Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A "nice fun" day!

Today was about as perfect as days come (as Alida would say, it was full of "nice fun"), especially on the heels of 8 days of work responsibilities in a row!  Thanks to a surprise and rather impromptu visit from Mom, I got to spend almost the entire day outside today.  It was a cool and somewhat overcast day and just perfect for the activity which is my newest obsession - weeding!!

On Monday morning (after going for a jog together for the first time in several years - thanks Mom!), Jason and I took about 20 minutes to walk around the yard together, me with clipboard in hand.  By the time we came inside (after only covering a very small percentage of the property) we had a page full of tasks - one column for me and one for Jason.   We both would have been eager to dive in yesterday but I had to get to work and Jason headed into town to do errands AND go minivan shopping.  Our "date" last evening was test driving several - and now we're deliberating...  But we didn't do much deliberating today as we were both fully occupied having fun outside.

A few of the things that Jason and Jon did during their work day included: planting out or transplanting parsley, gooseberry, kale, ornamental grasses, phlox, wintergreen, peaches, grapes, an apple tree, black haw, and native filberts; mulching with chopped leaves, sifting compost for top dressing the spinach and lettuce which they thinned today.

I started my day by weeding the nettles (and picking some), weeding garlic mustard out of the strawberries (and picking some) and pulling some wild onions.  Lunch consisted of garlic mustard rolls hot out of the oven, pizza rice casserole with stinging nettles and wild onion, and the first spinach/lettuce salad from our garden.  It was all washed down very nicely with cold apple mint and lemon balm tea..

I spent the rest of my day on the following: LOTS of hoeing in the entry garden and our main garden in preparation for our main garden planting coming up in about two weeks; weeding, weeding and more weeding around the blossoming strawberry plants that have us all a bit giddy with anticipation, peaches, raspberries, in the main garden, and I ended the day weeding the new garlic bed.  I was having too much fun today and too occupied with my hands to have a camera on me but I did have to go up to the house to get the camera for the before (actually about midway through) and after shots below!

 Yes, I felt rather successful. Interspersed in the weeding and hoeing sessions, I got a container of mud mixed on the porch for the little mason bees that are busy filling the tubes in their little house (Yes, that's right, there ARE some bees that are making it their home and I even got to see one fly into a tube today!), I emptied the spearmint tea from my solar dryer (which I'm still loving and eager to fill it with more things as the season goes along), and best of all got to enjoy almost an hour walk with Mom while Alida napped.  Sweet, sweet day!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spring happenings

Time for a few updates!  And best to do it now on the eve of a long work stretch leading up to graduation this weekend. There won't be downtime for luxurious activities like blogging until May at the earliest...  So here is some of what has been keeping us hopping the last number of days:

Kali with her self-inflicted "sprout" - her way of solving some hair frizzles bugging her was to cut them off at the roots...
She is mighty cute with bangs.  Thanks Aunt Emily!
We had a mushroom log party - Alida "helped" inoculate logs.
We were glad for some adult helpers too!  If even a percentage of the logs we have bear fruit, we will be inundated with shiitake and oyster mushrooms - my taste buds better grow up fast!
The solar food dryer Jason made for me is up and running and I couldn't be more excited and pleased (okay, and a little obsessed).  I now want to fill it at every possible opportunity to not waste all that great solar energy.  Peppermint tea  was dried and in the jar within hours. Spearmint followed and the oregano will be ready to jar up by mid-morning tomorrow. Exciting!
Kali dried one dandelion flower (not recommended for consumption) and she and Alida have some violets drying now.  What will be next?!
Dried peppermint tea - the jar will be full before too long.
We are by no means caught up on the weeding and mulching, but Jason and I got to spend an evening (with Alida in tow) recently, weeding, edging and mulching Nora's garden.  A very good way to spend time together.

The composting chicken coop is coming along.  Today the roof trusses went up (made mostly of black walnut logs from trees on our place).

Kali's pet chicken, Buttercup, is trying out the new house.  She is one incredible chicken. We are all enjoying having her out and about with us when we are weeding, but Jason had to put her back in her house the other day when she couldn't fit another worm into her crop!

Triumphant!  But still a little ways to go so hopefully the chicks don't grow too quickly! 
Hatched and growing - little wing feathers emerging.  They are too cute lined up at the feeder. 
Potatoes coming up and onions are doing better, since our recent replanting.  Notice the purple carpet of Amaranth sprouting on the right...Jason put out amaranth seed heads for chickens to eat in fall, but I guess they missed a few seeds!
Beautiful apple blossoms. Sadly, none of my bees have come back to the little house. I hope they have found a good home somewhere and are enjoying these flowers!

I've spent a lot of time the last number of days weeding and what satisfying weeding!  Much of it has been in our expanded strawberry beds.  If all these blossoms produce strawberries it will be a very good return on my investment.
So when you still have 2012 rhubarb in your freezer and your rhubarb looks like this do you use up what is in your freezer or cut fresh?

And then of course there is the budding soccer player here after her most recent game and her cool little sister!  Despite the busyness of this time of year we enjoyed a recent hike to the lake.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

p.s. nettles, doctor appt, bee follow up

I knew I wasn't remembering everything yesterday. 

Thursday Alida had her two year old check up!  She is thriving by all medical calculations - 36 pounds and over 36 inches (not found on the traditional growth charts).  I was there with her by myself as Kali was at soccer practice and Jason wrapping up some errands.  I was apprehensive as she is older, wiser and has always approached the doctor's office with a huge dose of skepticism and fear.  She was happy in the waiting room, chattering and giggling as we read stories.  When the nurse opened the door, she recognized her immediately and resisted following me.  The nurse hung back and let me do the height and weight.  By the end of that her curiosity had been peaked.  She gingerly stepped back on the scales and off and back on and off.  I then had to coax her to follow us to the next stage of the appointment.  Thankfully she has outgrown head measurements and graduated to blood pressure readings, which was also a very interesting thing.  She slowly continued warming up and allowed Dr. Nio to look in her ears and mouth and eyes and push on her belly.  I was in a state of shock but even that didn't prepare me for what came next.  She needed one vaccine to be all caught up (yay) and I was not looking forward to that.  While the nurse was preparing it I asked her to choose what leg, which she did happily.  The nurse came back and Alida showed her which leg, watched her clean it off, watched her put the needle in, watched her pull it out and a drip of blood go down her leg, helped apply the first little bandaid and got to put a second one over that for good measure. Not a tear, not a whimper and off we went!  Dr. Nio was in her office next door and looked at us a bit bewildered when we walked out, noting that she "didn't hear anything."  There was nothing to hear!  So maybe doctor appointments will no longer be a thing to dread.

In other positive news, this morning's breakfast consisted of eggs with the first stinging nettles and fresh garlic of the year. Eating that alongside a glass of homemade grape juice and the cool breeze coming in the window was a fabulous start to the day!

Now we are getting ready for Kali's second soccer game of the season and I'm trying not to fret over the lack of activity around my little bee house...

Friday, April 12, 2013

News flash (or several!)

It is definitely one of those "how do we possibly keep up with our incredible life here on Fruit Farm Lane?" kind of times!

For starters, "my" mason bees are emerging from their cocoons. I got one very good look at a little male bee (very cute) this morning but none of the ones that have come out yet have posed for a picture! I've seen one fly away and I've seen one hanging around the little house for a bit.  I'm fretting over them just a tiny bit the way Jason is over "his" eggs when they are hatching (as I've been working on this blog he has looked in the incubator at least four times, talking to the little chickies that are due to hatch in about two days time - he has just pulled himself away to head back to weeding garlic).  I have a very long list of things I'd like to do today but I find myself heading for the front door on a very regular basis to peek on them!  Check out http://www.crownbees.com/ if you want to learn more about native bees!  Our peach trees are in full bloom so I'm hoping they are finding plenty of food.  Those blossoms are a sight to behold, and bring hope and eagerness for things to come!

And while we wait for peaches to come around, the season of fresh eating is upon us!  Our breakfast this morning consisted of wild onions and winter cress sauteed and then scrambled with duck and chicken eggs.  And soon after breakfast Jason came in with his hand behind his back.  For a moment, I thought I was about to be presented with a bouquet of flowers but instead is was our VERY FIRST bouquet of asparagus. Much better!

And on the kiddo front, there is not much that is sweeter than Alida's kisses these days!  She's been working on them for a number of days now, but her mastery of it was precipitated by a very funny moment for all of us.  We were at the tail end of a very LONG family meeting (several hours worth of deliberation on a number of agenda items). Alida was on my lap and I gave her a kiss right on the lips.  She did not reciprocate in the moment so I said, "Alida, give me a big smack."  Before I knew what had happened, her little hand came up and smacked me right on the cheek.  A moment of surprise and then we all burst out laughing and she looked a little perplexed!  She has heard the story enough times now to understand the meaning of "smack" in that context and has become quite the little kisser!  Here's her daddy receiving a nicer kind of smack!

Kali and Alida are enjoying each other immensely these days, except when they aren't!  Kali is a little perturbed at times right now but Alida's desire to do everything she does.  But the vast majority of the time, they love being together and we love watching them enjoy each other!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Composting chicken coop underway

As expected, the snow has gone away!  And it feels like we just skipped over spring and went right to summer.  Today's routines no longer included winter hats and gloves, but sun screen instead.  I would have been very happy to stay in the 50's and 60's for awhile before jumping to the 80's.  But it was very enjoyable for me to see little pea plants poking through the soil as I gave them a drink earlier today.  Last evening we replanted onions, as our mad rush to get onions in before the last snow storm didn't amount in many of our tiny onions starts making it through.

The major news from the home front these days is that the long dreamed for composting chicken coop is being constructed!  We hope that it will house the chickens that will be hatching in less than a week.  We have another coop to brood them in for awhile but it was high time we got this major project underway!  Thankfully this past weekend we had some extra hands on deck - family members, Tangly Woods folks and a friend earning some of the many Groupees that Jason had earned on a wood working project for friends.  One of the highlights for me was getting to be involved in the actual project, beyond feeding those working!  And I once again felt muscles that aren't used nearly as regularly as I would like them to be.

The news hot off the press is that as of just moments ago, all the stone has been laid! Here's a few visuals of the project - but I imagine it will still beg a good amount of explanation for anyone not familiar with a composting chicken coop...  The girls also enjoyed participating when it involved a wheelbarrow ride or hose, but they were also often found elsewhere playing together or Kali would about disappear out of sight up into a tree. 
Once we got to mixing concrete the wheelbarrow wasn't available for rides but it was enjoyed while it lasted!
Kali, of course, found a "precious rock" that we had to keep close watch of to make sure she was the one that got to place it!
Foundation ready - time to start filling with rocks!
Even Alida could help with this part!  It will always be special for me to do family projects where we haul rocks from our big pile in the woods - takes me back to us creating our parking spaces by hauling load after load of rocks the summer/fall after Nora died.  It was therapeutic then and still does something for me beyond good exercise!
I shouldn't be smiling since the only reason I am laying rock all by myself is that Jason was temporarily out of commission after squatting right onto a rebar stake!

Where's Kali?
For those that don't know that Kali is on a bit of an "anti-pig" kick, here she is engaged in her "anti-pig protest parade."  She is okay with other people having pigs but does not want us to ever get them.  Her parade wasn't an overly effective tactic, but it entertained her for a good part of the afternoon. 

Well, naps over and so is my time for blogging!