Where Have I Been?!?!

Well, it’s been a busy summer with four sets of visitors over a five week period. I have been taking photos so I’ll finally share them here. These first several are from mid July.

We stopped mowing a wet section of the field (on the left) last summer. The section on the right we stopped mowing this summer. It is interesting to see the difference.

By the front porch. The lone daylily looks pretty with the beebalm.

In front of the sun room.

We noticed a volunteer sassafras tree under the mahonia last year. The japanese beetles have been hard on it but it’s hanging in there.

Zinnias from the garden. I love this little vase our daughter made for us last year. I told her I wanted it to mimic tree bark and she delivered.

The orange coneflowers in our native garden started blooming in mid July and the flowers still look beautiful six weeks later. These photos are from July.

Dave bringing in the onion harvest on July 21.

These bitter melon are ridiculous. We could pick this many each week. I still have some in the freezer from last year. I gave some of these away. Dave took another large basket full to a coworker last week. I’ve frozen some and might freeze more. We learned from our daughter that you can take some of the bitter taste out by blanching them in water with a tablespoon of salt and baking soda.

These photos are from July 27.

I went to Polyface Farm on July 28 to purchase some meat and took the above and below photos on my way home. Polyface is in Swoope – just west of us..

Poor Len. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I hope we are keeping him comfortable with meds.

The only photo we got of our visitors. I’m on the right with my sister Melissa and my niece Mary.

Such a pleasant surprise to find these volunteers on August 11 at the base of the spruce tree between the house and the shed – an impatiens and a coleus.

I harvested these peppers on August 14.

I think it was back in July when I took some bricks and defined the beds around the plants in front of the shed. I think it turned out pretty nice.

Joe Pye Weed in the native garden on the morning of August 15.

Making our yummy tomato sauce on August 19.

I’m so sad that we have to take down this beautiful ash tree (on the right). The emerald ash borer has gotten to it so it can’t be saved.

$3000 poorer and down one beautiful shade tree. I will probably spend most of the day they take it down elsewhere.

Don’t like ending on a sad note, but here we are. I hope I keep up my posts with my photos as we enter the fall. It has been a very wet spring and summer. A little on the cool side, too. I’m hoping the valley will have some spectacular color this fall. Hard to believe it is almost September!

Christmas

We put up the Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. Samantha and Luca were here to help.

The weather was mild which was nice for putting up the outside lights.

Damian helped, too.

Making cookies the Saturday before Christmas.

Erin (aka Soupy) was here for computer help and was happy to roll up her sleeves (and don an apron) to help with the baking.

A special Christmas Eve

A Little Harvesting

Yesterday morning was absolutely gorgeous. We did some much needed harvesting.

We grew purple pole beans thinking the purple beans would be easier to see. Not the case since the vine is also purple. Though aren’t they beautiful!

Our July felt more like August and now August is feeling more like September. The temperature was in the 50’s Saturday night. Lovely sleeping weather but the tomatoes don’t like it. We are seeing a lot of die back in one of our plants so we harvested the tomatoes to send up to my mom. Hopefully, they will finish ripening for her. So she doesn’t have to wait, we also bought some ripe tomatoes from the Farmers Market on Saturday. Dave took up quite the load of tomatoes for her this morning (on his way to work) which might last her the two weeks until next time.

We have a lot of bitter melon on our vines. It too has slowed down in ripening. I was hoping to let these get a little fatter but we are expecting cool weather this week – 70’s mostly – so I just went ahead and picked them.

Frieda came over to investigate

and pose.

Oregano, thyme and rosemary

I stuffed the bitter melon with ground lamb seasoned with the fresh herbs, sea salt and onion. I then baked it for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. I thought it was very good. Damian thought it was too bitter and Dave wouldn’t try it.

We’ve had so little rain this summer that this was a very welcome sight this morning. We had at least 3 hours of steady rain. Hallelujah!

Weekend Update

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Friday afternoon these big chicks finally let me get close to them.

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They are so goofy looking!

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Emmylou had her little chicks in the barnyard.

Above she scratches and below…

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she pecks. Over and over again. She has her work cut out for her with 10 chicks.

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The pullets and cockerels.

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A candy onion from our barn garden.

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Wednesday, Thursday and Friday all had period of heavy rain. The landscapers were still here when it rained on Friday. They got soaked laying out these tarps. Above you can see the concrete from the old flag pole that they pulled out of the ground.

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The landscapers didn’t come today because they were forecasting more rain. Sure enough it started raining around noon and we had periods of heavy rain during the afternoon.

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Saturday Dave got out his new toy. See the water sitting in among the paw paw trees in the middle of the photo.

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He was hoping to make some progress on removing this willow stump but the ground was too wet. You can see the tracks he is leaving in the grass.

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Late Saturday afternoon we finished cleaning up the mess from the fallen ceiling.

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Now we are looking for a plasterer.

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Sam came over for Father’s day and helped us hang our local artists gallery. We wanted to hang the photos before finishing the paint job in case we wanted to change anything. I love how it turned out.

Thoughts on Gardening and a Cozy Nook

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It seems like this year the garden is looking better and we are a little more on top of things than the past couple of years. We didn’t do much planning. I think I overwhelmed myself with the planning in the past. We decided to reduce what we planted and to not make much of a plan as to where things would go until we were ready to plant. That seemed to work for us. I also think having the chickens in the gardens all winter and into the spring really kept the weeds down. We’ve also been getting leaf mulch collected by the city at Gypsy Hill park and mulching, mulching, mulching. I’ve also relaxed a little about what I have to get done in the garden. I generally spend at least a couple of hours a day puttering around, cleaning up and weeding. Yes, a much more relaxed approach is better. I think I was trying too hard before.

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I know I’ve shared this room before. It has gone through several transformations since we moved here 3 years ago. I think I shared the new metal shelving we put in earlier this spring on the left side of the room. You can see it in the photo at the top of this post (left background). We call it the kitchen nook. Above, is the right side where I recently added the book filled cradle, black wicker chair ( found roadside), quilt topped table and the leaf green painted stool and chair pad. It’s a cozy little nook and I love how the sunlight streams in late in the afternoon.

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Today’s harvest – 3 beets and 3 carrots.

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A volunteer calendula.

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From garden to table in less than an hour. I simply sliced the beets and carrots into a little water, butter and grated fresh ginger and simmered until tender. Very tasty with slowly braised beef brisket.

Winter Chores and Chickens

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Oatmeal and dried nettle for our chickens. A special, healthy treat for them.

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We pruned the lilacs. You can see our pile of cuttings is larger than the lilac bushes on both sides of the arbor gate. They say you shouldn’t cut more than a third away but these bushes hadn’t been pruned in years.

Throughout the past week, Dave spent a little time each day shredding branches that were piled up in the orchard from last year and over the weekend he tackled these lilac branches and those from the elderberry bushes which we also pruned last week.

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Dave moving some compost to the garden beds. The horse manure we added in the fall turned our compost into gold.

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Chickens enjoying the composted beds.

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Chickens in the compost

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And getting a late afternoon snack. The hen in front must be one of the older hens. They are much more likely to approach us.

These photos were taken over the past week. We’ve had really crazy weather. A couple days in the 40’s and then a couple days in the 60’s and repeat.

Catching Up In the Garden

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We opened up the barn garden to the chickens and ducks.

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We had a couple of people here from The Natural Garden in Harrisonburg. They were very impressed with our meadow.

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Marigolds next to the compost.

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The garden spider greeted us for several weeks as we opened and closed the gate to the barn garden.

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Dave walks by our volunteer cherry tomato plant growing on the compost fence.

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Freda inspects the boneset. I harvested it for my herbalist. She said it is good for fevers.

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Pretty, too.

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It was great to have some young people here helping us through the alternative economy – hOUR Economy. They worked and we fed them and they camped out on our property. We really enjoyed their company and I think they had a good time, too.

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Two of the guys helped Dave install gutters on the back of the barn for a water catchment system.

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Dan, Kurt, Meghan, Tim and Savhannah.

They helped out others over a four day period and biked form place to place. We’re talking 15-25 miles between work sites. To have that energy!

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Our bushel basket gourds didn’t get bushel size – more like quart size.

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As I was walking to the barn one afternoon about a half dozen bluebirds flew off the pasture fence into our big, old oak tree.

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I can see two bluebirds in each of the above photos.

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Just some of the butternut we harvested.

11-11 update – finally estimated how much butternut we harvested this year. I counted 85 at approximately 2 lbs. each. So that’s about 170 lbs.! I think butternut is about $2 a lb. in the store so about $340 worth!

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Just after we opened the kitchen garden to the ducks.

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And finally, here is the water catchment.

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We got a lot of rain late September to early October. We were amazed at how the water accumulated so quickly. Dave has already used it to water our brussel sprouts and an artimesia (wormwood) we transplanted to the barnyard. It helps prevent worms in chickens.

On the Plate

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A very local breakfast – potatoes and bunching onions from our garden and eggs from our chickens

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and sausage from a local farm – maybe 15 miles away – we picked it up at the farmers market in downtown Staunton on Saturday.

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the coleus is doing well here in the pots

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I was in the front yard yesterday afternoon hoping to see more monarchs and I kept hearing a desperate sound from the sage. I looked about and finally spotted this garter snake trying to eat a toad – or is it a frog? – I think it’s a toad. I called Dave and he didn’t think the snake really had a chance of downing his catch so he pulled the toad out of the snakes mouth and the snake slunk away. Hope the toad survived his injuries.

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I tried my first bitter melon yesterday.

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I was reading conflicting info on line as to how to prepare it – cooked or raw, seeded or not…

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I decided to take the seeds out, slice it and saute it in coconut oil with minced garlic and salt.

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It was pretty good, especially with the seasoned ground pork and sweet potato. It did taste bitter on it’s own. But bitter is supposed to be good for us. According to the Baker Creek Seed catalog “the bitter melon has at least two active traits with anti-diabetic properties, including charantin, which lowers blood glucose and poly-peptide-p, which has been proven to mimic how human insulin acts, thereby acting as a plant replacement of insulin for people with type-1 diabetes.” I hope my plant produces more fruit. It is having to fight the bushel basket gourd plant for space in the garden. We were supposed to trellis it like a cucumber. We’ll know better next year.

A Month of Posts

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Bonnie and Emmy Lou are mothering their four chicks together.

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Ground Ivy growing at the foot of the elm tree in the backyard.

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The chicks quickly started eating greens we brought to them.

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Dolly hanging around the brooder.

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Tom Thumb lettuce

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Just two weeks old and the chicks are out and about.

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Also up on the roost and atop mom. Already!

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We attended the Augusta Garden Club tour. This copper beech impressed me the most. It was planted in 1945 and is huge. I don’t know how I didn’t notice this tree when I drove by it.

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Leo/Rex and his ladies.

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Dolly and the girls

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Smokey striking a pose.

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Found this radish in the barn garden this morning. It was just sitting out of the ground. Almost like it was saying – I’m ready to be eaten you dummy. I thought it was too early for the radishes to be ready and would not have checked for some time yet. How it got out of the ground will remain a mystery.

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A flower bed with a new rock border and all mulched. Luminaria blooming in the background.

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Picked this one as I could see the red peaking out of the soil.

Had a chicken liver and bacon salad for dinner. Delish!

Two firsts I saw today –

a rabbit in our pasture between the backyard and the spring house (did he have anything do do with the radish appearing – seems unlikely – wouldn’t he have eaten it?)

as I was driving home from Heartland Harvest I saw a cow licking it’s calf. The calf was curled up on the ground. I wonder if it had just been born?