Friday, June 21, 2013

Happy Solstice

Stonehenge trip 1993

"The festival of the summer solstice speaks of love and light, of freedom and generosity of spirit.  It is a beautiful time of year where vibrant flowers whisper to us with scented breath, forests and woodlands hang heavy in the summer's heat and our souls become enchanted with midsummer magic"   Carole Carlton

Happy Solstice

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Grow, Baby Grow

The garden is in, the bees seem to be rejuvenating their colonies, and it looks like we are going to be settling into some moderately warm weather with occasional storms in the forecast...perfect growing weather. 

We are fortunate enough to have a team of great people who are willing to dedicate a little time to the farm when we head out of town to visit family.  It is always tough to gauge when will be the best time to go.  Early summer seems better than late summer due to harvests, yet some of the late summer harvests are so abundant that a few extra days on the vine is not a big deal.  This year the timing is almost perfect, with the exception of the fact that everything is 4-6 weeks behind, and it seems that our peas are just blooming and the garlic scapes have just poked their pointy little heads out.  So a few lucky helpers will hit the mother lode of those items while we are gone; hopefully we will get lucky and get some on the tail end. 

This years garden went in with an ease that we have not had before.  I think we must finally be getting good at it and envisioning everything we need as we do it.  The two chairs at the top of the garden are sitting in what will become our patio area, a perfect spot for a cocktail and grazing on fresh veggies.  Just outside the fence line, there is a protected area between the garden and the house that we think is perfect for an outdoor kitchen.  All we need for our farm to table life is for the garden to grow, baby grow.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Best Dads I Know

Silly Bro

Happy Fathers Day to the three best dads that I know.

My dad, who instilled the tremendous importance of family,

B, who is a loving and patient teacher opening the kids eyes to the wonder of the world,

and my little bro, who is raising two amazing girls while balancing the rigors of a crazy busy career.

slĂ inte boys!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Preparing for the Solstice

Since we will be headed out of town late next week to visit family, I will not be around for the solstice celebration that we have been planning at the Eco Justice Center. What better way to participate, than gather with a couple of ladies at the farm and spend a couple of hours hand dying solstice prayer flags.  Our goal was a sunny disposition to the flags that will be placed on sticks and carried in a parade celebrating the wonderful wildness of summer. 

This is my first time dabbling in dyeing and it was so easy and lots of fun.  A couple of things that I learned, at least when dealing with turmeric.....

It does not take much.  The recipe that we were using indicated 1 cup of turmeric to four quarts of water, that seemed like a lot and I can assure you that two quarts of water heated with 2-- .75 oz Jars of turmeric was plenty.   We hand twisted the fabric in a tie die fashion, and just held the little 8x7 flags in the hot water for about 30 seconds (until we could feel the hot water seeping up into the knot we were holding).  We set them aside on a plate until we were done, then took them outside, unfolded them and hung them to dry.  That is it.  Simple, beautiful, natural.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What a Ride

There is such a delicate balance to nature.  Even with the most conscientious of care, it can be hard to predict which things will thrive, fail, or endure the slimmest of odds.  It can be all at once disheartening and uplifting, and we find that as we nurture different things, we become very connected to them.

Most days we walk the homestead three times, early morning, mid day and evening.  We peruse the garden, check the bees, plan for future crops or animals, let the chickens out into the yard, harvest, water, pet the bunnies, weed pull, dream, and simply enjoy.

There are ups and downs to this process, because we will notice even slight changes that lead us to investigate and sometimes worry.  Both of our bee hives have been vigorous all spring, so much so that we had to add an additional box to each of them.  This week we had slowly warming weather, then a sudden very warm day.  I noticed that one of our hives had a large number of bees congregating outside, and some beginning to beard there.  This sent me into a little bit of a panic.  Are they going to swarm?  Are they unhappy in their home?  Are they just too warm from this crazy weather and getting some air?  We watched them carefully over the last couple of days and they are hanging in there.  This morning B noticed that the other hive seems to have many fewer bees, and we wonder whether this hive swarmed.  This second hive though robust,  has not been nearly as active as the other.  Maybe it lost its queen, and they are in the process of making a new queen.   It could be the other just had a huge brood hatch and by comparison it looks much more populous.  It looks like we will be examining the boxes in more depth to see if we can see a problem, or detect a new queen cell. So many possibilities, one of which is hives sometimes just swarm, period.  We will be setting out our bait hives this weekend, hopefully looking to catch a wild swarm, and not one of our own!

There is something about relying on mother nature that is very rewarding and humbling.  Hard work can be rewarded or punished by such simple things when you are relying on the elements and ecosystem around you.  But wow, what a ride!

 **Update.  After I posted this B spoke with our bee keeper friend who is very seasoned and been doing this for many years.  It seems we anticipated everything right, and it would be unusual for one warm day to cause a sudden swarm, especially since this hive was not the one with the excess of bees.  He thinks it sounds more like a mass die off due to some contamination/poison.  It happens these days.  We will inspect the hive this weekend to see if there is still a queen, and if the numbers continue to die off.  It leaves me sad, this was not necessarily mother nature, it was man made.  Big Ag may have created crops and insecticides to increase yields, and make for cheap hybrids (where the nutrition has all but been removed; ie. today's grains).  But I wonder what the true cost will be?  We already see effects in the health of the natural ecology.   The long term health effects to humans is yet to be seen, though I think he tip of the iceberg is emerging.

Thursday Things

It has been so busy this week, with the last day of school and summer activities getting into full swing without missing a beat. It has left me a little splintered with some tasks half done. So here are a few random Thursday things that I have been thinking about.

Early morning baking rocks

::  I had planned on baking cookies two days ago, but the afternoons have been so busy that it just has not   happened.  So this morning as my beautiful room temperature butter stared back at me accusingly, I decided to shake things up a bit and get my cookies baked early.  I am always at my best early in the day, and that time is normally monopolized by lunch making and carpooling before work.  What did I learn this morning?  An added benefit to summer....early morning baking rocks!

Chive flower vodka & chive flower vinegar

::  Virtually any garden item can be harvested and infused in vodka, olive oil or vinegar.  The possibilities are endless.....and delicious!!

::  When I knew that big storms were headed our way last night, I quickly ran outside and cut a few of our newly bloomed peonies, for fear the torrential rain would make them drop all of their petals before I could enjoy them.  Mother nature sure does it up right.  As I mourn the passing of my beautiful lilac flowers, she cheers me up with these delicate fragrant blooms, and reminds me that it is all a cycle and as one thing ends another begins.

farewell lilacs

Saturday, June 8, 2013

New Life Feeds New Life

I have waited all week to post, in the hopes that I would catch another glimpse of the newest little life on the farm.  On Tuesday morning, mama and baby were walking through the long grass at the far end of the property.  I snapped a shot, but it was very grainy.  So each morning I got up extra early, prepped the kids stuff and waited patiently.  Mama appeared Wednesday morning walking around, but the little one was well hidden somewhere near the orchard.  This is the doe that I am certain has taken up residence for much of the last two Falls back in the orchard.  I haven't seen any sign of them the last two mornings, so I will post this, in the hope that Murphy's Law will be on my side and I will see them in the morning. 

Look at the sweetie, so small and unsure on her legs.  She can't be more than a week or two old.  So I guess I should not get too angry that the strawberry greens have been munched on, and that one of our baby oak trees has lost several of its leaves to our visitors.  New life does after all does feed new life.

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Homes and the Farm Weekend

Two of our not so little anymore little ones went to there forever home yesterday afternoon.  Brothers, Blue is the spitting image of dad, while Cluster has some of mama's finer qualities.  Dot (mama) also has a smiley face on both sides.  Fitting that the largest and the runt of the litter go home together. 

The kids spent some time primping them in preparation.  They got one last romp in the garden, and then a pedicure and a dry bath.  One of the best parts is that they went home with some friends of ours, so there will be visitations.

Aside from two traveling soccer games, a house full of 10 year old boys slumber partying, and 4H picnicking, we managed to get some more planting done in the garden, and some more envisioning for its future.  I am not sure if it is the fact that the weather has finally warmed, the possibility that we may soon finally be rid of the other house, or that our little farm is the site for a wedding this fall, but we feel a little lighter and better able to envision simple, sustainable changes that will move us forward. 

This morning, I processed the rest of the rhubarb that we have picked so far into 2 gorgeous Quarts of Rhubarb Vanilla cordial.  After much hemming and hawing about it, and the fact that Charles and Sidney now love soda water as much as B and I do, we are finally going to invest in a soda stream to cut down on our can waste, and to compliment the variety of cordials this seasons garden will offer.

This season we are also upping the ante with the purchase of a pressure caner.  We will be able to process a much wider variety of items to fill our pantry.  By later this summer, look for some new canning tips!


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