Autumn to-do list

What are you planning to do this Autumn? Here's what I want to accomplish by the end of the year:

  • Finish Christmas shopping/making by the first week of December
  • Find the perfect  cream of mushroom soup recipe (I think I'll start with this one, Ina never lets me down!)
  • Bake a Ginger Pear Upside-down Cake
  • Bake a pear tart
  • Bake an apple cake
  • Make lots of pickles for gifts
  • Finish a quilt
  • Finish current knitting projects before starting a new one
  • Go on a hike
  • Clean up the garden
  • Plant some cold-weather vegatables (Kale, spinach, etc)
  • Plant pansies and flowering kale in pot on the porch
  • Make a desk for the guest room, so I can work there on my laptop instead of sitting in bed or on the couch
  • Chop wood for the stove and start building fires (I need to learn how to split wood, I think that will be a good skill to develop)
  • Move the mulch to the garden
  • Build another planting box

Pearcake

I can't wait to eat this cake again! 

the good news

While last Saturday may have made me feel like a failure as a farmer, things are not all bad around here. Despite the  fact that the chickens continue to think my vegetable garden is their own personal dust bath spa, a few things are growing quite nicely. I harvested my first radish this week.

Radish

This is a salad rose radish, they are, obviously, a long variety. This one was about six inches. I left it for Mr. HeyLucy to eat, because radishes are one of his favorites. He pronounced it delicious and very spicy. The chickens did a bit of damage to my radish section, so there are only three others there. They grow so quickly, I'm thinking of filling in a few squares with more radish seeds, so we can enjoy a few more harvests. I'll also be adding some chicken wire covers to the garden, and hopefully that will keep those rascals at bay.

I also discovered that what was burning my plants was actually a freakishly late frost (we had frost until June 22!), so I lost my beans, a couple cucumbers, and the cinnamon basil. I thought that three of my four tomatoes were goners, but only one actually died, and the other three are looking good. My red grape tomato is huge, and there are even a few tomatoes ripening. The other two tomato plants have a ways to go, but I'm hoping we'll still get a few by the end of Summer.

Tomatoe

Here's the whole garden, it looks pretty nice:

Garden

The sorrel is doing really well, I've trimmed it a couple times to share with friends, and I'm going to try and make some sorrel soup this week. I'm not sure if my peas are going to do much more than they're doing now. They're the four right front boxes. As you can see, they have no interest in climbing the poles I've rigged for them, but there are quite a few pods. It may be getting too hot for them, so once the pods are ripe, I think I'll harvest and pull them out and replace them with something else.

Here's what I'm discovering: when it comes to gardening, you can read and study and plan all you want, but the only way to really learn how to garden is to…garden. I know, that's so deep, but if you want to plant a garden, and you have even a little bit of space, I say go for it! You'll never be more ready than you are now, and some things will not work, and some things will be amazing. I think it helps to be out there in the dirt, as much as possible, too, and even just pulling a weed here and there is progress. It's so easy for me to look at my big garden area, where I want to plant berries and fruit trees and make about 8 more boxes and get overwhelmed, but I just keep reminding myself to be patient and just do a little at a time, and eventually I'll have my little Eden out there. 

Enough about the garden, remember how I started making a sleeve for my laptop? I finished it and used it while traveling last week. It worked out just great.

Laptopcase 

My laptop is my primary computer, so it's a big 17" one. I don't travel much with it, sand I have a case, but it's heavy and ugly, and it wasn't very practical. So I got myself a little rolling carry on bag, and filled it with a bunch of stuff, leaving room for the computer on the top. So much easier!

Laptopcase2 

And it's cute!

One last thing, back to the garden. I decided to have some pretty yogurt for breakfast this morning. I picked a sprig of lavender and a sprig of mint, and added them to my Greek yogurt and raspberries. There's also a sprinkle of raw sugar for sweetness. It's quite tasty (I'm eating it right now!) and it smells so good.

Yogurt

32 square feet

I think I've figured out this comments situation. I won't bore you with the details, but as of today I'm back to responding regularly. If you ask a question and I think others might like to see the response as well, I'll reply in the comments, but I'll also reply directly, so you should get an e-mail just like in the past.

Now for some (hopefully) more interesting stuff. I started working on a vegetable garden this past weekend. I've only been wanting to do this for the past five years. The promise of excellent pollination by the bees helped motivate me to finally just start. Thanks to the recommendation of my sister, I've decided to try square foot gardening. I'm starting with a 4×8 foot box, and I hope to add a couple more before the year is out. The book talks about how easy it is, and that may well be the case, but building the box was a little trickier than I expected. There was way too much cursing on my part, and I may have damned my drill to hell once or twice. Poor little drill, I didn't really mean it. With the help of Mr. HeyLucy, however, we worked it out and the next time should be a little easier. It turns out that redwood is really, really hard (doh! That's why it's suggested for use in outdoor projects), and my starter holes were not long enough or wide enough, and the screws just would. not. go. in. I kept stripping them. It's a good thing I have no plans to disassemble it any time soon.

I also planted some potatoes in trash cans. I don't remember where I first read about growing them that way, but the day after I planted them I got a link to this handy little video in my inbox. I had four kinds of seed potatoes, so I put two in each trash can. There are French fingerlings (a small, long, skinny red potato), Burbank russets, All Blue (also small like the fingerlings, but they have the prettiest purple flesh), and Yukon Golds.

This is not too impressive, but I'm swallowing my pride and showing you a picture of my weed-filled yard. Just remember that this is a before picture. I hope that an after picture by the end of Summer will show vast improvements. I labeled the important stuff. You might have to view it larger to read everything.

Garden

I'm excited to get planting this weekend.

things I like about Summer

Summerflowers

Some of the best things about summer: lavender, roses and sunflowers. There’s not much else, except weeds in our yard at the moment, but I am focusing on the positive :o)

I thought this was a really sweet entry on my dad’s blog. It made me tear up a little.

I’m still working on the bookbinding post(s). I think part one may be up this evening. Unless I decide to re-do the entire thing.

Edwin says Hello blog readers! What do you have for me to eat? I want to nibble on your toes.
Edwin

how to survive a birthday

Eastertree1So, Saturday was my birthday, and I decided that I would just do whatever I felt like the entire weekend. So there were spurts of fun and busy-ness and spurts of lazing around. A friend gave me some little wooden egg ornaments, so I made an Easter Tree. I picked up some branches from the yard and gave them a little coat of Spring green paint, and glued silk blossoms all over. I added a few other Easter-y things that I had and I think it’s a pretty little tree. I may try to add a few more ornaments. I just love that little feather chick.

I got my geek on for a few hours, playing on the computer with the husband. Then we went and got the best sandwiches at the deli and had ourselves a little picnic at one of my favorite places.

I spent a couple peaceful hours on the porch, watching a favorite movie on my laptop while eating an ice cream sandwich. I really need to get a daybed to put out there, for the ultimate in laziness. Eastertree2

We paid a visit to the feed store, where the husband looked at goslings and contemplated putting in an order for three. I’m not too sure about this addition to the farm, but he really wants some. Oh dear.

We also had a delicious dinner of seared ahi tuna with wasabi cream sauce and a tiramisu cake for dessert.

I made a little more headway on my list, and cleared up the last of the scrap wood pile. There is still the fallen down fence to contend with, but I’ll just have to tackle that a little bit at a time. We moved some railroad ties over to where the wood pile was, to create an edging for a little planting bed on the edge of the future patio.Eastertree3_2 The chickens hung out with me while I gardened, which was great, at first, as they scratched and pecked and turned the dirt and grow mulch for me, so I didn’t have to do it. I rewarded them with all the worms I found as I dug holes to plant a dozen creeping rosemary plants. It wasn’t so great later, after I finished planting and laid down some wood chip mulch, when they went back and scratched it all up looking for more worms, and nibbling on the rosemary.

Speaking of chickens, one of the Ruby’s has gone broody. For the non-chicken people out there, that means she wants to hatch some eggs, and has planted herself in a nesting box, hoping for some baby chicks. Ifirst noticed that she was sleeping in the box one night last week when I closed the coop. I thought it was odd, but figured she just wanted to get away from everyone else on the roost. But she planted herself in there all weekend and wouldn’t budge. I kept taking her out and carrying her to different places, giving her little treats to eat, but she keeps going back. I’m starting to get a little worried. I collect all the eggs, every day, and even moved the golf balls (we put them in the nesting boxes so the girls will know to go in there and lay rather than outside the coop. Eastertree4They just think they’re other eggs.) out of that particular box. She’s still sitting in there, even though she’s not actually sitting on any thing. I think the next thing I try is to put an ice cube underneath her. It doesn’t sound too nice, but if she doesn’t stop, she could get really weak and sick. Broody hens only leave their nest once a day to eat and drink and poop. Silly girl! I must have taken her out of the box about a dozen times this weekend. She’s in the favorite box, too, so the other hens put up a fuss when they go in to lay. Any chicken experts out there have any suggestions?

We finished off birthday weekend last night with ribs and corn on the cob for dinner while watching a recorded episode of Battlestar Galactica, followed by a couple Advil for the aching muscles from the woodpile clearing, and a good night’s sleep :o)

more Spring Fever

I don’t have too much to say, because I’d rather be outside than in front of a computer.

Grapehyacinth2
I can’t possibly choose my most favorite flower, but I sure do love these little grape hyacinth. We planted a patch of these about four years ago, and they’ve come up faithfully every year since without any demands or special needs. I didn’t see any sign of them a couple weeks ago, and was afraid that they had finally succumbed to our neglect. But I needn’t have worried, a couple days ago hundreds and hundreds popped up, seemingly overnight. The daffodils are continuing to bloom and I hope to take some pictures of the various varieties this weekend.

And since there hasn’t been a chicken picture here for nearly a whole month, I also took a picture of the chickens milling about under one of our oak trees the other morning:
Chickensmilling
I rented a cute little PBS documentary the other day called, “The Natural History of the Chicken“. There actually wasn’t much chicken history, just a bunch of people who understand the allure of chickens as I do. There was a short segment about how laying hens live that really turned my stomach. I don’t think I can ever buy eggs grown like that again. I shared some of our eggs with all our neighbors, and I think I may have some regular egg customers. One has already placed a standing order for a dozen a week.

The sunshine and longer days always fill me with energy, which has me making big plans. Who knows how much I will actually accomplish, but so far by big plans for Spring include:
*Put up a clothesline. I just bought this clothespin holder to make hanging up my wet clothes much much more fun:
Clothespin
Don’t you want to come hang up laundry with me?

*Build at least two raised planting beds, one for herbs and one for vegetables.

*Clean up all the various scrap wood piles, some left by previous owners, some the result of a fallen fence.

*Lay paving stones, which are piled here and there, in front of guest house for a new little patio area, near future clothesline.

*Paint ugly black iron table and chairs a cheerful turquiose to go on new patio area. Cover seat cushions with cheerful oilcloth.

*Paint inside of guest house light, bright white.

There’s much more to add to the list, but I better stop there for now. Happy Spring!

signs of spring

It was so beautiful this weekend. I spent as much time as possible outside.
Daffodils2007
I don’t know how many varieties of daffodils we have planted in our yard, but there are a lot. These were opening in full force on Saturday and Sunday. Everything else is brown, but the daffodils are bright and cheery!

I’ve added pictures of the extra first prize treats for the contest, so don’t forget to leave a comment and answer my easy blog quiz questions! I made a little bag with my new fabric stash enhancement purchases to hold the book and cards for the grand prize winner:

Freebag2
Freebag1
And that is the promised knitted rose corsage on there. I may need to add a leaf, I think it needs one. Sadly, I didn’t get a good picture of the book I made, but it’s a little 5"x5" square book with Japanese-style paper covers, brown paper pages, and an open-spine Japanese 4-needle binding. You’ll just have to trust me, I guess.

Last night I had a chicken panic attack. I went to put the chickens to bed (that just means that I go out the the coop, count the chickens to make sure they are all there, and close and lock the door). Meanwhile, Bear was scratching around a pile of old wooden fencing that had blown down a couple years ago. We replaced the fence, but have various piles of the old fence in the corner of the yard. I figured he saw a lizard go in there at some point, since he obsesses over lizards. I counted my chickens, and there were only 17. I counted over and over, and still, only 17. I figured out that one of the Ruby’s was missing, which was odd, since they are always in the coop at night. Bluebeard insisted on sleeping under our shed a few weeks ago for a couple days, but I managed to convince her to go back with the rest of the flock, but the Barred Rocks have always gone into the coop. So I got out my headlamp and a flashlight, and wandered around and around the entire property, the whole acre. She was nowhere to be found. I checked the pile where Bear had been sniffing, but there didn’t seem to be any room for a chicken to have crawled into. The thing with chickens is, once they turn in for the night, they are out. I can reach into the coop at night and pick up any of them, and they’ll just sleep in my arms. They just don’t want to move after dark. I checked under the shed, under the porch, in all the trees, over the fence on all four sides, and…nothing. After nearly an hour of searching I finally had to give up. I imagined every possible scenario, did she go out through the gate when I had it open to take out the trash? Did she fly over the fence and then not find her way back? Did a hawk or an owl get her? I didn’t sleep well all night, and as soon as it started to get light, I was straining my ears to see if I could hear her. I went out as usual this morning to let the chickens out, looking around again for her. Once again, Bear ran right over to the pile of fencing, scratching and sniffing. This time a picked up the topmost layer, and out popped a chicken! And down rolled her egg! Silly girl! She had crawled under the wood to lay an egg, and gotten herself wedged in. She walked away a little drunkenly, but after a little food and water, she was walking around just fine, and I couldn’t tell which one of the four had spent the night in the woodpile. Oh, and Bear got lots of treats and pets for being my hero!