Sunday, February 28, 2010

How does your garden grow?....

My thoughts lately have been about the greenhouse. It looks like starting spring seedlings in the greenhouse isn't going to happen. We still have a foot of snow on the ground where the greenhouse will be. The area needs to be graded first before we can put down a foundation and it also needs to be accessible for inspections from the county. The base or foundation needs to be approved before we can attach the structure. I'm still kind of in amazement that we need a building permit for a greenhouse kit! But, it is what it is.
So, I've curbed my enthusiasm for spring plantings and am now looking forward to fall and winter gardening instead. I have to be realistic about it. Even if temperatures around here stabilize and we don't receive any more snow, it would still take the better of two weeks for it to melt and then it needs to dry out some before we dig. Quite frankly, I'm worried if I am going to be able to get the gardens ready in time for the early plantings!
We typically do the first tilling in March. This tilling allows all those wonderful things we put on it at the end of last season to get deep into the soil. Chopped leaves, straw, chicken poo, and compost from the bins are left to slowly break down over the winter then are tilled as soon as the ground is workable. We let this rest for a few weeks and then till again. After that settles for a week or two, it's ready to go! It's been a great method for this heavy, clay soil and we have made beautiful, rich soil from doing this. But, no go with the snow!
If there is a hell for gardeners, this is it. You can touch it, but, you can't play with it! Am I the only one that is so frustrated?

The seed starting experiment inside has worked out wonderfully. I've only started a few things and they are all sprouting.

To date, I've planted two types of lettuce - flashy troutback and five star mix. I've also started white sage and leeks. It looks like I may be starting other veggies on this little table, too since we have to change the game plan.

Here they are sprouting happily away. I'll divide and put into individual pots after they've grown a bit. I have to say, I'm not terribly methodical about my seed starting. I'm trying to do better with this, but - at least I'm recording dates and germination time this year. Normally I'm just happy they pop up! So, I guess I'll have to be happy with the little green things popping up in my office knowing that it won't be long before I am getting my hands dirty and then relaxing on the deck or porch with a cool libation and a soft, summer breeze.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Peaceful Fridays.....

If you look hard enough
You may find an answer....

But, it's exhausting work......

Have a peaceful weekend, y'all...........

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bring it on, Mother Nature....

The new implement of destruction...

Tis' herself

Tis' himself

The big scoop....

The wee plough....
We will never have any huge snow storms again. I think it said that as we signed on the dotted line :-)

Why is the theme song to "Green Acres" looping in my head?

Monday, February 22, 2010

What's 15 years in the big scheme....

To finish a quilt? Um, yes, it took that long. Okay, maybe it was 13 years, but, I really think it was 15. My daughter was small, maybe in kindergarten or first grade when I got underway with this. She designed the flower portion for quilting. She called it "lilly" which I found more than appropriate because it reminds me of a water lily.

The quilt pattern is called "Grandmother's Pinwheel" and the quilt design is by my daughter. Each triangle took approximately 35 minutes a piece to quilt. This is hand quilted, but, machine pieced.

Here's another shot with it covering my knee (which is full of dog hair, I'm sure).

This is what a true quilter will look at - the back. It shows the quilting pattern and the stitching itself. Tinier stitches, better quality.
So, even though it took a bit of time to complete, it is one of the first quilts I've ever kept for myself. I usually give them as gifts.

This is my next quilt project which I started oh, about four years or so ago. It's a single irish chain pattern. I've got about a third of it pieced. So, at this rate, this quilt may take 20 years to complete! But, in the meantime, I'll have some kick butt veggies and fruit that I've grown, music I've played with friends and shared with audiences, and quality time spent with my family.
It's all perspective.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

On being home.......

It's a balmy 50 degrees outside today with bright, blue skies. The sun felt warm on my face as I went about my chores. It is indeed a great day. Sunshine will do that, you know - make it a great day!
I've been running around a bit these last three days at a conference and although the conference and classes were wonderful, there's something to be said about just hanging out at home.
The hubsters spent part of the morning still clearing snow and ice from the driveway and making it wider. We now have a little breathing room if it should snow again. And, we have to make it wider for a special delivery that will be coming later this week - but more on that another time.
Today has been spent just doing some tidy work around here and mucking out the chicken coop. That was quite the job this time! We've had so much snow it was all we could do just to get back to them to feed and water. With the last few days being in the 40's, we've had a good bit of melt and some room to move around. So, the coop was emptied down to the bare floor, aired out, and then a fresh bed a straw was laid. Even though my arms were exhausted from carrying pitchfork after pitchfork of chicken bedding, the brief moment of satisfaction from getting it done and the sweet, sweet smell of the straw made every ache worth it. The chickens seem to appreciate it, too!
As I made my way back to the house from the coop, I turned around to take the view and to breathe the air. All I can say is - what a wonderful day for being home. Enjoy what's left of the weekend and take a moment to see the view and breathe the air. Sometimes it's all one needs to have a new outlook on the day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Peaceful Fridays.....

She has stated what she needs to have a peaceful weekend.
What I want to know, did she paint that on there by herself or did the Border Collie help her?
It's okay if she had a little help. That's what friends are for - be they two legged or four.

Have a peaceful weekend, y'all.....

*photo taken in the hills of Connemara, Ireland*

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lawn, yard, or Better Homes and Gardens....

The photo below was taken about a month after we moved into our home here. It was a snapshot of part of the backyard, which we have about 2 acres out here at the back of the house.
When we were first looking at the place to buy it, we asked the current home owner how long it took him to cut the grass. His reply was - " six or seven hours". My husband and I just looked at each other, but, I know what we were both thinking - and we were. Our thought was, why would you spend all that time and resources cutting grass? Why wouldn't you just let it grow and let Mother Nature do her thing?
He didn't do anything with the property back here except grow a couple of apple trees. So, he choose to spend his retirement cutting the grass. Now in all fairness, he did have a vegetable garden and from what we could tell by the items left behind after they vacated, a chemical laden vegetable garden. Ewww....

After the hubsters and I moved in, we cut the grass over the entire property once. That's all it took for the "meadow" to be born. It will stay a meadow until if and when we decide to use it for other resources, such as growing grains or raising meat animals.

The photo below (click to enlarge) shows the back yard and meadow three years on. We do cut paths through the meadow and keep the grass cut elsewhere out back because we USE it. I also keep the areas around the house cut to keep snakes (ewww, again - I know they are beneficial. It doesn't mean I have to like them) and rodents away from where we and the animals are on a daily basis. It takes me an hour and 45 minutes on a riding mower to do the mowing. Add another 15 minutes to this and it includes trimming around the house and outbuildings with my battery operated weed wacker.

As you can tell by this photo, I'm not too particular what is growing as long as its green. Clover has taken over a good bit of it which the bees love. The rest is grass and what some folks consider weeds. Oh, the horror of it all!

I don't fertilize my yard unless you count the grass clippings which add nitrogen to the soil.

This spot below is about the nicest grass we have. Sheer luck.
This is the way we walk back to the shed, studio, garden, and coop. It is also where my clothesline is. We haven't planted any other trees or bushes because it's the only area we can get a vehicle to the back of the property.

This shot shows most, but not all of the front yard. It's about and acre and a half. This piece of property takes about two hours to cut - mostly because of mowing around trees. This picture makes it look like a pristine lawn, which it isn't. It's just mowed on a weekly basis with the grass clippings left to do their thing. I get my trusty battery operated weed wacker out about once a month to trim around the front walkway, you know, just in case we get, ah, visitors... I jest.
Are you still with me?

Americans are obsessed with their lawns. I am not because I have a yard, not a lawn. I do take pride in my property, however, and keep it nice. I have to use a polluting riding mower to do so. I have to do this also because we have laws in this county that your grass cannot be over 6" in height. If the county receives a complaint, you get fined. Now don't get me wrong, I'm sure this ordinance was set in place for a variety of reasons. I'm hoping that sanitation reasons is why it was first implemented. Property value comes in to play, too, you can bet.

Our county has a "right to farm" law. When you purchase a home here you have to sign a document stating that you understand this. I think it's one of the smartest things they've put into play. For those of you who may not know, the right to farm act basically states you can't live here and complain about the smells and noises associated with those who farm for a living. It came about twenty years ago or so after the housing boom took off in this agricultural county and they started building McMansions. Folks would move to the "country" and then complain that it smelled like manure. Some even went as far as to sue their farming neighbor. Jeez, loosen your pony tail lady - your brain must be hurting. Duh, we are an agricultural county. We have huge dairy farms with cows out here. You know, those black and white things out there on the grass...

Anyway, I digress. What I'm trying to say is, where did we get so off track that just plain ol' grass isn't good enough? Why do we have to have companies come out and spray chemicals to have the greenest grass on the block? And then, goddess forbid, don't let your kids or pets play on it! What ever happened to the plain and common yard?

Don't get me wrong - I think a pretty yard is a pretty yard. I think a cut yard with trees and flowers show pride of ownership. But, what if I choose to let sheep graze in my front yard instead of just cutting all that grass? Is that wrong? Is it any less pretty? Is letting my yard go to being a meadow a sightly menace?

I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

So, is it a lawn, a yard, or a candidate for a spread in Better Homes and Gardens? Well, mine's a yard. I try to be as practical and environmentally aware of how I take care of it as I can. I'm not a purist, though I try to do the best I can. I can walk on it barefoot and my dogs can play on it. My chickens can scratch around on it and their feet won't fall off. The biggest risk in my yard is trying not to step on the honey bees while heading back to the garden. It's a hazard I'll chance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nest boxes....

I've been reading about Callie's adventures over on Chickens on the Porch in regards to nesting areas for the chickens and thought I'd put up a picture of what we are using.
My husband did a google search for nesting boxes and after looking through a couple of ideas came up with these.

They are 12" x 12" with a roosting bar on the front. There is a lip on the front of each of the boxes to help keep the wood chips in the boxes instead of all over the coop floor. The roost bar is so the girls can jump up and then get their balance before entering the boxes.

We use pine wood chips from our local feed store for the bedding inside the boxes. It stays cleaner than straw in my opinion and the girls just seem to like it better. We use straw in the rest of the coop and the run.

Sadly, for the time being, the girls are confined to the run and in good weather, I will carry them over to the fenced in back yard to get some free ranging in. I can't just let them out because we don't want them to wander over to next doors property.

The plan is to enlarge the run this year which will double its size so I can divide it and do rotational chicken grazing until we can get fencing up behind the coop. With enlarging the coop, I will be able to plant grass seed, clover, or other green matter on one side while the girls have access to the other side to scratch around. This will also serve well on days when we can't be around to keep an eye on things and the girls will still be able to get out for fresh air and exercise and be safe. As time and money permits, we will slowly put fencing in so they can truly free range.

The hubsters and I are looking into purchasing a compact tractor for doing chores around the homestead. We've been on the fence about it for a long time, but, have pretty much come to the conclusion that it would be worth the investment. We have a lot of projects around here that would benefit from having a tractor, that's for sure! So, we're off to the local John Deere dealer today to see what they have. We also have a Kuboto and New Holland dealer in the area which we will check into also over the next week or so. If any of you happen to have a tractor and have any input it would be greatly appreciated. This is a learn as we go kind of deal....scary. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Enjoy your day! We have another 3 - 6" of snow on the way.... yikes!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Just passing through.....

We've had the pleasure of a small flock of Northern Flickers stopping by the homestead during their migration. They seem to be rather shy, so, its taken a couple of days to get some photos.

Aren't they just beautiful? I wish I could have captured a picture of one of them in flight as for their underside is a lovely yellow.

They seem to like my clothesline. Maybe it's the colorful designs the hubster painted on them.

I don't know how long they will hang around, but, I'm sure glad they choose us for a layover!

Just another sign that spring really is on its way - birds on the move!

Not a whole lot going on 'round here. The chickens are still stuck inside their coop, but, they seem to be doing okay. I open the door, they take one look at all the snow still on the ground and they turn their fluffy butts around and head deeper into the coop..

Some friends were able to come over last night to have dinner and then play some tunes. It was a grand evening for sure. It was nice to know that civilization is still out there :-)

I did, however, find out that my fiddle hand was overworked shoveling all that snow. Playing was a challenge - but nothing that a few adult beverages didn't take care of! Purely medicinal - helped to relax those overworked muscles.

That's my story - yeppers - uh huh - sshhh....

I know the dogs won't spill the beans..

Friday, February 12, 2010

Peaceful Fridays.....

Hope blooms in all things.
I have a passion for lavender. I have a failure at growing it.
I broke down and bought a plant last spring.
I failed at making it grow.
I forgot about it and left it outside in the cold.
I found it "dead" and felt remorseful.
I gave it the only sunny spot in my house.
I talked to it and gave it love.
Unlike most humans, it forgave me and is giving back.
I dream of its soft scent to fill my olfactory senses.
Hope blooms in all things.

Have a peaceful, scented weekend, y'all......

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A story without words.....

New view from the kitchen...

We've got another wonderful view to go take a peek at:

Jane at Marigold Jam was kind enough to put up lovely views of her garden. I wish I were toddling around her gardens today, that's for sure!

We are currently in blizzard conditions here. I know we are not alone and that this storm is travelling north. I do hope everyone stays safe.

For those of you who do winter gardening in hoop houses, how do they fair when the weather gets this nasty? Do you have to go knock snow off the hoops or do they do okay under the weight? What about those of you who have small greenhouses?

It's hard for me to envision the growing season when we are covered in so much white. Even just laying out the gardens with pen and paper is hard to come to my thoughts right now.

I really need to get my leeks started. My motivation in doing so is blowing in the blizzard outside my door. But, I know, in due time, all will be green again.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I'm glad the fae love irish music....

The reason I'm glad faeries love irish music is because I get to play music at this wonderful festival!
This festival is held the first weekend in May and is held at and for Spoutwood Farm.
Spoutwood Farm is a CSA and educational farm in Glen Rock, PA - about a 1/2 drive from where I live. This is one of their biggest fund raisers of the year.
My husband and I started going to the festival a few years back just to enjoy the wonderful atmosphere, not to mention great vendors, musicians, and the cream of the crop when it comes to costumes! We'd sit for hours and just be amazed at the imagination folks put into their "fairy wear".
The festival started as a private party for about a hundred close friends and has turned into about 16,000 passing through the farm for the weekend.
The festival goers range in age from infants to folks well into their 80's plus! Some dress, some don't.

They have so many activities, especially for young children.
Above was an orchestrated equestrian May Pole dance!

The costumes are colorful and no two are alike.

They have tons of music with drumming circles, harpers, celtic bands, gypsy music, bellydancers, and of course irish music!

One of the things that everyone seems to enjoy is the bubble machine. Ain't nothing like doing the chicken dance with a bunch of bubbles floating all around you!

One of my most favorite things is the parade of the Green Men. These guys put a lot into their little parade through the farm. They even a have their own song they sing as they parade around..
It's kinda cute to see these big, burly guys walking around with a bunch of leaves and bushes on their heads!

If you've never been to a faerie festival - go. I guarantee you will have a blast.
If you can find one that supports a good cause, even better.

For more photo's, go to Spoutwood Farm's
website. Grab a cuppa and relax while you browse.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Storm update...

I'm in awe of this storm..
I had to shovel again to get back to the coop. Last night we shoveled about a foot. I just shoveled through waist high snow. So, about 2 1/2 more feet of snow.
I'm happy to say the girls are as snug as a bug in a rug.
Last night, I filled one of the tubs with water as well as the four water fonts for the girls. I figured this way we have four days of water for them.
We brought plenty of wood over for the woodstove and it has done a wonderful job keeping us toasty. I also went on a baking/cooking spree last night because I thought for sure our power would be out by morning.
I made a pot of potato broccoli soup and have some homemade bread to sop it up with, chocolate chip cookies, and cranberry orange bread.

Right now, the hubsters is doing a grand fry-up - eggs and bacon. The smell is wafting down the stairs back to my office. Just the ticket after some hard labor!

I hope to post some more pics later - breakfast is calling at the moment....

Stay warm and safe to all who are dealing with Mother Nature's sense of humor!

Two feet and counting....

Two feet so far with drifts much deeper. I can't believe we still have power.
The storm is not supposed to stop brewing until around 8pm tonight.
Here are a couple of pics from this morning....

No one will be coming up these steps anytime soon!

Part of the lower deck looking back toward the steps in the above photo.

A path shoveled from the lower deck to the middle and upper decks to get to the condenser that is just on the other side of the privacy fencing.
Nuala's not too sure about this much snow!

Outside of my office sliding door looking onto the lower deck.
We may be digging out of this for days to come. I'm off to give the girls water and some snacks.
We dug a path about 11pm last night to check on them and they were all snuggled in for the night - all safe on their roosts.
Have a safe weekend everyone and mind your backs.