Thursday, August 28, 2008


Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~From a Headstone in Ireland

There are days I hate farming and today was one of them. Our little Jersey heifer Annabelle died during the night. She was only with us a short time but we had such hopes for her. It was something I had wanted for a long time.

When we got her 11 days ago, we were told the next two weeks were crucial. She had diarrhea when we got her home which is normal due to transport. We alternated electrolytes and milk replacer. She recovered. Then we had 43 degree temps and she was cold and wouldn’t drink her milk. I got a sweater on her and got her to drink her electrolytes like I was told and she recovered. Then she started to have diarrhea again. We were told to stop giving her the milk replacer and give her nothing but the electrolytes which we did. Other than the one morning she was always ready to eat and finished it all. Her big beautiful eyes watching us go about our chores will be sorely missed. For being with us for such a short time she is leaving a huge hole.

Some people may find it hard to understand crying over the loss of an animal when we raise them for our food. Taking an animal to the butcher is hard also but you knew from the start that that was the path you were going to take. We spoil them all but we try not to get emotionally attached to the ones that are only staying for a short period of time. However if we know they are going to be here with us for the long haul we quickly lose ourselves to them.
I have been watching a friends kids all week so they were upset also. Needless to say I am happy this day is drawing to an end.

But before it does I will share some happy things….I have a picture of a 2x2 rib hat I did last week, along with the double sided cable scarf I finished last night. I love that pattern as it is quick and easy and looks good from both sides. Today I started knitting a valance for my spinning room. Technically it is a pattern for fluted lace edging that I got from here. It is quick and I am happy with to just get in the house.

So far as the garden it is still producing. Saturday a branch broke off an apple treebecause it was so heavy with apples. I started picking them up and quickly filled a wheelbarrow. We have made a couple of batches of apple currant and apple blackberry jelly. There are still so many left. But I am not going to worry about them. I am going to go sit and spin away some of the tension from the day.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Thoughts of hibernation.

"The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many."- Oliver Wendell Holmes

While riding into town I saw the first leaves starting to change color.Then I noticed them lying on the side of the road.A couple of days later while I was standing in the garden, I wanted to rip everything out and go inside. I first wrote this off as a case of ADD on my part. Then yesterday while at spinning Cyndy mentioned that she wanted to be done with her garden! I was happy to learn it was not just me.
However this made me wonder if there is some internal clock for humans also. The animals all know when to migrate, breed and gorge themselves prior to hibernation. So do we also know when it is time to just wrap it up and stay inside? Do we rely more on outward signals or listen to the internal clock ticking away? The garden is still producing, flowers are still blooming.The blackberries still need picking and the elderberries are not even ripe. And let us not forget the apples and pears. I need to make apple butter, applesauce, apple cider, pear honey, elderberry jelly and blackberry cordial. I have to gather the black walnuts and butternuts.I still need to take 2 steer, 3 pigs, 40 chickens and 2 turkeys to the butcher. I also have to shear 6 sheep and an angora goat. It is so not the time to go inside yet!
The weatherman was discussing "meteorological autumn" which starts on September 1. I think my body is more in tune with this than the astronomical seasons. But what is the trigger? Is it waking up to 43 degrees in August? Is it that now the fog doesn't leave the valley until 10 or so? Is it the changing of the leaves? Is it the first day of school looming in the future? Is it knowing that Endless Mountain Fiber Festival , where Grace and Cyndy are vendors, is only 2 weeks away or that Rhinebeck is only 6 weeks away? What is it that makes me want to go inside, knit socks, gloves and hats? What clock sits and ticks while I waste a day behind a spinning wheel? I will probably never know the answer. But I do know that finishing my tasks before I go hibernate is getting harder and harder and is done with less enthusiasm.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oops, I did it again!

"Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won't suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow. But when the person looks back-she will hear her heart" ~ Paulo Coelho
I have a tendency to plunge right into things, throw caution to the wind, let the chips fall where they may etc. etc. etc.. I could blame it on my parents who said you can do whatever you want! I could blame it on Cyndy who provided the first animals (rabbits) and started us down a sliperry slope! But it is actually my fault as I happened to marry a man who says "I am trying to make your dreams come true, one at a time" You gotta love him, but it would also help if one of us was a little more cautious. Where is the sound of reason when you need to hear it? Where is the person who should be smacking us upside our head saying..."Don't you have enough to do?" "Aren't you building a house?"
Well that person was obviously on vacation. #2 Son was off with the boy scouts and #2 Daughter is just as impulsive so she is of no help. So when we received a phone call Friday from a friend that said "I am at an auction and there is a Jersey heifer here. Didn't you want one of them? Do you want her?" I handed the phone off to the man who as I stated gives me what I want without any thought and Saturday before 8 AM we got...AnnaBellHaving grown up on a small dairy farm I have always wanted a cow. We grew up on raw milk, homemade butter and fresh cream. We primarily raised Holsteins and Herefords. I wanted a Jersey because they are the smallest but have the highest butterfat. So I do have some knowledge and I am not going into this totally blindfolded. It obviously will be a while before I will have raw milk but it is like planting an orchard....looking into the future.
She is quite the hog! I had a bottle that I didn't use for the sheep and we stopped and bought a calf nipple for it and milk replacer. Well she about dislocated my shoulder while I was stablizing it so she is now drinking from a bucket. Bottles might be cute but the bucket is injury free (so far). So off we go on another adventure.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I thought I had a green thumb!

Winter squashes are the forgotten vegetables. Almost no vegetable is as easy to grow or keep. With fertile soil, full sun and ample water, vines take off. And after plants become established, they're so carefree, it's easy to forget them until fall when their rediscovery makes the harvest that much sweeter.- Andy Tomolonis

Winter squash are not forgotten in my garden and they are amazingly easy to grow. This year I planted...
Black Futsu (C. moschata) black Japanese squash, the fruit is flattened, round and has heavy ribbing. Fruits are 3-8 lbs. each and vines give huge yields.
Spaghetti (Cucurbita pepo) aka vegetable squash an oblong seed bearing variety of winter squash

Buttercup (C. maxima) Very sweet dry flesh of excellent quality. Deep orange flesh with green skin. Fruit are around 3 lbs. each.

The Black Futsu I got at a farmer's market, the spaghetti squash I ordered and the last was saved seed from what I thought was buttercup from a squash swap last year. The plants have had their time to become established and as stated in previous posts my garden was being eaten by the vines. Unbeknowst to me I was living in Cucurbita nirvana.

This disillussionment was quickly dashed when I noticed some plants wilting. I wandered in as far as the vines would allow and saw squash bugs. Then as if that wasn't bad enough I saw this....WTF is that? Further investigation was needed as I had not planted anything that remotely resembled that. So I traipsed in killing bugs as I went. I got up to this alien plant and followed it to one of the hills I know I planted the "butterucp" in. So I emailed Cyndy and asked if I could have screwed up, mislabeled the envolope and planted the Amish Pie I got from her last year.
The Amish Pie (Cucurbita maxima) is slightly pale orange flesh measures up to 5" thick, and the largest fruits weigh 60-80 pounds. Firm moist flesh is excellent for making pies and for freezing.

I explained in the email I had thought I was good for saving seed for next year as I had planted a pepo, maxima and moshata. I pressed the send button thinking I knew what happened.

"Just when you think you have it all figured out BAM! you've got nothing"

I went back out into the garden and I found lots (LOTS) of these, some of these and oops another surprise ..... When Cyndy replied she stated that the Amish Pie doesn't have white stripes and asked for more info on the different species. I had some errands to run and when I got home I took the above photo and while doing so found this....What is happening in my garden?! So I went looking for information to send to Cyndy stating that a pepo and pepo can cross etc. when I came across this darling bit of information that I had conviently forgotten (I love when my mind leaves me to keep me happy) ...
Cross pollination generally occurs only among members within the same species. However some crossing between species occurs in the genus Cucurbita, among pumpkins, squash and gourds. C. pepo will cross with C. mixta and C. moschata: and C. maxima will cross with C. moschata. C. pepo will not cross with C. maxima. Cross pollination does not occur between melons, cucumbers or other species.

I knew that! What was I thinking? OK, now I screwed up and can't save any of this seed since I can't be sure it didn't all cross. I can even admit I may have mis-labeled the package of seed. But how when I planted two different types of seed (mislabeled or not) and one plant can I end up with some many different looking squash?
So I have unknown squash growing in my garden. I have to buy seed next year. I have squash bugs. What is the upside? Well I do get to eat these mistakes and that is not a bad thing!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Love Apples

“Of the tomato or love apple, I know very little. It is chiefly employed as a sauce or condiment. No one, it is believed, regards it as very nutritious; and it belongs, like the mushroom and the potato, to a family of plants, some of the individuals of which are extremely poisonous. Some persons are even injured, more or less, by the acid of the tomato.”‘The Young House-keeper’ by William Andrus Alcott (1846)

Oh how far we have come. I think the only injury I got from the love apples I recently acquired was accidently bumping into the side of the hot canner. Mom and I made short work of the 50 pounds while my sister took a siesta in Maryland....I think we overworked her the other day!

While she was riding around site seeing and visiting, the sweat was just dripping off of us. Thursday we froze 5 1/2 pounds of zucchini, canned 9 1/2 pints of salsa and 7 1/2 pints of tomato soup. Then we went outside to catch a breeze and picked 8 1/2 pounds of blackberries.
Today we got 10 pints of blackberry topping from our pickings and 17 1/2 pints of soup.We got done early enough that I could even go to our spinning group.

I am picking on my sister of course about her getting out of work. We even saved her a bowl of tomato soup. It is hot work but it is something I enjoy doing. I love the look of the jars when filled and the smells of whatever is being canned. Although never lean over a pan of relish and inhale deeply because it smells soooo good! I learned that early on. What I love most is grabbing a jar of jam, relish, salsa or soup in the middle of winter. One thing that surprised me is that I thought the 50 pounds would go further. I am so use to going into the garden and just picking whatever is ready and dealing with it. We never weighed how much we picked....something that I have started doing this year.

Now I am off to spend some time with the man....a whole weekend alone! Of course we have a surprise 40th for my brother on Saturday and we are taking my sister to Newark Airport on Sunday...but it will still be done kid-free, something that hasn't happen in a while.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A day off

I do not really like vacations. I much prefer an occasional day off when I do not feel like working. When I am confronted with a whole week in which I have nothing to do but enjoy myself I do not know where to begin. To me, enjoyment comes fleetingly and unheralded; I cannot determinedly enjoy myself for a whole week at a time. ~Robertson Davies
I have to agree with that. If I go away on vacation, I am always thinking I should have stayed home to do this or that, how are the animals etc etc. However a random day away is so refreshing.

Today my mom, sister, elder brother, #2 daughter and I took some time and went to Borders. As I had recently celebrated another year on the face of the earth this was my treat. We all went our seperate ways and then caught up and examined everyone else's interests. I bought myself a Hobby Farms mag because it had a dye article, ice cream and homemade soda recipes, and mosaic (I just got a lot of broken tiles to play with).

My sister bought me Things I Learned from Knitting and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. My mom had given my sister her bread machine to take home with her. My sister went down the slippery slope, trying every recipe and bringing them to work. Her boss bought her the Artisan Bread book and some pans and a stone and she was a busy girl. I have long wanted to learn how to bake bread but 1. mom is still making me bread and 2. I have a fear of yeast and kneading. I would probably go thru the whole routine and end up with bricks. My sister informed me the Artisan breads are fool proof. We made a batch and I realized this was not so bad and the man loved it. I had copied the recipe but then realized if I could master that one why not others so now I too will be a bread baking fool.

And my mom indulged my fondness for knitting books with stories behind the projects by buying me Artic Lace. I may not be able to afford qiviut anytime soon but I can read about it and practice the projects.
Next was a trip to the Co-operative Farmer's Market where I bought 50 pounds of tomatoes to make up for the garden's poor performance in that department. My sister left with my brother to go to his house in MD and we went to check on #1 daughter's cats.

We came home to a refridgerator cleanout dinner and a boyscout meeting. Tomorrow we will be making salsa. I am also thinking we could use some of the tomatoes for tomato soup or chili sauce. Next Monday I will be out that way and hopefully I can get more to make spaghetti sauce.

Now I am going to grab some quality time with a book.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Many hands make light work

The best place to find a helping handis at the end of your own arm.- Swedish proverb

Or have your sister from Puerto Rico come visit! We kicked butt yesterday. Early in the day, I had my sister come look at the squash that is eating my garden. We found a guest in there and being a polite hostess with the mostest I took him and introduced him to the chickens. Then we strolled the other garden and picked all the cucumbers and zucchini. The man, kids and I went back out and picked another 9 pounds of blackberries. While we were washing the berries, the kids picked the broccoli and beans.

The cucumbers were sliced and onions added and set aside with salt for three hours. During that time we grated and froze 8 pounds of zucchini, 3 pounds of beans, washed the 1 1/2 pounds of broccoli for dinner and made 9 pints of blackberry pie filling.

Then we finished the bread and butter pickles and got 2 quarts and 5 pints of them.When we were done I came up to the house to pick some berries I have in my yard to use for cordial. I grabbed a container and walked toward the patch. The man followed a little behind and said "I am surprised you didn't scream". I knew without turning around there was a snake. I turned and saw that I had walked by this.... a six foot black rat snake. The black rat snake is officially one of North America's longest snakes. Knowing how much I love (NOT) snakes the man picked him up and moved him into the woods.

I needed some of that cordial right then! But we picked the berries and came in to find I have no vodka so I am trying to make wine. We shall see how well that goes.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Family

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.
~Erma Bombeck

The common thread for most of those that showed up for our reunion started with these two...
my great grandparents.

We had re-scheduled the family reunion to coincide with the town fair because last year by chance they fell on the same day it worked out so well. The two events are across the street from each other so the older kids (being forced to watch the younger ones) go to the fair and the adults sit, eat and re-tell stories.

The day started with rain and the forecast of 1-2 inches which didn't bode well for the new plan. However, it did clear up allowing everyone to enjoy their day. There was a shower in the middle of the day, but it didn't ruin things, it just gave everyone something more to look and talk about. "Remember, as far as anyone knows, we're a nice, normal family."~Homer Simpson

We need to exit the park at dark because the fireworks that mark the end of the fair are done from there. This year we went to a friend's house on the other side of the river...the fog rolled in...the fireworks started but other than the booms we didn't see much more than this...!
Everyone came home and immediately fell right to sleep from exhaustion. For the most part we don't see each other often and it is nice to have that one day just to reconnect.
"Some family trees bear an enormous crop of nuts." ~Unknown
And sometimes we marry them. Years ago I worked on the family genealogy. The first attempt was mostly verbal tidbits with some info being disputed by the different factors. So I decided to document everything. I hauled out huge volumes of birth, marriage and death certificates. I copied all of them and the wills, crawled thru cemetary after cemetary, paid for online access to census reports and bought a genealogy program. I showed up at one of the reunions with a printed copy of the relatives had a wife which took offense to the fact that her husband's child with another woman was mentioned. Unbeknowst to me until after the reunion she ripped the page out of the book. Needless to say I have kept my distance from this woman during the following years. She is of another generation and may have been embarrassed no sense bringing attention to it OR she is just a b*tch and I am not going to feed into it. Everyone knows the truth anyhow. Yesterday that same woman came up to me and asked if I still had the genealogy. I told her I did, hackles immediately going up. She then had the audacity to ask me for a copy because her son and his wife are doing genealogy and it would save them alot of work. Well I did my momma proud and didn't beat her with her own cane. I told her it was in storage (which it is) and I would see what I could do when we unpacked everything. Then I made a quick exit stage left before momma's teachings went right down the drain. After ruining my book she wants a copy!!!! ARGGHHH Today I have to laugh because this is a prime example of what makes family family like it or not.