Monday, July 30, 2012

Fair Week

Fair week was comprised of very busy days, lots of driving, lots of waiting, and LOTs of fried junk food.  Overall it was a grand success and the kids, exhausted, yet happy are eagerly planning what they want to do next year.....already!

Last year was Sidney's big year, and our first year.  We learned a lot about the mechanics of fair and what was involved with having a farm animal to show.  This year, due to the loss of our show chickens, Sidney's animal involvement was limited, but Charles, having his first year of animals, was ramped up. 

So, how did they do??  Fantastic!  Sidney took two first place blue ribbons in her photography, a first place blue in her archery shoot, and a third place white in her eggs.  Charles took two first place blue ribbons in his vegetable category with an additional spotlight ribbon awarded to his carrots! He also received a first place blue in archery.  He took two second place red ribbons with one of his Mini-Rex (Polka) rabbits and his New Zealand (Meat) and a first place blue with his other Mini-Rex (Dot) as well as his showmanship.  Thanks to his generous grandparents bidding from afar, his meat rabbit sold at auction for $250!  This was our first year in a meat auction and it was quite exciting.  In our barn there were chickens, ducks, turkey's & rabbits and the prices went anywhere from $100-$1200 on each one!  I was stunned, and also thinking that a turkey or two for next year might just be a grand idea!

They are both eager to enter several additional projects into the 4-h class, and next year plan to both participate in the rabbit project.  Who knows what else we may have bit off by that point that they can participate in!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Garden Pantry

Yesterday was hot. The kind of heat that saps your energy along with your desire to accomplish anything outdoors, especially when you have been at the fair for a few hours taking care of animals and having projects judged. So as dinner time was approaching and I couldn't bring myself to get once again into the hot car and go to the store, I began to wrack my brain on what to make with what I have on hand.

 I have come across several recipes recently that require nuts. Of course, when I run to the store I buy a package (or two if they seem really small) only to get home and realize that I only needed a tablespoon of them. An idea took root, that involved a meal that I could throw together, without leaving home and with minimal outside activity. I ran out and grabbed a basil plant, yes, we are pulling whole plants as we have a ton and it has done quite well. Our garden pantry was open and Pesto was on the menu. Pesto is an easy fresh dish and in moments I was able to make enough for supper and two containers for the freezer. This time of year being able to put food away is key.

When I perused the nuts in my pantry, I came across a package of hazelnuts. These slightly chewy, earthy nuts added a wonderful heartiness to the pesto. I always try to keep some pasta in the pantry, and try to let the kids pick it, so we added our lovely basil pesto to orange (veggie) bow ties--because bow ties are cool! I always like to slice a few fresh cherry tomatoes on top but the tomatoes aren't ripe yet, or are they? I tested the tomatoes that have blushed but didn't seem to change much the last few days and then a thought occurred to me, we planted orange cherry tomatoes! Yes! The first handful of tomatoes on our pasta!  What we were left with was a wonderful and easy supper.

 Hazelnut Pesto 

4 Cups fresh basil
2 Large cloves garlic
1/2 C chopped hazelnuts
1 C grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 C extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend. I normally add half of the oil to start and then add the remaining to the desired consistency. This yielded me three 1/2 cup containers. For our family that is the perfect amount to toss with a pound of pasts.

 What versions of pesto do you make??

Monday, July 23, 2012

Harvest Is....

We arrived home from the fair grounds at dusk tonight,  exhausted from the heat and the day.  The evening chores will have to be abbreviated, and I fought every impulse to just blow them off.  It is still 89 degrees with a feels like temp of 95.

I relent, I begin that twilight walk in the garden.  Everything is looking wonderful despite the day, but then I see our new little seedlings, and decide they need to have a little drink.  I take a deep breath, listen to the locusts and water the starts.  Then, since my mind rarely stops cranking, I suddenly remember that I haven't picked berries today!  A near panic strikes me as I weigh running out there to get it done, racing against the light.  It has been so hot, and the last thing I want to see is the vine slow down, because I couldn't make it out there.  The berries, once ripe, need to  picked right away or they will dry out.  I turn off the hose and head over to pick the berries. 

It would be a shame for me to allow a passing day this time of year so that the fruits just wither and return to the earth.  I'll remember this come January when it's snowing outside and we are enjoying blackberry cobbler and smearing boysenberry jelly on our morning toast.  As the last light slips away I realize that this is exactly what harvest is.  Pressing on regardless of the day, to complete the daily harvest so that our family may enjoy the food that we have worked so hard for now and in the months ahead. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Farm Bag #3 Hit's the Stands

This is my favorite time of year. It consists of daily strolls through the garden where we never leave empty handed. Shortly we will be make twice or three times daily routes that should leave us scrambling to store and distribute all of our bounty. Here is a look at what is going home this week in farm bags. The most noticeable thing is the green beans. We had thoroughly combed the vines Wednesday evening before we went in. Over night we had 3.97 inches of rain. By Thursday evening we had a bucket full of beans. Poor things, just longed for cooler temperatures and a steady shower. The vines look great, but we are supposed to be getting hot again, so I am sure they will be somewhat stunted in their production. However, The beans will come, just during our glimpses of more moderate days.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Evening Chores

Evening chores are much like morning chores, but without the urgency.  The day is winding down versus gearing up.  As I walk a more leisurely pace to let out the chickens and collect eggs, I take deep breaths and take in the late afternoon sun.  Once the eggs are collected I relish in harvesting berries which despite the extreme weather are turning out to be a bumper crop.  As I pick them I can feel the warmth of the sun in the berry.  There are few things as heavenly as warm berries right off of the vine.  In the last two days we have picked about 7 pounds of Blackberries and Boysenberries.  I have made a berry pie and I suspect a very large pot of jelly is in my near future. 

During the evening chores I allow myself to be distracted by the light.  I  jump up, grab my camera and snap photos, leaving B alone for a few minutes during our latest succession planting to rows in the garden.  I hear the kids wide awake voices squealing in delight as they play with the new Mini Rex bunnies that came last night.  They are such sweeties.  They are litter mates, a blue buck and a broken doe (the adjectives referring to their color :)  The names settled upon are Polka (the buck) and Dot (the doe). 

 see how her markings are smiling at you?  I was the first to spot this pattern, the second auspicious thing I've come across this week! :)

Then as a cooler wind kicks up and we hear the distant sound of thunder we eagerly decide dinner based on what young fruits are just ready to pick.  We do a lot of stir fry this time of year and tonight's installment will have a small eggplant, a couple green peppers, handful of green beans, kohlrabi, swiss chard and chicken.  Yes, evening chores are good for the soul. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Let's Go Surfing Now..


Learning to surf was a true California adventure for the kids, and something that I have never done.  Sure, I have body surfed and boogie-boarded, but the real deal Beach Boy surfer stuff was all for the kids.


They had a great instructor, who was patient yet made them do all the work.  Balance was key, and Charles has had nothing but staying on his toes balance training in club soccer the last twelve months, so he was all set.  Sid did a great job holding her own.  She took a few tries longer to get it going, but determination kicked in and she was catching each mini curl as was her brother.

Heading to the Water

They had to haul their own boards a long way down the beach due to the thick sea weed beds.


They had the truly magical experience of surfing while just 25 feet from them was a school of dolphins frolicking.

Wipe Out splash

Then came trying, wiping out, trying again, almost getting it, and finally catching the wave.

Ease strength 7/8/12 Surfin'

What a great experience! Sidney loved it and will do it again for sure, but it is Charles that has been incessantly asking for a wet suit and a surfboard. I told him that we had to investigate what opportunities we had here before we could do that. He is all set to hit any wave pool or Lake Michigan, and plans to surf no matter the weather when we return to California.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Glimpse

Does it ever happen to you? 
Those brief moments when you catch something out of the corner of your eye.  
Those times that you have to double take and make a decision.
 Is what I am seeing real, or just a glimpse of what was? 
A mere ghost floating among the here and now.
I don't know about you, but I love to get lost in the horizon.
To hear the whispers, learn the lessons from those who came first,
and float on the promise of what is to come.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Our first morning in San Diego I was set on doing an early yoga on the beach class.  So set on it, that I tossed and turned all night at the prospect of it, then restlessly got up and arrived 40 minutes early.  Ha!  I really needed a yoga class huh?  Well being who I am, and not near patient enough to wait on a beautiful yet overcast California morning, I decided to blow it off and go for a walk on the beach.  The tide was way out, so far it seemed the wet exposed sand stretched for an eternity.  What I saw then was a symphony of life from under the sea.  Sand dollars had washed along the shore and were scooting furiously back to their homes.  Did you know that sand dollars are purple when they are alive and kicking?  They look like little urchins on the bottom and are very efficient travelers.  I posted a sneak peek here.  I have a couple other photos of these amazing little things, but they deserve their own post.

Since I was headed to yoga and not intending on beach-combing, I only had my phone to capture them.  Then I began to think, that if I hurry I can get B and the kids down before the tide comes in.  So upstairs I went (coffee in hand) and all I had to mention was sand dollars and the kids bolted up from what seemed a dead sleep.  Two minutes later we were out the door and headed back down.  We slowly walked the beach discovering little treasures.   We continued this each morning, followed by a leisurely breakfast ocean side and collected tons of amazing shells and empty sand dollars.  Perfect family mornings.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Headed Home

Sand dollar headed home

It's hard to believe that I have not posted here in almost a week!  I knew that this vacation would be very busy and my computer access would be limited, but I sealed the deal when I forgot the cable to my camera at home.  I normally bring the cable so that I can upload some photos for my mom and continue to make a few posts while we are here.  Between Sidney and I we took over 600 pictures this week that will be a little gift for us to open when we get home.

One of the great things about vacations, even busy ones, is that you are taken out of your normal day to day and begin to see things from a different perspective.  You are free to observe, imagine, cultivate and decipher thoughts and the resulting inspiration gives confidence in new ideas.

I will have much more to share, once the photos are loaded and sorted.
Like this little sand dollar at low tide finding it's way back, today we are headed home.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

These Truths

This is another of Sidney's light shots from earlier this week

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” ―

Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

A safe and happy Fourth of July to Everyone!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Looking At The Light


Sidney has been spending time running around with my camera taking shots to come up with a theme for her photography entry at fair.  I've said before, how impressed that I am at her eye.  I haven't really spent much in the way of time coaching her on how to take pictures.  She just picks up the camera and starts taking shots.

garden chair sparkle

Well last night in about 20 minutes she took these shots (SOOC) and I was just floored.  As she, B and I were gathered around the computer looking at them she said "I just like looking at the light."  It made my heart leap when she said that, because it is one of the things that I am most taken with too. 

bicycle light light tree
I can't wait to see if this interest of hers continues to grow.  Hmmm, maybe time for mama to upgrade cameras and pass my trusty Canon on to Sid.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Swarm Follow-up ~ Re-Hiving

Transfer from Box to hive

Yesterday evening, once B returned with the hive, he transferred the bees from the box to their new home.  It all begins with removing a few bars (the guides for them to build their comb) and dumping, yes, I said dumping,  the bees into the hive.

The Dump Emptying Box

This process takes only a couple of minutes and they immediately start to acclimate.   Amazingly, once the box was empty we noticed that the lid had the starts of comb being made on it!  They had only been in there for a couple of hours!

Placing Bars

Once the box is emptied, B replaced the bars that he had removed.

Placing Quilt

Then carefully slid on the quilt.

7/1/12 Faning

At this point we all gathered around the front to watch the ones that were flying around line up to march in the front door.  It was so cool to see.  The bees that have their butts in the air facing outward are wildly flapping their wings.  This is called fanning.  They do this to alert (fan) the other bees from their swarm to their queens scent.  Home Sweet Home.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Operation Swarm Containment

Swarm Cloud

This morning as we were getting ready to head out the door, B called me out to the orchard.  There was a giant mass of bees swarming.  My first thought was panic.  Oh no is one of our hives vacating??  I checked them on my way there and they were both fine, humming along as normal.  Then, when I got to B's location it was amazing.  A funnel cloud shape of thousands, I think tens of thousands of bees all swarming up to a branch 30 feet above us.  What an amazing sight!  And the sound was hypnotic. ( you can take a listen by playing the video at the end of the post.)

Swarm Settled
So since it's a day and a half until we leave town and we've been racing around with laundry, currant harvest and cordial making, farm bag distribution, dress picking up, and soccer, of course we now must also attempt to capture a wild swarm to add to our homestead.  It's just how we roll.

We called our friendly beekeeper (the one who made our hives) and he gave us some directions on capturing it.  We did a little bit more research via the Google, then as soon as we got home set about operation swarm containment.

slowly bringing down branch

Since the swarm decided to settle very high up, B figured out which branch, and decided that with the combination of a partial cut and a pulley system we should be able to (hopefully) gently bring the branch down then shake the swarm into a box.

Bee Halo

The key when trying to capture the swarm is to make sure that you get the queen.  Wherever the queen goes, the rest will follow.  The initial attempt jarred the branch a little more than we would have liked, but with a portion of the bees down and the branch lower we were able to watch and see where the bees congregated (i.e. queen).

Pully to hold branch down

B then rigged the branch so that the pulley had it bowed low enough that he could approach it with a box and a large stick,  give the branch a couple of good knocks, and the bees would fall into the box.  Spraying them with a little sugar water calms them and so he did that just prior to the transfer.


This went quite well though he felt that the queen was still with a small cluster on the tree branch.  At this point he could cut this small branch and add it directly into the box.

Bees Falling

Within 15 minutes all of the bees were in the box!  So operation swarm containment was quite successful.  Now B is driving about an hour from here to pick up another hive, then at dusk, we'll transfer the lot into it.

Completed Capture

Bees are amazing creatures.  Through all of this, even with thousands of bees flying around B, they didn't attack him.  He did get one sting, but not during the capture, only because when he lidded the box, one bee got squished and stung him on his gloved finger then.   During the whole process I was anywhere from 10 feet to right up close (depending on what stage) and never had any concern.  I am also thankful that our bee keeper resource is so generous as to have B go to his house while he's not home and retrieve what we need to get these guys situated.  He had even offered to come out and help us late tonight after he gets back from his family activities.  Such generosity warms the heart.

I can say we have checked one off of the bucket list.  Hmmm, now since bees swarm only a short distance from their previous hive, we may next have to search our hollow trees for some honey!!

Check out the video to get a feel for the amazing swarm symphony!

June In Review

What a difference a month makes! I glanced back at last month to try to get some perspective on how things had progressed and I was stunned. Garden-wise, we have been ahead all year as I indicated in last months summary, but a long and early spring is no match for true summer weather and produce. Small lovely flowering plants that were the focus last month have suddenly begun to produce and with increasing volumes that have allowed us to get two sizable farm bags out! To understand how incredible this is, the last two years our first farm bag was right on the fourth of July! The kids finished school and begun the wonderful days of summer. They have been busy with activities and friends. We head next week to California for vacation, and then when we return they have an assortment of day camps lined up and of course fair. I am excited to see what July's review brings!

June In Review
1. 6/1/12 Homemade Target for Archery Practice, 2. 6/2/12 Lavender, 3. 6/3/12 1st Strawberries, 4. 6/4/12 Leaves, 5. 6/5/12 Strawberry Crumble, 6. 6/6/12 Dining For Women, 7. 6/7/12 Beet Forest, 8. 6/8/12 Girl Talk, 9. 6/9/12 Thirst quenching, 10. 6/10/12 Brushing Cheek, 11. 6/11/12 Rhubarb Gin, 12. 6/12/12 Silk Trail, 13. 6/13/12 Pile 'O Pea Pods, 14. 6/15/12 Painted, Peppered Sunlight, 15. 6/16/12 Wisconsin Eve, 16. 6/14/12 Baby Bird, 17. 6/17/12 Farm Bag 1, 18. 6/18/12 Kiddo Summer Reads, 19. 6/19/12 Where did you come from little leopard frog?, 20. 6/20/12 Lavender Harvest, 21. 6/21/12 Summer Sky, 22. Sourdough Jam Cake Cooling, 23. 6/23/12 Simple Pleasures, 24. 6/24/12 Root River, 25. 6/27/12 Hello little black eyed Susan, 26. 6/29/12 We go together like peas & carrots, 27. 6/25/12 Allium, 28. 6/26/12 Raspberry Cordial Starts, 29. 6/28/12 Elderflower Soda, 30. 6/30/12 Elderflower Cordial Created with fd's Flickr Toys

Silent Sunday ~ Alliums


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