Frost

We've watched the canna lilies today. They started out as green and alive as they were yesterday morning, with a touch of purple on the leaves being the only sign of last night's frost. Now, in the late afternoon, the leaves are shriveled and blackened. The red blossoms are going that way, too. The purple amaranth also shows similar wilting. And the beans are withered, though the blossoms that were newly set still show a hint of pinkish purple.

Beets are like money in the bank.

First frost is usually a time of regret. A mad scramble to grab while the getting is good followed by a a few days of longing for just a few more harvests of tomatoes, beans, and squash. But we got lucky this year. I'm still pinching myself over the blessing of harvesting vine-ripened tomatoes during the third week of October. Cyril had a fresh picked tomato on a sandwich just a few nights ago. We picked all the peppers thinking that frost was impending a few weeks ago. When the frost still held off, we got a new flush of peppers. We harvested them all, small or tiny, before last night's freeze. We even gobbled up the two baby cucumbers that were still growing among the potted vines. And we brought in our only pumpkin.

Not all the way ripe, but we treasure it because it is ours. 

We had it good this year with the harvest. And thanks to the row cover that Ross and the boys built, we should continue to harvest beets for a time even into the cold months. But we had it bad with ticks and fleas as the warm weather stretched on into late October. So in classic "attitude of gratitude" style, we acknowledge that we are thankful that the frost has finally come. We were in fact awaiting it even as we cheered its staving off. Some of our garden plants were awaiting it too, for now the brussels sprouts, grapes, and hard apples are sweetened by the frost, ready for the picking.

The sun shines today on plants that are either dead or dying or rejoicing in their own deliciousness. Perhaps it is not just plants that find themselves in such extremes. May each of us rejoice in what has been good to get this year, safe in the knowledge that the cycles of our lives continue.

4/17/13

Spring has been productive.  We are getting about a 1/2 gallon a day from 2 does, milking once a day with the kids nursing freely for the rest of the day and separating them at night.  In addition, we're getting at least a dozen eggs/day from our hens, which is better than 50% production w/o buying layer pellets.  It's been taking the chickens most of the day to finish a couple cans of wheat and/or sunflower seeds, and they're preferring mainly to fend for themselves.  Fence building is coming along.  Garlic and Egyptian onions are beautiful.  Ross is digging beds where sod has become established, sawing and splitting firewood for the next year and working on jobs in the workshop, while Tiffany is working more hours at the library and applying for the directorship of a local museum in addition to her many other tasks at home.

Good Friday

It indeed felt like a good Friday when we awoke this morning. The birds were singing in that cheery way that only happens when spring is in the air. And though there are gray skies and some flurries today, it seems that all of life is beginning to burgeon once again. The syrup we are making has been getting darker lately as well, and the sap has that yellowy color that tells us that soon the trees will budding.

We welcomed two new kid goats on Wednesday, born to our doe, Violet. Violet is a great mother, and a patient and gentle milker. The kids, one boy and a much smaller girl, both look like their mother. Violet has been producing an ample supply of milk, and we were even able to put some colostrum away in the freezer.

And though old wisdom says today is the day to plant peas, we went ahead and planted them on Wednesday. Celeus was anxious to plant something, though he wanted carrots. He agreed that peas would also be good, and he got his hoe and went right to work. Celeus has all the makings of a fine farmer and gardener, with a gung-ho attitude, a kind heart towards animals, and the ability to observe things in a careful way.

Tiffany had been wondering where all the robins were, because the chickens have scratched up a lot of dirt in the garden and it should be worm-central out there. We can hear them singing in the morning, and she has seen them sitting in the trees. She was surprised to discover that the chickens are out there this morning methodically chasing the robins away! We sure do love our chickens, but nothing puts us in the springtime spirit like robins hopping around outside. Pretty soon, we will get the fence back up and then there will be no more chickens in the garden. No points for guessing how anxious we are to be digging in the dirt!

3/16/13

Busy, busy, busy... In the last month there has been maple sugaring, goat milking, (buck kid was born 3/3) willow coppicing and layering, rocket stove (and other) experimentation for boiling sap, lots of work in the shop, and planning for spring plantings. 

There are 27 taps on the maples behind the house.  Ross has been busy carrying a 5 gallon bucket from the spiles to the stove.  Boiling in the house has some serious drawbacks, and it obviously turns the house into something like a sauna.  However, it is a perfect time for a little spring cleaning.  Those flyspots you thought were never coming off?  One wipe.  Gone.  Hauling buckets can be a bit of a chore, too.  But the syrup sure is sweet.

The goat known as Twitch gave birth to one young buck dubbed simply by Cyril as "Billy the Kid."  He had been warned about the hazards of bestowing a buck with something resembling a proper title, so this is what he came up with instead.  Billy is a fine Alpinish looking mutt -brown with black and white who came from 2 all-white parents.  Twitch is part Saanen and a good milker.  When Ross beats Billy to the teat in the crisp morning, occasionally she gives about a quart of milk.  That's not bad for not being separated at all.  Starting April 7, they'll be separated at night, with Billy sleeping in a little kid pen.  There are more kids to be born, and we're staying tuned!

As for the willow coppicing and propagation, there's numerous reasons for this.  No one here has worked with willow much; Ross made most of a basket about 12 years ago, and that was about it.  Tiffany reports making something like birds nests as a child, so yeah, we're not experienced.  Ross has woven some wattle curbing using Morrow's honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) however and the sandbar (Salix exigua) and black willows should work nicely for that and also provide a yield from a creekbed stabilization project that's underway.  Propagation has included layering and just pounding finger or bigger sized sticks into the ground cut about this time of year.  Some of the layering has worked -much really hasn't.  Driving sticks into the ground has worked much better.

PICT0041.JPG
a hastily constructed boiler that worked albeit a bit slowly.

a hastily constructed boiler that worked albeit a bit slowly.