tea time

A conversation between the farmwives…

Coree’s thinking

I know we’re all about to dig deeper into planning the season to come, if we haven’t already placed a seed order or two.  This time of year always causes me to do some nice reflection on the season behind.

However weird or wonderful the growing season was – share with us a few tidbits that really stuck with you.  Vegetable varieties, recipes, working innovations, whatever…

Here’s mine: First, I’m enjoying the heck out of purple sweet potatoes (if you haven’t noticed).  They were easy to grow, a little harder to dig, but such a freaky looking treat, I can’t help but enjoy them.

Next, in literature, I read 1491, and am now into 1493, by Charles Mann, and I can’t recommend them enough.  They have been food for thought, and good material to integrate into homeschooling history-related conversations.  I also had an Isabel Allende revival of sorts this year and it’s been such a good escape!

Finally, in the garden, we managed to mulch our onion patch the Fall before we planted.  After so many years of battling weeds in onions, never quite feeling on top of that – we had a nice patch.  Now we just have to expand and perfect our storage facilities…  there’s always room for improvement.

Cher replies…

This is the time for reflection, no doubt about it. And, yes, the time to figure out what worked, what didn’t, what we want to try more of, and what we want to bag altogether!

Some of my gardening highlights of the year were the incredible peaches and figs (and their success has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with my input. ahem.). Sweet potato growing is always a highlight. Last year the “Carmen” sweet peppers rocked, all eggplant sucked, and we grew a delicious new muskmelon last season called “Hannah’s Choice”. The watermelon harvest, because of the obscure weather, was spread out over the course of many weeks, instead of having an intense surge of them all being ripe at once (which is normal). This totally challenged our skills in figuring out which melons were ripe and ready for picking, that’s for sure!!! Oh, and the ginger. The ginger was out of this world. Now, none of our gardens will ever again be complete without the addition of this awesome and easy-to-grow crop.IMG_4816

To be very honest, I’m procrastinating a bit on getting my seed order organized. The catalogs are here, I’ve done a little thumbing through, but once my brain goes there, I begin feeling the pull of the gardens. Which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been so enjoying my recent stint of sewing and reading that I’m not quite ready for that to end. And I’ve got a very dusty spinning wheel and a whole fleece from my friend (thank you, Kay!) that are just staring me down. So thoughts of the garden are still far away in my mind. The books that I am so enjoying right now are the James Herriot series. I read the first of the series “All Creatures Great and Small” a year or two ago. But I have borrowed the next three in the series and am reading them now. Even if you are not a farmer or a veterinarian, the stories are so tender and captivating. When it seems fitting with the children, I will read some of the chapters aloud for the whole family to enjoy. I highly recommend these books! And now that we’ve borrowed “1491” from Robin, the seed order may get put on hold a wee bit longer. There’s still plenty of time, right?

hi dears,

reflection, hmmm. the highlight of our gardening year was found in our first crop of blueberries, planted years ago, it had started to feel like we were never going to get any significant amounts, but this year proved patience is a virtue. blueberries in abundance meant we not only were able to eat them, we could make jam, muffins, pies, freeze them for winter…that reminds me, it is winter, i can take those sweet treats out!

a new twist for us on the farm came in our pig pen. we have had pigs in the past and used a movable pen. rotating  the pigs meant the weekly task of moving their pen constructed of t-posts and hog panels. we loved this method and used our strong nosed stock to clear many an area around the farm and transition them to pastures more suitable to our other animals.  with a few years off pigs, we got back into them this past year and are now using a deep litter method. the compost we are generating is a true boon to our gardens and we are really enjoying this different twist.

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now, looking ahead, one never knows what the season will bring, but now that we have thawed from a severe cold snap, i might just be ready to ponder…with excitement for another year friends,

robin

tea time

Join the farmwives for a tea time chat…

Dear Friends –

I have so missed our tea time chats! Please, share with me again. The holidays are upon us. I know we all love crafting our gifts and making the time special in our own ways. What are your favorite resources this year, for gift-making, meal-making, and fun-sharing? On-line, in-print, whatever… without giving away any secrets, of course, tell me what you’re up to.

My personal sources right now are pretty simple. We use All Year Round for general kid crafts, mostly simple stuff. And Stitch’n Bitch (the book) is my go-to for basic knitting instruction. Oh, and I stumbled into a really nice sounding chocolate-nut bark in Yoga Journal a couple days ago. You might be sampling that at our next get-together.

Thanks, loves, Coree

nice pie

Cher replies… Yes, I, too, have missed our tea time conversations. Maybe we can get back into the swing of things now that our growing/harvesting seasons have (mostly) come to a close and we have so much spare time on our hands now (ha, you realize I’m joking, right?).

So, just off the top of my head, I have a few places I repeatedly turn to when I’m needing a little inspiration. I just got my recent issue of Taproot magazine, and this issue has a super-cute knitting pattern for hats sized for the whole family. The pattern looks simple and quick, perfect for gifts! There is also a full-size sewing pattern that looks easy and quite cute, just right for sprucing up our rugged farmwives’ wardrobes. Plus, there are so many inspiring articles and recipes in this magazine, it truly is an inspiration. Then, my “go to” for knitting ideas, as I’ve mentioned many times before, is Ravelry. There is quite an amazing assortment of ideas to be found there, and lots of fabulous crafters, too. And I’ve recently come across the Crafting Connections website which looks right up my alley. They also have a print magazine that I am very interested in subscribing to. (hint, hint, Eric!) And when my crafting ability fails me, and I need to purchase a little extra something that I can’t make myself, Nova Natural Toys and Imagine Childhood are two fabulous small scale, environmentally-friendly businesses that I feel good supporting. Oh, there is so much good stuff out there, I’m only just scratching the surface! I’ll turn the conversation over to Robin now…

xo, cher

hi friends, yes indeed, the “off ” season is upon us, time to breathe deeply and focus on indoor projects, i love this. i do admit though that a full half of my days are still spent outside. it never really ends! i am settling into a lovely place on a couch where the sun shines in during some of william’s nap time and knitting happily away. like cher, i head to ravelry most often for what seems an endless supply of patterns for every knitter’s level. i have a current favorite book last minute knitted gifts. often, the challenge with knitting patterns and me is i am using entirely on our own yarn! yes, a blessing indeed, but  i have to adapt each and every pattern! so, alot of my knitting comes from folks that have knit a certain something with our yarn and passed along the hand written adaptation to me! big success with wrist warmers and head bands this way. in terms of other crafts, we are in a candle making phase. inspired again by taproot magazine, we have been melting and making with beeswax which is so simple and enjoyable.

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so, my needles are waiting. wishing you all happy crafting in the days ahead. with light and love dear friends

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tea time

Grab a cup of tea and join us for our Saturday discussion, “tea time”. We would love to hear from you, too. If you have something to contribute to this conversation, please leave a comment below. Enjoy.

Cher is wondering… what do you do about opossums in the kitchen? (Don’t be too alarmed, as I’m speaking of an outdoor kitchen here!) And deer in the strawberries? And raccoons in the sweet corn? And bunnies in the peppers? And on, and on…

It seems that everything is hungry and looking for a free meal, particularly this year for some reason. And this season has been pretty abundant on the wild side of the garden fence, so why so much pressure within the gardens? (And in the kitchen?)

I guess I’m wondering what you do? Do you harvest the wild game? I mean, we harvest from the garden, right? Or do you trap and relocate? Or do you plant extra? (What’s the old saying… “one for the rook, one for the crow, one to rot, and one to grow”) Do you turn a blind eye and hope for the best? Simple scare-crows? Camp outs in the garden?

rabbit damage on a sweet pepper

rabbit damage on a sweet pepper

the culprit, trapped

the culprit, trapped

We’ve tried about everything, but I think our most effective method for controlling the problem critters is an electrified fence around the area we need to protect and baited with something tasty like apples or peanut butter. As the animal is cautiously approaching, they get a whiff of the bait, stick out a moist nose, and zap. Animal then turns and flees, leaving garden alone. We have also had luck through tying out a free-loading pet dog (that really does need a job to fit into the farm economy!) during the night wherever the pest critters are dining. The trick, however, is to move the dog to a new location each night so that the wildlife doesn’t get accustomed to him in one spot. Just be sure to give the hard-working pooch a big treat when his shift is over for the night!!! And yes, we trap. Sometimes to relocate, and sometimes to eat. This particular rabbit (from the photo) is Ira’s prize and he wanted to harvest it for the food and the skin. He processed the game himself, and did a mighty fine job for his first try. And he chopped up some oak branches for the tannic acid and has the skin soaking in it. His plan is to make rabbit skin hats. He wants to sell them at the farmer’s market. My guess is he’ll be the only one there selling them.

I would love to hear what has worked for you. I’m sure there are some good stories just waiting to be shared…

-cher

robin sighs, oh cher, you touched on a current event here right now, for just this morning paul announced finally trapping a daring ground-hog that has been fattening in field 3 while sasha also succeeded in trapping a raccoon at the old place. we have critters galore here, a benefit of the hundreds of acres of our surrounding woodland. we have discovered over the years, if there is any logging in the neighborhood, it sets the whole system out of balance and we see intense predation in the gardens. a few years ago our neighbor to the west logged heavily and i swear paul had to camp out in the gardens for weeks to protect our green beans! this year, is it our neighbor to the east. while the main pressure seems to come from deer, i truly belive all of our forest creatures, big and small, trouble or no, are impacted. we have different tactics for each situation, one year a scare crow will work to keep those highly intelligent crows from the field corn, the next it won’t. in terms of planting to accommodate our extra guests, we assume a certain loss each year from various critters, but when the pressure gets too intense, out come the traps and the rifle. the one thing we absolutely can’t afford to do is ignore the problem. our gardens feed not only our family but 70 others and when our sustenance and livelihood are at stake, we have to take action. alas, there are many a good story to share, but it is friday after all, so i have to go and harvest more of our share. you never know who is going to show up after dark!