Winter solstice

Winter solstice

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Unlikely Friends..

       This summer I have spent time with some unlikely friends. They're not my typical kind of people but I have decided to give them a try. I'm attempting to see their side of things and trying not to judge them.
         I would love for you to meet Ophelia. If you come to my backyard, you can see her anytime of day. Her house is located between one of the rosebushes and a giant sedum bush. She is a beautiful yellow and black orb spider. She started out as this tiny little thing and her web was only about four inches across. She has grown to be huge and her web is bigger than a dinner plate. Everyday she catches a bug and wraps it up so nicely and then sucks the blood out of it. She and I have had great conversations and I do my best to keep the kittens from wrestling around her web and tearing it up. When I mow the grass in the back yard, I have to do it so that the grass blows away from the pond. Imagine my horror when I was mowing along the other day and all of a sudden I looked up to see I was blowing grass all over Ophelia. I had forgotten all about her! There she was, holding on for dear life to her web, trying not to get blown into the next county. I stopped the mower to check on her. She was a bit rattled to say the least. Her beautiful web was in shreds. Pieces of grass were hanging from what was left. I felt terrible and I kept apologizing. She ignored me as usual. I kept checking on her the rest of the afternoon and she was still there. I completely expected the next day to find that she had packed up and left me but no, there she was the next morning. Her web was like brand new, sparkling with dew drops. Even her back was covered in tiny drops. I'm not sure if it was dew drops or sweat because the poor girl had obviously worked all night long fixing what I had destroyed. I guess she has forgiven me and decided to stick around. I'm glad and I'm looking forward to spending the rest of the summer with her. I need to figure out a new direction to mow however....
          One of my other friends lives in my pallet flower garden beside the garage. I named him Moses. He started out as a tiny little brown twig. He is a praying mantis. I didn't know that they start out brown but he did. He has grown into a magnificent dark green specimen. He hides down in the wax begonias during the morning because the sun shines on this wall and gets quite warm. But as soon as the sun rises up high enough that the garage shades the pallet garden, you can see Moses moving around among the flowers. He especially doesn't like it when I water. I have to be very careful not to get water on his back because he hates it. I have to wait for him to move so that each
plant gets watered. We have a system, he and I, and it works. If I'm very careful not to get him wet, he will perch up on top, with his hands clasped in prayer. I think he's praying for me and I'm glad because I always need prayer.
            And then there's King Saul, the dragonfly who reigns over the pond and Ezmarelda, the frog. I could go on and on but you just need to come visit with them sometime. They have a lot to say, if you listen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Last Days of Summer

      I have been making an effort to really enjoy these last days of summer. The Farmers Almanac is predicting another ferocious winter, perhaps even worse than last year. I always get a little sad to see my flowers all fading and going to seed. I spend my evenings gathering seeds and deciding which ones I will grow again next year. Some of the garden is dwindling down, thank goodness and I don't have to spend all my days in the kitchen canning. The kale and Swiss chard are so lush and huge. The rabbits and chickens are enjoying the extra. I have some late Flat Dutch cabbage that is ready to pick. I'm waiting for the signs to be right, to make some sauerkraut, then I will can it up for the winter.
       A couple of nights ago, I decided to stay out on the swing until it was dark. I sat there swinging, listening to the crickets and night bugs start their chorus. The bats were dropping out of the bat house one by one. They do that so quickly and quietly, if you blink you will miss it. Some of them dip down to the pond for a drink before they start their fluttering flight in the sky above me. The barn swallows were twittering and chattering as they made they way in for the night. I could hear the chickens going to bed, squabbling as usual as they pick their spot on the perch. Every once in a while you hear a thud as someone gets kicked off and has to pick another place. A frog was croaking just a few feet away, buried in the Black-eyed Susans. Just one lone frog instead of the early summer band. The Kiss  Me Over the Garden Gate was nodding in the evening breeze. It was getting darker and darker. I could count three lightening bugs flying around the pond. Suddenly, something flew by me. I had to strain my eyes in the dark to see what it was. I knew it was too late for a hummingbird but that's what it looked like. I kept watching for it and finally, over by the bench, I could see it. It was dipping and hovering over the cleome, going from blossom to blossom. I knew it couldn't be a hummer and then it dawned on me. I was seeing a Sphinx Moth. All of a sudden, I was taken back to a little girl sitting out with her grandpa on the Mojave Desert in the cool evenings. He and I would sit out and wait for the Sphinx Moths to come out and get their evening drink of nectar from the flowers. I remember Grandpa Keddy would call them his "ladies of the evening". We would sit there together until it would get too dark to see. Now here I sat, watching this beautiful moth going from flower to flower. She was huge, looking bigger than a hummingbird. I watched her until it got so dark I couldn't see her anymore. By this time, the cricket chorus had tuned up and was getting quite loud. I was so glad that I had stayed out so late. In just a couple months by this time of night, I would be snuggled in flannel sheets, under a down comforter.
       Later on, I did some research on the Sphinx Moth and discovered that the horrible Horned Tomato Worm, the same worm that I have squashed so many times, is the larvae of the Sphinx Moth. From now on, I will let them live and share my tomatoes with them. I'll just plant a few extra plants. After all, the beauty of this giant moth is better than a tomato any day.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Feeling Fall...

             I looked at the date of my last post and I couldn't believe it said August 1st! How does this happen? Life seems to be flying by.  We have had such a crazy summer...wait, have we had summer yet? It has been so cool and rainy. I can't imagine that the pools around here have been very busy. We have had morning temperatures down to 45. Thirteen more degrees and we would have frost! Yikes! Even with all the crazy weather, the garden has thrived. I have been canning up a storm and the pantry is filling up. Today I will be canning chili tomatoes and freezing more corn. So far, I have frozen 18 pounds and have that much out in the garden to do. When I cut it off the cob, I weigh it on a kitchen scale as I put it in the freezer bags. This way I can keep the bags the same size and I know how much I have. We also have enough spaghetti squash out there for an army. Not sure what to do with all of that. The chickens might be going to benefit from that surplus. All in all though, we are so thankful for yet another great garden year.
          We are back to foggy mornings now. Every orb spider web is outlined in dew. The school bus rumbled by for the first time this year as I was finishing the milking this morning. Every once in a while you see a leaf drift down from the maple out in the front yard. The Iron Weed is unveiling the most beautiful purple you have ever seen. Crickets are deafening at night now and the lightening bugs are dwindling. The frogs in the pond have quieted down. The cicadas sing loudly in the afternoon. The Joe Pye Weed is weighed down with giant swallowtail butterflies. I used to be able to be outside until 9:30  or 10 but now it's too dark to see by 8:30. As the days get shorter, the milk bucket gets lighter. Yep, it's sure starting to feel like fall.
            We have been raising dairy goats for 15 years now. If we have a buck in with the does, they are always bred by the first or second week of August. This gives us early January babies, just when we like them. They grow out the best and are the healthiest then. This year however, our does are not coming in season yet. I've never seen this before.  Is this natures' way of putting babies on the ground later in the spring? If so, why? Is this a sign of a very bad winter? Just wondering.....only time will tell. I'll keep you posted.
             Better get back to the kitchen...tomatoes are calling my name.

Friday, August 1, 2014

And yes, it must be Hellmanns....

Homegrown Blanket

         This is Chessie sleeping on a blanket that was born and raised right here. This is a fleece from a ram lamb we butchered last fall. We have enjoyed the meat from that lamb all winter and the hide is  across the back of one of the couches in the living room.  I fleshed and tanned the hide myself. It was my first time at tanning and I enjoyed doing it. Since then, I have been working on coon hides. This fall I plan to try my hand at some deer hides. In the meantime, Chessie finds this to be the perfect place for a nap.

This is what August looks like....

            This is what our windowsills look like in August, loaded with tomatoes. As I was setting a few more out this morning, I thought to myself....why do you do that? Why do you put them on the windowsill? I couldn't answer myself because I didn't know the answer. My mom always put them there and I remember my grandma doing the same. All I can tell you is that by the middle of August every window is full and I have to put them on a table on the back porch. By that time, I'm canning ketchup, stewed tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili tomatoes and whatever else needs done. My days are filled with tomatoes. Then by the end of August, I put away the table on the porch and we're back to the windowsills. The flood of tomatoes becomes a trickle and then it all ends. But every year, it starts and ends with the windowsills.
          If you're wondering what those racks are in the picture behind the tomatoes, they are stock trailer racks. We have a 16 foot flatbed trailer that we use to haul hay or coal or whatever.  A few years back, we saw a picture of racks that slid on the flatbed to make a stock trailer. We have looked every where to buy a set and couldn't find any.  A couple of weeks ago we found  a set on Craigslist in Ohio. We drove over the next day and bought them.  It's the best of both worlds because they are easy to slide on and off and then you only need one trailer to maintain. When the racks are on, we have a sixteen foot stock trailer to haul livestock. It even has a divider gate in the middle, just like a regular stock trailer. Then when you need the flatbed, you just slide them off. Genius, right? We think so. Glad somebody thought of the idea.
          I need to get to the garden to pick more beans. I should be able to finish them today. Have a beautiful first day of August.