Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mystery solved

I stuck my head up the stairwell and called, "Sarafina, the peas are looking horrible. Can you pick some and see if we can salvage any?" I had wondered, this morning, if there was some sort of disease I should know about that was attacking them.

She went out and then called me -- "You need to come and see this!"

Now we know what was wrong with the peas.

I don't think there is a spray for this.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Back in the Saddle

I remember pretty clearly the day that I first perceived the beauty of sheer hard work. It's not as though I was raised by slackers, far from it. But lessons presented are not the same as lessons absorbed.

Anyhow, I was newish to my marriage and therefore to my inlaws, and we had gone up to their place for some visit or other. Maybe it was when my sister in law graduated with her PA degree, and we went up to help get ready, or it may just have been an ordinary visit.

What matters to the story, despite my nattering along, is that I watched (and helped, some) my inlaws work. They did yard work, housework, whatever needed doing, and then they took a break and had lunch, cleaned up, and got back to work. Nothing really out of the ordinary. We were all significantly younger then, too.

At any rate, the message finally found a resting place in me -- work, hard work, is in many ways its own reward. Sometimes it's the only reward. On that day, I did one of those "I want to be like them" things and it's never gone away fully.

I don't mean to suggest that I work as hard as they did or do, I'm still myself. But I'm able to dig deeper and find more effort inside me than I used to. So even though I had terrific (though fortunately shared) insomnia last night, today was really productive so far. Eventually I get to go to my nephew's 11th birthday party, so that's a few hours of a different kind of productivity.

But I got up and mixed the sourdough english muffins that were started last night from the sourdough starter, then moved some of the really rich dirt out from the old chicken coop area to a garden bed, although there's much more dirt to move. We decided not to raise meat birds, as I'd planned.

Taking a year off of beekeeping because I had no bees and hadn't gotten any swarms was something I'd seriously considered. I was a discouraged beekeeper. Yesterday, though, Eric reminded me that our vacations are built on honey sales, and then I got a call while I was at the zoo looking at baby otters. A friend's neighbor had a swarm in a tree. Although it took longer than I'd hoped and I wasn't certain I'd gotten all of them, I hived that really big swarm in two nuc boxes. Then Eric and I went back at night and picked them up -- all of the swarm had moved down into the boxes, so we had to borrow an exterior box to transport them all. Good night's work.

This morning then, we really decided to dismantle the would-be meat coop and make that area a bigger apiary. I'm hoping to have at least four hives, and to be a more conscious beekeeper this year. With a late start, I'm going to have to get my act together.

In the midst of muffining, I moved the colony into its hive boxes -- really big swarm, as I noted.

Tomorrow the cement on the metal stand should be firm enough to lift the box up and I'll get set to start admiring the real champions of hard work.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Sleeve Island, what a lonely place to be.

So little left to do on this Cotton Sweater of Many Ends

And yet, picking it up to knit some more rounds of a sleeve feels a bit like running away from the Thing behind the door in a dream. My hands move slowly, and surely a sweater this size shouldn't weigh 25 pounds! The weight of resistance burdens every stitch.

And yet, I do want it done, and the deadline for county fair entries looms. What to do?

Well, I did finish some spinning.

And how I miss the good camera, which is hurt and out of commission right now. Turned out I got about 500 yards of singles from the Grafton Fibers batt. Once they were skeined up, I washed and shocked them with agitation and repeated plungings from hot to cold water so that they'd be slightly-fulled. I don't trust my singles spinning that much yet.

Even with the rotten pictures, perhaps you can tell why I can't wait to get this knit up into something. This yarn wants, I believe, to be a warm, squishy hat. Exactly which warm, squishy hat is still in debate.

I must not be the only spinner who waffles about finding the Right Pattern to complement finished yarn. Commercial yarn doesn't carry the weight that handspun does for me. I've loved every one of my few handspun knitting adventures, so I probably should get going.

Once I finish 4.6 sleeves, that is.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Egging us on

Eric says I overschedule myself. I think it's just May with lots of kids. The past weekend was the high school Ultimate Frisbee States championship, won by my child's undefeated team. (Yay!)

This weekend, among other events, it's:

Yes, that time of year again! The kids and I have put in a good couple of days cleaning up -- tomorrow we'll be shoveling mulch -- and Eric and now Kevin have really rocked the new, fancy coop. I think everything will be ready by Sunday.

I even made art.

Sunday afternoon, I'll be standing outside, talking to whoever makes the trek around town to view chicken coops. Since I learned a little bit last year, I'm going to make and post directional
and informational signs, recruit helpers so I can get a drink or visit the bathroom at least once, and plan to eat takeout or crock pot food that night.

Being me, however, I have to drive back from a four day homeschooling camping trip to do this. I'm going to need that trip to destress from getting ready for the trip.

The weekend after next is the Middle School Ultimate States tournament. . .

I'm looking forward to June.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Read. The. Pattern.

Cheerfully resurrected Odelia by Julie Weisenberger to simply finish off the sleeves and voila, have a sweater for summer.

Except, eight inches ago, I neglected to continue the edge decreases.

Guess I'll just rip that puppy right out to the point where I left the pattern to wander in the wilderness and redo it the right way.


Thank goodness the high school team won States again! Seven years of domination sort of make up for redoing eight inches of sweater.

Sort of.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Not just to show off

That is, the new, shiny red chicken coop (which is almost done) is not just for showing off. The old one is pretty much in need of repair, especially the yard area. It's just not very secure nor very sturdy.

Case in point -- the gals made a run for it through a stretched-out place in the wire last week:

Conveniently, the salad garden bed is right in front of their coop.

They made the most of it. I shored up the pen, at least temporarily.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Should've made it longer

. . . although I barely made the deadline as it was. Seriously cute, even if it's too short.

This almost makes up for the three sweaters stuck on Sleeve Island.

Astonishing Variety

Same chickens, different days. Who knows why sometimes it looks as though miniature ostriches live out there and other days it's Lilliputian poultry? Wonderfulness.

Monday, May 2, 2011

This post brought to you by the letter "P"

Those kids. . . today they woke up to find individual yogurt/granola/fruit parfaits waiting on the table. No whining for pancakes today! I'm able to do things like this when I write a detailed menu before I go to the stores. Today's sandwich bread dough will also have to become burger buns, though, since I forgot to purchase any. Oh well, I was baking anyhow, and this way I can make teensy buns for teensy burgers. Custom cooking!

Other excitement? Well, I believe at least one of the Padron peppers, that tasted so wonderful last year, is going to pull through. I need to get out there and side dress with either some composted chicken poo or compost or something. Peppers are really heavy feeders, in my experience. I'm especially excited about this because I didn't get any started from seed, and I love these peppers.

The Aladdin peas are starting to fill out. Ed Hume says to keep picking so that's what we'll do. With a relatively small pea patch, it feels more tedious to shell, since there are only a handful ready at a time. We do love our frozen peas, though. They have been terrifically self-supporting, as advertised.

Here's Eric working on the Palais de Poulet. I had asked to just move the original coop, to make room for the beehives in a different place, but with the third annual coop tour coming up, Eric decided to pull out all the stops.

When the doors and nest boxes get installed, it will be only a few post holes and wire stretching away. I even think we'll make the deadline.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pancakes and Pests

My children would eat pancakes every day, if allowed. Since real maple syrup runs almost $18 for 32 ounces here, we have Pancake Day once a week, on Saturday. (There is also Waffle Wednesday, so I don't think they're too deprived.) And one thing that has made my breakfast sweets-making easier is aerosol oil. Pastry brushes are all well and good, but a quick squirt of oil and the pancakes and waffles are easily released from griddle and maker, respectively.

But that's not all! And thus begins the infomercial.

A couple of years ago, the Anna apple tree became infested with black aphids covered with white fuzz. They made galls on the stems, and I tried all sorts of discouragement, but finally hit on one that worked.

Last week, I found another round of fuzz:

Since this was concentrated on damaged parts of the bark and flower clusters, I assume it's somewhat fungus-related. Still, I'm trying my first line of defense:

That's right -- the ever-versatile spray oil. A quick squirt:

And the white fuzz disappears.

Time will tell if it works as well as it did on the last round of fuzzy menace. If you have a small tree that's infested with anything that oil will smother (aphids and scale come to mind) this is easier than making up a sprayer of horticultural oil.