinner the girls and I bundled into the car and we set off for our yearly viewing of Christmas lights. It seemed fitting on the night of the Solstice to celebrate the colorful lights people have on their homes.

Happy Solstice, all. May your days be long and bright, and your nights warm and cheerful.

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Gearing Up For Christmas

We are finally starting to really feel some of the holiday spirit we’ve been needing. I won’t give all the credit to gluhwein and egg nog, but it certainly hasn’t hurt!

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Everyone loves the tree!  It feels magical at night with the tree lights and the heady scent of fresh pine. If only we’d get some snow, to complete the effect.

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We’ve only just begun our cookie baking in earnest, and I’m definitely feeling the crunch. We’ve managed to get some pfeffernusse done today and I’m working on linzer cookies next. Tomorrow I’ll put the kids to work making the iced cookies.

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Oona’s been working on her Christmas gift knitting in between devouring chapters of Harry Potter.  She’s completely obsessed right now, and I couldn’t be happier. I told Paul that since she was too young to really appreciate Harry Potter World when we went to Universal Studios that we’ll have to taker her again!

Tonight we are watching It’s A Wonderful Life while I frantically work on more cookies, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Not Feeling Forty

It happened. I turned 40. I don’t know how; I certainly don’t feel 40! There are many days still when I wonder how it is that I’m the adult around here. Now, if you must turn 40, it’s best to do it in the company of some of the best people you know. Which is, luckily, and 100% thanks to my best friend Jessie, what I did.

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Though there are a couple of people missing, I was surprised by all the people I love most. I don’t know how I got so lucky.

Now that my birthday has come and gone, we are well and truly on our way to fall. Hooray!!! The light quality has already changed quite a bit – though the temperature is still disappointingly hot – and the fall flowers and colors are starting to show.

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These flowers started popping up in late August and are now exploding everywhere, especially along the stream.

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There are persimmons on the tree again. It would be nice if we could harvest them before the squirrels eat them all. Not that I am super crazy about persimmons…..but still!

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While I was out and about looking at the persimmons and admiring the flowers, I decided to check closer to the stream, and ran into this guy:

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I noticed him and froze. He noticed me and froze. I remained perfectly still, and he continued on rooting around in the grass for whatever it was he was on the lookout for. After a few moments he began waddling off on his merry way, and I was happy to watch him disappear off into the distance. I wasn’t out to get skunked, for sure! I’ve warned the kids to be more aware outside now; this happened right in the middle of the day!

He WAS pretty cute, I have to admit. And, as long as he steers clear of the chickens, he’s welcome to hang out on the periphery of the farm. Any closer and the dogs would be happy to make his acquaintance.

The End Of August

This is it, folks. The last day of August. Summer is coming fast to a close. Tomorrow is the start of my most favorite time of year, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  The kids are enjoying their last full week off before school starts. The animals certainly look ready for cooler weather, hiding out in the shade all day being lethargic.  Even inside,the cats have been favoring darker, cooler spots under beds during the day.

Unfortunately my battery charger for my camera has died, so the pictures in this post are all from my phone.

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Little Poppet, who is almost a year old now and still impossibly tiny.

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I started working on my sweater again for the first time in a few months. I realized that Rhinebeck is not actually that far away now, so I’d better get it done!

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A portion of the garden’s output this year. I may have been robbed of my tomatoes (stupid deer), but boy my pumpkins have come through!

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Asters and mums!!!!

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There’s still plenty of goldenrod all around as well.

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Flapjack and Charlie have become something of an item. He follows Charlie wherever he goes, and Charlie shares his food with him. Normally, Charlie will snap at anyone who gets in on his food (the chickens, the goats, the dogs, Churchill), but for some reason he doesn’t mind Flapjack. Must be love!

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While Flapjack is following Charlie, Charlie is generally following me. He loves having his ears scratched!

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Of course, I think he also is always hoping I’ll have a treat for him.

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Morning glories! You know what that means………my birthday is just around the corner!