Monday, April 27, 2015

Free Rent - Tenant Wanted

Every now and then a wood duck will land on our pond, but s/he never stays long and sightings are few and far between.

Papa Pea has talked for a long time about building a wood duck nest box in the hopes of getting a female to take up residence and raise a brood of quackers . . . except wood ducks "whistle" rather than "quack."

Yesterday the nest box was finished and ready to mount.

He still has to fabricate a metal cone-type sheet to attach to the pole as extra added precaution to insure our other wild critters such as squirrels, pine martens, fishers or raccoons aren't able to gain access to the eggs or little ducklings should we be lucky enough to have a pair of wood ducks decide our rental space is to their liking.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Just Make A Decision!

My brain cells feel like sesame seeds in a hot skillet.  

Admittedly, I do often sometimes have a hard time making decisions, but doing the paperwork of laying out this year's Field Garden is driving me to drink.  (But just grape juice [unfermented], so don't worry.)

You see, I need to relocate our strawberry patch this year.  It's been in the same spot (within the Field Garden) for way too many years.  Last year, I pulled out and gave a decent burial to the oldest half of the strawberry plants because they were absolutely geriatric and not producing enough to justify the space they took up.  Knowing I was going to order new plants and situate them in a new section (of the Field Garden) this spring, I did keep the other half of the old bed just so we would have some berries for fresh eating this year.

Some of last year's crop
The new plants have to go in the Field Garden.  It's the best place for them because of soil fertility and available sunlight.

Also in the Field Garden will go the 50 asparagus roots just ordered.  This will be the third time I've planted asparagus, and I'm hoping the third time will be the charm.  However, my failure in getting asparagus established before is no one's fault but my own.  The first time I planted the roots in a spot that I now know didn't get enough sun . . . and at that time, the soil wasn't amended enough.  The second time the soil was in better shape but my brain cells weren't, because I planted the roots in the same, blasted not-enough-sun spot.  This time the asparagus is going in the Field Garden where the soil is wonderful AND sunlight is readily available.

So you see, the dilemma is to make a wise decision as to where will be just the right spots in the Field Garden to plant both 200 new strawberry plants and 50 asparagus roots.  Both will be wherever I plant them for a loooong time, the asparagus especially, so I want to make a decision I won't regret.  I have to take into consideration my other crops such as shell peas, potatoes, squash, corn, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bush beans, potatoes, pickling cucumbers, etc. that I rotate each year onto a different area in the Field Garden.

Okay, enough of this rambling . . . back out to the kitchen table with my graph paper and pencil.  Time to make a decision. 

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Whole Lotta Nuthin'

Here we are on Wednesday of this week, and I truly can't come up with much of interest to share.

It's been a cold last several days with snow falling all day yesterday.  It did melt as it hit the ground since the temp was in the mid-30s.  But with 20-something overnight, we woke to a while covering on everything, had more snow during the day but a smidge of sunshine and above freezing temps kept more of the white stuff from accumulating.

Monday we made a trip to the Big City primarily for an eye appointment for me.  It had been four years from my last check-up (who knew?) and even though I suspected I might need a change in the prescription of my glasses, I didn't.  If I sit to read or do handwork at night, I've been experiencing a bit of blurry vision, but my eye doctor said I should just go to bed rather than straining my eyes when I'm tired (hrumpf) and that I didn't need stronger lenses.  Okay, then.

Our chickens have been out in their pasture every day even in this foul (no pun intended) weather and continue to give us copious quantities of eggs.  Even though you can't see it from a short distance away, there are green shoots of grass coming up among the brown, dead stuff still on the ground from last year, and the chickens even seem to be finding a few bugs and/or worms.  Lots of busy, happy scratching and clucking going on out there at any rate.

This colder weather has thrown me right back into hibernation mode.  It feels so good to snuggle into a comfy bed at night, and it's not so easy to get out of it in the morning when first light presents a damp, gray scene out the window.

We all need to live more with nature.  Throw out the clocks.  Stay in bed when the weather is nasty.  To heck with the To Do List.  Let the chips fall where they may and all that rot.  (Don't you just know how short a time any of us could actually do that?  I start to feel crummy pretty fast when I don't keep some sort of a schedule and have some sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.)

Remind me of that last statement tomorrow morning when I feel like my body is glued to the bed.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fighting Frost and Working in the Garden

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day for working outside.  And since lots of rain was forecast for today, hubby and I put in an almost full day in the garden.

But first, before I regale you with the (not) exciting saga of what we did, let me tell you about my adventure planting Sweet Peas.

Wednesday of this past week, I planted my Sweet Pea seeds in one of my raised beds.  It's the earliest I've ever gotten them in.  Supposedly the seeds can go in the ground up to 6 weeks before the last expected frost date . . . which for us (in a good year) is sometime around Memorial Day Weekend/the first of June.  From some test digging, I knew the soil in the raised beds was loose and, on a sunny day, even warm to the touch.  So I soaked my seeds overnight and Wednesday headed out to plant them.

I needed to put up the trellis they climb on so I went armed with two long pieces of rebar I fasten the trellis to and the small sledge hammer to pound the rebar into the ground.

All went well for about 6-8" into the soil, and then it was like I hit a rock.  Hunh.

The rebar was tall and I thought maybe I wasn't wielding enough oompf using the heavy hammer over my head so I called Papa Pea in as reinforcement.  After a mere two whomps on the rebar he informed me the ground in the raised bed was still frozen hard as a rock not far below the surface.  Sigh.  Well, it is very early in the season for us yet.

I went ahead and planted the pre-soaked Sweet Pea seeds in two shallow furrows on either side of where the trellis will go . . . as soon as the ground thaws a bit more.  It will be very interesting to see if I'm a success or failure in getting the seeds in so early this year.  Hope I didn't waste the seeds.  Stay tuned for updates.

Now back to our work in the garden yesterday.  We succeeded in getting compost heaps rearranged for the season (well, almost . . . more on that in a bit here), and compost spread in all the raised beds.

I used my wonderful Mantis tiller to mix the compost in with the soil, then raked the beds smooth.

Papa Pea covered the Pumpkin Patch (soon to be planted in new strawberry plants arriving in a few weeks and renamed the Strawberry Patch) with compost and then started spreading it over the Field Garden.

But once again, that little imp Jack Frost had an impact on our efforts.  In both compost heaps we hit the frost line a ways down into the lovely, black stuff which means we'll have to wait for further thawing to finish.

I tilled around the borders of the Field Garden, Pumpkin Patch, and blueberry and raspberry patches to get a jump start on the sod that never gives up on its quest to grow into and take over the garden soil.

That rain that was predicted?  Yep, it started around 7 this morning and has continued all day.  Perfect for our newly applied compost so it can soak down into the soil.  Also, our forest fire danger has been high for a couple/few weeks so it's a comfort to have everything soaked down now.

Looks like this whole week ahead of us will be unfavorable for doing anything outside.  Dropping temperatures and wintry mix (yeah, more of that stuff) all week.  Good.  That means more time for me to lie on the couch, eat bon-bons and nap.  (Just what the heck is a "bon-bon" anyway?)

P.S.  Thanks again to my daughter for loaning me one of her beautiful photos as a new blog header picture.  Johnny-Jump-Ups (violas) are one of our very first flowers to bloom.  The ones shown here are not ones currently blooming, but we're hoping it won't be long before they do.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


I used my power today to talk my dear husband into doing something he wanted to put off . . . until next year. 

But don't worry.  It's all for good . . . rather than evil.  He just doesn't realize it yet.  Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mental Health Day

Papa Pea and I are taking a day off today.  Both of us are going to independently do whatever we want.

Last night I asked him what he was looking forward to doing.  In his typical ever-wanting-to-get-on-top-of-his-computer/desk work, he said he'd feel loads better if he spent some time trying to at least locate the top surface of the desk itself.  (If you saw the mountain of paper work on his desk on any given day, you'd know the challenge involved there.)  He's also been wanting to build a wood duck box to put down by our little pond so he's aiming for that also.  And probably a gazillion other things he'd like to do.

Me?  Not hard to guess where I'll be.  In my quilt room for most of the time.  You can always tell when I've not been in there for a while.  All surfaces are littered with notes to myself of project ideas, projects in progress, and various small piles of "stuff" that in no way belongs in my quilt room but has been stashed there (out of sight) until I put it where it belongs.  So, such is the state of the room right now.  But it won't take long to get it back into organizational working order.  Yep, I'm one of those people who is uncomfortable working with a mess surrounding me.  I need to have a "clear deck" to feel creative.

And with that said, I'm off to pursue my Mental Health Day.  Sure hope it helps all things mental! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Crafty Little Girl, Isn't She?

I just had to show off these handmade envelopes my daughter makes.

She collects previous years' attractive calendars and then makes letter-sized envelopes out of them.

The bottom one in the right hand row shows the back of one of the envelopes.

I received a bunch of them as a Christmas present from her this last year and (cleverly) hinted a short time ago that I was really enjoying using them but that my supply was dwindling.  Lo and behold, she took the (not so subtle) hint (hooray) and this new batch appeared a couple of days ago.

Who needs a fancy stationery store when I've got such a talented daughter?!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Off the Wall? Nope, On the Wall!

See that little quilted piece on the wall under the framed picture?  It's a small wall hanging I made a couple of years ago, and I really like it.  But the fabrics I used in making it are definitely of an "autumnal" hue.  With our summer season approaching (we're still holding out hope), I wanted something that said "green and growing" more than "end-of-the-season-wrap-up."

New piece done, new piece in place.

When my daughter saw this being made she thought it was something for Christmas.  Hey, reds and greens can be just as much summer colors as Christmas ones!

The block I chose is an old one called, simply, Flower Pot.

I wanted bright colors of summer, but also wanted it to coordinate with the colors used in the framed cross-stitch hanging above it.

 This little project has been on my Wanna-Do List for a while.  And now it's done!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Just Rambling . . . Or Is It Complaining?

Forget about any outside work, being eager to start seedlings, or putting away the winter boots.  It's more like bake some Peanut Butter Cookies, grab a quilt and a book, and put another log on the fire.

Although our most recent (and unwelcome) snow has melted, now we're in the midst of a few days of "wintry mix."  So far today that has meant alternating rain and snow, heavy grayness and bone-chilling dampness.  'Tis enough to make a person crawl right back into winter hibernation.

I did sally forth this morning to do a few errands and in between stops, was very thankful for a truck with good windshield wipers and a lusty heater.  (Choosing the definition for "lusty" in this case as "full of healthy vigor" rather than "lecherous.")  I did, at one point, have a fifteen minute conversation with someone standing outside the truck while the snowflakes mounted up on the top of my head.  That little visit succeeded in chilling me right to the core, but I recovered once inside my vehicle by cranking up the heater to full blast, high heat.  Seems to me this time of year, I've used up all my winter body fat insulation (oh, if that were only true!) and am ready for sun to warm my bones.

I've been putting some time in on a small quilted wall hanging.  The hand quilting is nearly completed, then the binding and hanger for the back and it's done.  I'll post a better picture when it's hung in place.

Other handwork projects (doing as much as I can before spring really does arrive . . . it WILL, won't it?) include another pair of socks on the needles and some small knitted miniature "thingies" for next Christmas that I can't tell you about.  (Hee-hee.)

We need some comfort food for dinner tonight.  I think I'll bake a big dish of Macaroni and Cheese, served with green beans (ala Carolyn) made with bacon fat and bits of bacon.  I was planning on making some vanilla pudding for dessert, but the day has plumb gotten away from me and it's too late for that now.  Maybe it will magically appear as dessert tomorrow night.

Hubby recently asked me to order a movie from Netflix he wanted to see (an unusual occurrence for him . . . 99% of the time he'd rather read), and it has arrived so it will be Movie Night on the homestead tonight.  Good thing I didn't get that pudding made for dessert because someone in this house (and it isn't me) believes watching a movie ALWAYS includes a big bowl of popcorn. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ground Report: Still Frozen

Okay, I need to do a little catching up here.  Let's begin.

* * * * * * * *

I took my trusty little spading fork out into the yard and garden this morning to see if the ground was still frozen.  It isn't in the raised beds . . . at least not the top 6" or so.  But it may well still be down deeper than that.

It is frozen in the flower beds on three sides of our deck.  One of our first projects this spring is to tear off our south-facing deck and replace it with new construction, changing the configuration of it slightly.

The flower beds on the three sides of the deck are being changed.  We're eliminating two of them and in the case of the front, south-facing one, making it larger.  This includes taking out two, maybe three, trees.  (Don't worry; it's all good.)  The 6" x 6" timbers that have formed the delineation of these beds are nearing 20 years old and are in sad shape.  I need to remove them and the dirt in the beds before deck deconstruction starts.

When I got my spading fork (just barely) underneath this section, the 6" x 6" splintered and broke apart.

The soil in this area closer to the house and a little more protected was thawed enough that I could loosen the end of this long piece of wooden border.  But the whole task will be much easier if I just exercise a little patience (of which my husband declares I have none) and wait for more thawing of the earth.

This section of our garden, at the bottom of a southern slope and closest to the woods line on two sides, is always the last area to lose its snow cover.  It may be hard to see because of the monochromatic (otherwise referred to as "blah") coloring, but the left two rows of blueberry bushes are free of snow, but the third one on the right is not.  Beyond the blueberries are the three rows of raspberries still mostly freezing their tootsies in snow.

It's frequently well into May before we experience any kind of spring weather so I'm just being overly antsy this year to get outside and start on the list of projects.  Patience, Mama Pea, patience. 

* * * * * * * *

So, now here is the catching up part of this post.  I wrote the above post yesterday, took the pictures yesterday, while planning to post it this morning.  Which I obviously have.

But what happened overnight?  What scene greeted us upon arising this morning that dramatically changed things?  A scene straight out of Dr. Zhivago.  A heavy covering of that-white-stuff-that-shall-remain-nameless clinging to every twig and branch, covering all ground surfaces and making me so mad I'm refusing to take a picture to illustrate how beautiful it is.  I love snow.  I really do.  But not now.  Now I want sunshine, bare ground, warmth and something, anything, with green coloring out there.  Give it up, Old Man Winter.  You're over-staying your welcome.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mundane Monday

Laundry?  Check.

Ironing?  Check.

House (fairly) clean?  Check.

Leftover ham from yesterday's dinner?  Check.

The ham has been denuded right down to the bone with slices for future sandwiches and smaller pieces and chunks for other dishes stashed in the freezer.  The bone along with onions, garlic, a bay leaf, navy beans, pieces of ham and a good amount of water is simmering on the stove as we speak.  I think bean soup with ham may be my very favorite.

Last week was a wearing one.  Lots of little snafus that 'bout drove us straight up the wall.  Multiple (yes, multiple) vehicle problems, road blocks preventing us from doing what we wanted and had planned and, oh yeah, a gas leak.  But all is looking better at the start of this week.  We're proceeding with crossed fingers.

Oh, I almost forgot.  We suspect we had a hungry bear try to get into the chicken house this past weekend.

Papa Pea had taken the electric fencing around the chicken house and pasture down this past winter because part of it is in the way of where we have to push plowed snow.  The black bears in our area were already in hibernation, and the electric fencing doesn't work well when the snow gets a couple of feet deep anyway.

A week or so ago, we knew the bears should be out of hibernation so he tried to put the fencing back up but the ground was so frozen it proved to be impossible.

Saturday afternoon when I went out to do afternoon chores, I discovered the back door of the chicken house . . . open.  Curious.  I checked with hubby on the subject and he wondered if he had failed to latch it properly when he had done morning chores earlier.

The next morning, door open again plus the "gang plank" from the chicken house floor up to the back door, which the chickens use going in and out, was knocked down.

All in all, we feel very fortunate (if, indeed, it was a snooping bear) all chickens are accounted for and more damage wasn't done to the house.  It could have been much worse.  (We once had a bear tear through the side of a shed to get at some stored feed inside.)  We often wonder what those poor, hungry bears find to eat this time of year when they come out of hibernation.  (Hmmm, fried chicken?  Two-egg omelettes?  Chicken stew with egg dumplings?)

Needless to say, Papa Pea spent part of his Easter Sunday yesterday reinstalling (and it wasn't easy) the electric fencing.  He succeeded in getting it up and charging.  This morning no sign of Mr. Black Bear.  Here's hoping the electric fencing proves to be enough to discourage him.  Poor hungry fella.