Monday, September 26, 2011

Root Crops

I spent several hours the past two weekends in the garden, getting it ready for the winter. We are planning to over-winter the chickens in the garden as well...they can till in the mulch and cover crops for us (if I ever get them planted).

In the late Spring this year, I cut up about 3 sprouting red potatoes that my Mom found in her pantry, and planted them in a garden bed. I have been most anxious to see what they did, if anything. By this weekend, the foliage from all of the potato plants had all died back, so I got out my shovel. I ended up with 9 pounds of beautiful red potatoes!

I also pulled most of the carrots, all of the turnips, and a couple of the onions. I pulled the red beets last weekend, and just finished taking my jars of lovely magenta pickled beets out of the canner.

The peppers, both hot and sweet, are still going strong. There are now 19 asparagus plants ferning. The tomato plants are limping along, but are fighting their second wave of hornworms. The chickens got most of them that we picked off yesterday, but we left about 5 of them on the plants. These were covered with the pupae of Braconid wasps: beneficial, harmless wasps, which parasitize the hornworm.

(This photo, and more info can be found here.)

I love my garden, and am very proud of it, but I am never sad to see it go to sleep in the Fall. It is a lot of work, and I have many other cold weather projects to turn to in which to spend my copious free time!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Squeezed out of Mother Earth

It's been a loooooong day. We drove the hour and a half up to 7 Springs early this morning for the Mother Earth News Fair, and missed the first seminar due to the 15-20 minute wait just to get in the driveway at Seven Springs and the 5 minute bus ride from our parking place to the conference center. It was standing room only at every seminar JP and I tried to attend, even if we were able to get there several minutes early.

The girls sat in on a seminar for children about bugs, and L made her own bug catching net.

I think the most enjoyable thing that JP and the girls did was to ride the ski lift to the top of the mountain and back down.

We gave up and left several hours earlier than planned. It gave us the chance to pay an unexpected visit to one of JP's dear friends from college, who lives only 30 minutes away. I'm so glad we did. He is ill, and we were able to celebrate his birthday with him and his wife. What better aid to healing than celebrating?

Now we are home, and the girls are tucked into their beds. I'm waiting for the dryer to stop so that I can put the clean sheets from it directly on my bed, and then I'll crash. Sweet dreams

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scavenger Walks

Kali and I have been going on nearly daily walks in the early mornings for about a year and a half now. It is one of my favorite parts of the day, one which I actually get up early in order to accomplish!

It is becoming darker and darker in the mornings. One day in the not-to-distant-future, I will have to postpone the walks until after Daylight Savings time. Interestingly (while we are on the subject of fewer hours of daylight), the hens lay according to the daylight as well, which is why they don't lay as well in the winter unless they have supplimental artificial light.

It has been lovely to walk through the seasons and the weather. After many walks I will bring back some little treasure to show the folks at home who are still snug in their beds. I go from bringing back the first red leaf of Fall, to icicles in the winter, the first Spring flower and fresh black raspberries or black berries for our yogurt in the Summer.

Here is a list of some of the things I have found:

bones and teeth (of all sorts: deer, horse, small critter - raccoon maybe?)
turtle shells
fragments of sky blue egg shell
big turkey feathers, bright red cardinal feathers
bird nests
a strip of gauzy grey material 10 inches long from a paper wasp's nest
empty wasp nests
pretty leaves
interesting fungus
snail shells
pretty rocks
the orange wing with eyespot of a large moth
butterfly wings

Sometimes I forage in the garden at the end of our walks, and come home with vegetables, or eggs from the hens.

Every now and then I will come across some trash, which I bring home to throw away or recycle.

I'm still searching for that elusive pot of gold!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gardening With Chickens

This post title sounds like a seminar that I could attend at the upcoming Mother Earth News Fair this weekend. JP and I have been perusing the 10 pages of seminar lists, and trying to narrow it down to a number that we can physically and mentally handle in one day. I give up, my vision is turning all squinty and wiggly...the new reading glasses aren't even helping!

It was a beautiful weekend! Unfortunately I spent most of Saturday inside with little L, who started running a fever and vomiting on Friday night. I did manage to get 2 loads of laundry washed and hung out to dry in between holding the bucket.

On Sunday, I finally got out to the garden, which has been sadly neglected for a couple of weeks...since school started really. I let the chickens in to scratch while I worked on weeding and mulching my Fall peas and uncovered my blueberry bushes from the weeds. It was blissfully quiet. The crooning of the happy hens was punctuated every now and then by the POP of acorns dropping on to my parents' metal roof. They dug and scratched while I dug and scratched...and tossed them a grub every now and then.

JP and the girls joined me later, and we got all 5 beds of cornstalks pulled and disposed of. I have 2 beds of beans to pull yet, and then we are planning to experiment with cover crops this Fall. We might have to wait until after the Mother Earth News Fair to know what/how to plant.

This weekend, I also sewed a couple of dresses to send to orphans in Malawi. This Spring, my friend, N, hosted a sewing bee. The ladies there finished 8 dresses, but N didn't manage to send them any where before she passed away. Another friend recently found someone who can hand deliver the dresses to an orphanage in Malawi. I wasn't able to be there for the sewing bee, but when T said she needed 5 more dresses to have one for each girl at this particular orphanage, I pulled out my sewing machine. I did it in memory of N, imagining her delight at finding just the right home for our little dresses.

Full weekend, even more full Monday.

And K, here's something to laugh about: I was hustling this morning to get everything done before leaving for work...including dealing with a load of laundry that I ran over night. I carefully checked the forecast for the day, 0% chance of precipitation. I double checked by watching the radar video, which seemed to be pushing inclement weather North of here. I decided to risk it, and spent 20 minutes hanging everything out. I was probably only at work for 45 minutes when it began to rain, and didn't let up all day. Surprisingly, when I finally took the laundry down, sometime after 5 this evening, things were only damp...much drier than when I hung them out!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nearing. Complete. Exhaustion.

We have already put in 6 or 7 hours of soccer this week, between practices, games and shuttling to and fro. We have another 2 hours rescheduled for tonight. We have eaten fast food for the past 3 nights running. I feel like a blob with no energy.

Tonight I am admitting defeat and calling in the troops. I will take J to soccer practice, and call on the good will of my friends to keep an eye on her while L and I come home and make dinner, something with LOADS of vegetables. I'm hoping that I will have time to eat some of it before I run Kali off to college (she is in a study of dog training at the university for 30 min/week).

School is going ok, but absolutely ALL of my time is gone between that, soccer, and the inevitable life things like laundry and meals. I spend another 1-1 1/2 hours after the girls go to bed just prepping materials for the following day. What have I gotten myself into?

I'm about a fraction of a centimeter from going insane! Once soccer is over in another 6 weeks, I'm tempted to take a giant sleeping pill and hibernate for approximately 10 days.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hodge Podge

While I had the step ladder out to water the plants this weekend (yes, I have to use a ladder to water my plants weekly!), I decided that it was high time to dust up there. Nasty. After everything was sparkling clean, I got inspired to dig out my Fall decorations. Yee haw!

This morning, J needed a quiet place to read while L and I were working on Math class. I set up this little reading nook in a sunny corner of their play room, which they both fell in love with. By the way, this morning L finally earned that blue feather boa by getting dressed and upstairs in 15 minutes for 5 days in a row.

This weekend, JP built a cover for the 5 foot deep window well by our main door. Since we are almost ready to install the woodstove in the downstairs family room, this hole will be a storage place for firewood that can be accessed from downstairs.

Finally, just a couple of pictures of my new flower bed.

The morning glories have only been blooming for the past week. They look like they are trying to escape out of the flower bed..."Feed me, Seymour!"

It's been a long day: school for 2, took the dog to be groomed, attended Monday Music in the Park, soccer practice for J, and Library Board meeting. I'm signing off...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Falling Into Place

It is merely the 3rd day of school here on Poplar Ridge. Already, nothing has been routine. I'm not complaining, really, because it's actually going ok. Luckily this week was scheduled for testing and orienting with on line school. We didn't need to orient, so we took the opportunity to ease gently into the work load. L still needs to learn that school is not optional. We're getting there!

Already, I find myself falling into those routines that we've had for the past couple of years during the Fall. Last evening, I sipped a mug of tea in the kitchen, while preparing dinner. The girls sat at the bar doing their handwriting lessons, then I chased them outside as the sun actually appeared through the clouds for the first time in several days. The tea. Making dinner while J works at the bar. Chasing kids outside. It's all very familiar. (I hope I'm not jinxing things by being overly optimistic this early on!)

We had an unexpected trip out to Mingo this morning for a science lesson about "Mingo's Meanies". We talked about poison ivy, stinging nettles, copperheads, mosquitoes and ticks, then went for a walk to identify most of those (no snakes or ticks).

This afternoon I am teaching L lessons that I remember from J's Kindergarten year, and having the same struggle with Math and Phonics that I did with her big sister: already I am hearing "This is SOOOOO boring!", so already I am skipping ahead.

Have I been here before? Oh yes, I have! I started Kindergarten with J 3 years ago, both of us new to cyber school. At the time I was showing the house, ultimately selling it, then packing and moving into a teeny weeny apartment in town. Those were the good old days!

This time it will be a piece of cake!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School 2011

Well...this is it: our official first day of school, my first day as "teacher" to 2 girls. It started off with a couple of glitches: I was unable to log on using J's login info (that I checked yesterday), and her teacher was apparently having internet issues as well, and did not come on line for the 9:00 "Meet Your Teacher" session.

This week we are supposed to do testing, J does the Scantron, L does DOMA and DORA. J has finished the Reading portion, L has finished her DOMA. We will likely do some more in a bit.

It is raining...over 4 inches in the past 2 or 3 days. I'm starting to get restless. I head to work in a couple of hours, then dash to soccer today. Here we charge into Fall!

Monday, September 5, 2011


Look what's coming up in the garden!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Yesterday morning, while JP was doing the mowing, he texted me: "why are there balloons in the orchard?"

L and I went to check it out. Sure enough, there were 3 mylar balloons in the orchard, caught on one of our little apple trees. Two of them were Happy Birthday balloons, and one was in the shape of a football, which was broken. They were attached to a card, which had messages from several people to "Josh".

To Josh's friends and family, where ever you are, please know that your memorial balloons made it to our little corner of PA yesterday. We have been remembering you and Josh warmly.

JP and I both tried some unsuccessful internet searches to find out who Josh was and where the balloons came from. Feel free to contact me if you have any information.