Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Poultry Demands Equal Time

After my garden tour post, the citizens of our poultry yard are demanding some blog time, too.  So here goes.

It's only been the past several days that we've let the chickens, ducks and geese out of their winter pens.  The main reason we've kept them confined is that we've had a bobcat in the neighborhood and our electric fence that surrounds the poultry pasture doesn't work in the deep snow.  Now with nearly all the snow gone (or at least going quickly) we have been getting a charge on the fence (not full force but enough to discourage an investigating animal who might put his or her wet nose on it) so feel fairly secure in letting the birds out for fresh air and exercise during the day while we're around to keep an eye on things.

These are our two pairs of Pilgrim geese.  One of the gals has already started a nest of two eggs.  At least, without being too invasive, we think there are only two there.  Or perhaps it's a communal nest?  At any rate, I think geese start laying and wait to start serious setting on the nest until they have a good number of eggs.  Or that's how I understand the process works.  (Hopefully, the geese know more about it than I do!)

Our small pond has open water at one end of it, and the geese have been splashing and giving themselves much needed baths in the last couple of days.

I really like the looks of the black Muscovy ducks.  Above are a pair . . . Daphne and Darby.

Here are three Cayuga ducks.  The picture doesn't show it well, but their feathers are not only black but a deep, iridescent green.  Very pretty.

Last December we got two pairs of Muscovies and two pairs of Cayuga ducks.  Unfortunately, we lost one female of each variety.  So as of now, we're left with a female and two males of both the Muscovies and Cayugas.  We're really hoping the remaining gals will lay a good number of eggs and hatch out several ducklings so we can build our mating pairs back up.

Of course, some of the chickens wanted their picture taken, too.  We've had twelve hens over winter (including two bantam hens), and we've been consistently getting 6-8 eggs every day.

Just got word on Tuesday that the four (more Pilgrim) goslings we ordered for delivery end of April will be here today.  Oooops.  Well, at least we've had time to get a brooder area set up in the garage for them.

I'll take pictures of the little fuzz balls when they arrive.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The First Garden Tour of the Year!

I took a few pictures early yesterday morning to give you an overview of the current state of our garden.  I know most of you are just going to shake your head while looking at these pictures, but I wanted to start documenting this year of gardening.  (Okay, at this point in time it's still non-gardening, but it is the start of our season.)

Here's part of the asparagus patch we planted last year.  Even with good growing conditions, I know we won't be able to harvest much this first year, but we hope it will be a start to many years of having delicious asparagus from our own garden.  As you can see, the plants are still covered with the light mulch recommended for the plants over winter.

Our three 45' long rows of new strawberry plants put in last year are about two-thirds free of snow.  We mulched them on a really windy day late last fall so we laid cattle panels over the straw to keep it from blowing into the next county.

The raised beds are free of snow.  (For the most part.)  Yaayyyy!

The field garden still has to lose the last lower one-third of its snow covering.

This is my bed of garlic.  Can you see those little green shoots poking up through the heavy mulch?  No, me neither.

Lastly, our blueberry bushes and haskap bushes in the foreground and raspberry patch in the background.  Unfortunately, we originally planted these down on the lower slope of the garden too close to the tree line.  The sun doesn't hit that area until almost noon time each day.  We're just lucky that they all have done so well in that location.  We've never lacked for raspberries and until last year when those *&%! robins wiped out most of our blueberries, we've always gotten as many of them as we needed.  I'm planning on relocating the raspberries (starting some new varieties) in the next year or two but the blueberry bushes and haskaps will stay where they are.

Looks quite different than the garden plots of most of the rest of you, doesn't it?  We get a (much) later start to our gardening season up here, but our long days of light help to make up for it.

Maybe next garden tour, I'll even have something green and growing to show you!

Monday, March 28, 2016

I Did A Bad Thing

Here I've been yammering on about the need to finish the king-sized bed quilt I've been working on for way too long.  So what happened?
Although I found myself with some time in my quilt room, I got side-tracked.

While searching for something, I came upon this small piece that I originally made to teach myself how to do string piecing.  After constructing the nine string blocks, I decided I wasn't too crazy about the process, but thought the blocks would make a good center for a baby quilt.  When the size of the quilt reached approximately 30" x 30", I put it away and never did finish it.

For some reason, I felt compelled to do so last week when it once again appeared and I heard a scolding voice telling me to finish it up and be done with it.

So that's what I did.

As I say, it's small, measuring just under 30" square.

The wide beige inner border is made up of a lighter background with darker beige stars on it.

I used a light-weight, nice flannel for the backing and cotton batting for the middle.  I machine quilted it using simple, horizontal lines of various decorative stitching.

This gives a better idea of the color of the blue backing.

I don't think my machine's decorative stitches were meant to be used with a walking foot or to quilt together three layers of material.  All of it is not perfect.

Now that this little quilt is finally finished, I'd like to offer it as a giveaway to one of you readers who might be interested in it.

The colors are a smidge wild, but that would be good stimulation for baby's developing eyes, right?  The flannel backing will insure it's nice and cozy even though it is a lighter weight quilt.

This is in no way a keepsake to be treasured as a family heirloom (that's for sure), but it might be useful to keep in the car to tuck around baby in his or her car seat.  Or give it to a toddler to drag around and wrap their dollies in.  Or use it as a table topper on Halloween.  Or hang it by the back door to scare off unwelcome visitors.

All kidding aside, I'm offering it as a giveaway to any of you who would like to have your name entered in the hat for a chance to have it.

I'll close the entries around 9 p.m. on Thursday night, March 31st, and announce the winner sometime on Friday, April 1st.  (No April Fool's Day pranks will be involved.)

Soooo . . . by me being a bad girl and not doing what I perhaps should have been doing in my quilt room, I finished this little quilt (which did feel good) and made it possible for a small giveaway here on my blog.   Anyone interested?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter Wishes to You All

Our daughter invited us for Easter Dinner this year.  But she warned the meal would be unorthodox Easter fare.

Between her two jobs, tomorrow is her only day off in a string of eleven or twelve, so she didn't feel she had the time to spend shopping for and then preparing the meal she had originally planned.

So what is she serving?


Sounds good to me!  Anytime I get to eat anyone else's cooking but my own, it's a treat.  The other folks she's invited are also just fine with the menu.  A little merlot, a little pinot grigio, a little zinfandel, the tacos with all the trimmings . . . all will be just hunky-dory!

I made some frosted sugar cookie eggs this afternoon so everyone would have a cookie or two in their Easter basket.

My style of decorating with frosting can only be described as "rustic."  But the cookie recipe is good as is the frosting, so I don't usually have too many complaints.

I might, of course, if Martha Stewart should stop by.  But I don't think she'd ever go for tacos for Easter Dinner anyway.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Begins

Yep, that's what the calendar says.  There needs to be a caveat printed under that notation on all calendars hanging in northern Minnesota homes.  

We have had some melting from our most recent snowfall, but there's still plenty of whiteness out there.  Overnight temps are registering in the low 20s.  Two more weeks until I can start the first of my garden seedlings inside under lights.  Spring is coming.  We're just a little slower (okay, maybe a lot) than most other places.

I shouldn't have talked about finishing the top to my new quilt that's been in progress for so long.  I haven't managed to work on it since then. 

I've been doing some touch-up painting in the kitchen.  You can tell by the yellow splotches on my hands.  Papa Pea and I did a little wood working constructing a wooden tray I've been wanting for some time.  Little things are getting done, it's just that a day's time is never long enough.  Never, ever, ever.

Looking ahead to this week, we're trying to decide on the best day for a trip to the big city.  We need to pick up a new garden cart we ordered.  Our old one has served us well, hauling untold tons of various materials and doing service as a make-shift hand truck to move heavy, heavy objects for many years.  The poor old thing has been on its last legs (wheels?) for a couple of years and is now beyond repair so we've come to the point of having to replace it.  We chose to not pay the shipping on this new one but rather to pick it up.  Sure, a trip to the big city is expensive in itself, but any time we go we never fail to come home without the back of the truck filled to the brim . . . with wine from the discount liquor store, if nothing else.  (Truth to tell, it's more likely a bulk box of toilet paper and kleenex and miscellaneous building materials.)

Our supply of food from last year's garden is holding out.  Mostly.  We are almost out of potatoes (didn't get as big a yield as usual) and carrots.  Papa Pea has fed out more to the poultry this winter . . . carrots, beets, cabbage, apples.  Frozen veggies are still plentiful.  I served Brussels sprouts with dinner last night and hubby commented, "Where do you keep finding these Brussels sprouts?  I thought you didn't freeze that many?"  Well, when you rotate serving them with frozen green beans, peas, beets, cauliflower, broccoli and others from the root cellar, I guess they each go a long way.

For our potato crop, for years I've saved and planted the smaller ones from the previous crop.  Haven't purchased new potato sets in I-don't-know-how-long.  But after last year's harvest I decided maybe it was time for some new life to be infused into our potato crop so have on order two new varieties, Red Chieftan and Burbank Russet.

It may still be snowy and cold, but I can't help but be eager to get on with all those outside chores, tasks and new projects.  Spring is in the air . . . or at least in my mind and on the calendar.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A Quick (White) Post

The snow "storm" only dropped about 6" of snow on us.  But , oh my, what a heavy, wet snow.

We had no sun yesterday and a temp just below 32° so very little melting occurred.

Today looks to be a sunny day so there's the hope for a bit of melting.  Maybe.  That would be nice.  (But a high of only 27° forecast.) 

The weather (and view out every window) yesterday threw me into a fit of sorting and cleaning in my quilt room.  I attacked three big storage boxes filled with "stuff" that had just been thrown into them.  (Who would do a thing like that?)  Organizing a messy area always feels good!

Today I'm hoping to be back in there working on putting together the last of the top for a new quilt I'm making for our king-sized bed.  It's been in progress for almost a year now (shamey-shamey, Mama Pea), but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel so I'm eager to get it finished.

P.S.  I may have been just a bit premature in changing my blog header photo to that lovely spring one.  Ya think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Welcome Winter! (Or Not)

I have a cross stitched hanging I put up at the beginning of every winter.  It shows a happy snowman with the words "Welcome Winter" stitched on it.

This sampler was taken down and put away until next year a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently, Mother Nature didn't get the memo that we were no longer welcoming sleet, freezing rain, ice and snow.  We were not welcoming more winter.

This is going out our driveway this morning.  The snow has continued to come down all day since then.

Our mailbox across the main road out front.

When we went out to do mid-afternoon chores, we shoveled and did a little clearing.  Looks to be only an actual build-up of about 3"
 of snow but the consistency is like that of snow cone slush.  If our temp hadn't stayed around 33° all day, I have a feeling the measured inches would be more.  As they say though, it ain't over yet.  The snow is predicted to continue until after dawn tomorrow morning.

Lastly, bye-bye raised garden beds.  They're disappearing.  Again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Early Melt Continues But . . .

I ran errands in town yesterday and everyone I spoke to commented on the fast disappearing snow and what an early spring it looks like we may have.  Of course, the early melting has brought with it early mud, but the "mud season" is simply a period we have to plod through no matter when the spring melt chooses to occur.

I drove a short ways out the other side of town to a wonderful second-hand store that is thriving in our community.  I had two boxes of "guy stuff" (is that being sexist?) to donate.  All was accumulated from Papa Pea's current purging, cleaning and organizing of the garage and workshop area.

This business is located in a large building that is for sale.  The ample parking lot is a disaster at the moment as it is in great need of gravel, but because the second-hand store doesn't own the property, they are not eager to sink a great deal of money (pun intended) into the parking area which is currently a virtual quagmire of icky, oozy mud.  When I returned home, I was amazed to see how much of their mud I had brought home on the floor mat of our vehicle.  But as I say, 'tis mud season and it's hard to avoid it whether in our own backyard or elsewhere.

Here's the picture taken this morning of the melting in the raised bed area of our garden.  Lookin' good!

The back area where we drive in and out with the vehicles and where our main entrance is has had a terribly dangerous coating of ice covering it all winter.  As you can see, even that is starting to melt.  Even though the remaining white area looks to be slushy, it's still solid ice underneath but admittedly not as slippery to walk on.  And that is a very good thing.

Now for the "but" part of my blog title.  We are being told to be prepared for 8-10" of heavy snow over the next two-day period.

If the weather forecasters should possibly be correct this time (nah, it'll never happen), it will feel like the proverbial one step forward, two steps back in the progress toward spring.  It's just a darn good thing I'm no longer putting any stock in what those whacky weather people tell us.  Right?  Right.   

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Weather Forecast, Schmeather Forecast!

I wonder why I even bother checking out the weather reports at all.  We got none of the weather that was forecasted yesterday.  Instead we had high temps (well, for us at this time of year) all day yesterday, above freezing temps over night and . . . no snow.

Here is a glimpse of the raised beds this morning.  Good golly, Miss Molly, I see garden soil out there!  And even a tinge of green showing on the grass already.

Just for kicks, the above is a shot of the same raised beds on April 9, 2014, nearly four weeks later than today's current date of March 13th.  In years when we get a "normal" amount of snow, the raised beds would most likely still be totally under the snow on this date.

Then there are years like this, taken April 19, 2013, when gardening wasn't even on our radar screen!  That yardstick is in a drift on our front deck.

But since it does (currently) look as though we just might/maybe have an early spring this year, I put some real effort into getting the planting layout for the field garden done a day or so ago.  Between the new strawberries being planted in a new area of the field garden last year and the need to rotate all the crops from last year, I was having trouble getting everything to fit in where I wanted it.  But success was finally achieved and now the plans for all the raised beds and the field garden are in place.

Not much sunshine out there so far, but the thermometer is showing 45° in the shade at just about noon as I write this so we're looking for more melting to be on the agenda again today.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spring Is Coming! No, It's Not.

I can't help but get excited about the melting we had yesterday.

There's bound to be more snow disappearing today as the temp in the shade is up to 53° already, the sun is shining and there's a slight breeze blowing which will help with the evaporation.  Needless to say, this is the warmest we've seen it in months.  And months.

Now for the bad news.  (Dum-da-dum-dum.)  Rain is forecast for late today turning into snow over night and continuing on into the first of the week.

This is nuthin' unusual for our March weather.  This is the way our spring comes in.  And goes out.  And comes in.  And . . . and . . . and.

But regardless of the fact that we'll probably get more snow, none of it will stay around for long now.  (Famous last words?)

I won't be out in the dirt planting for quite a while yet, but only three more weeks before I can start some seedlings inside.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yikes, can you believe we change the clocks tonight?  Spring forward, fall behind.  I swanny (old southern expression, right?), doesn't it seem like only about a month ago we pushed the clocks back an hour?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Chocolate Bunnies Re-Homed!

I didn't have an Easter bonnet in which to put all your names for the drawing for the wall hanging.  (Gosh, how long has it been since I've had an Easter bonnet?)  So I used a basket (can we call it an Easter basket?) and asked granddog Tucker if he would pick out a name.

Unfortunately, because there was no food involved, he lost interest quickly and went back to his bed before selecting a name.

Lucky for me, Papa Pea ambled by and I asked him to do the honors.  (I made him turn his head away so there was no peeking.)

Here's the winner!  MOMMAR6, if you will send me your mailing address (you can do so using the Contact Me button over on my right hand side bar), I'll get the quilt off to you asap.  Thanks to all of you who showed an interest in the giveaway.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Above is today's picture of the raised garden beds.  You will notice there is no snow melted from yesterday.  Matter of fact, there was MORE SNOW covering them this morning.  Yep, we woke to a light dusting of snow, probably just under an inch.  Today's temp, now at mid-day, is 36° so we should be making a small bit of progress in the melting department.  No sun again though which would have helped. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dear Sunshine . . .

Please stop fooling with us.  After a few days of lovely sunshine, we're back to heavy, gray, cloud-covered skies.  We were supposed to have bright sunshine all day today, but so far it's a wet, drippy repeat of yesterday.

None the less, our snow is melting.

I thought I'd try to chronicle the melting of our snow by taking a picture each day of the raised garden beds closest to the house.  Here I'm standing on the platform by our hand pump and you can see the wood framing of a few of the beds starting to peek through.

How long until the whole beds are uncovered and free of snow?  Most likely a loooonng time!  Spring does not come easily (or rapidly) up here.

* * * * * * * *

I stripped the bed yesterday right down to the mattress and washed sheets and mattress pad.  (I even enlisted Papa Pea's help in flipping and turning our king-sized mattress.  What a comedy of errors that was.  Shoulda had a video.)  I wanted in the worst way to hang everything out on the clothes lines, but managed to talk myself out of it.  Not only was there no sun and much dampness in the air, but by afternoon a light drizzle had started.  I think I made a good decision.

* * * * * * * *

If you're interested in the giveaway of the Easter quilted wall hanging advertised in my previous post, don't forget to get your name in the hat by 9 p.m. tonight in order to be eligible for the drawing tomorrow.  Good luck to all who enter!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Hoppy Easter Giveaway

Seeing as how Easter comes a little early this year, I've already started thinking about it.  And thinking about it reminded me of a wall hanging I made for Papa Pea's third grade classroom way back in 2000.

It's a big 'un measuring 32-1/2" across and 41" top to bottom.  Six chocolate bunnies are scattered across it and coordinating fabrics are mostly pastels.

If any of you have an interest in giving this wall hanging a new home, leave a comment on this posting, I'll put names in an Easter bonnet (ha-ha) and draw a winner.  Entries for a chance to win need to be submitted by 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, March 9th.  I'll do the drawing sometime the next day and post the winner.

Here's comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail . . . 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 We've had several very welcome days of sunshine lately, and although we can notice the snow levels sinking, the dangerous ice covering all ground surfaces remains.  We're supposed to have above freezing temperatures during the day for the next ten days so we're hoping the ice will start to melt.  It will be a slow process but all part of spring time in the north woods.

As usual, we've got a boat load of outside projects lined up for this spring/summer/fall season, and we're eager to get started on all of them so an early spring would be nice to have.  First on the agenda will be to replenish the firewood supply.  It was an easy winter temperature wise, and we're going to end the heating season with our biggest wood shed still full of well-seasoned wood.  That means all the less wood to work up and get under cover for the year after next.

Thanks to Sue's kind help and suggestions, I've purchased a five-shelf wire rack (plus lights) that I'll be using for starting my garden seeds this spring.  Yep, hubby still has to give up a bit of floor space in his heated workshop, but at least I won't be commandeering the top of his workbench for two months this year.  He's happy.  I'm happy.  Let's hope all those little seedlings will be happy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Thinking (Cautiously) of Spring

This is our second consecutive day of lovely, warm sunshine (yippee!) which makes me think spring is definitely on the way (albeit probably very slowly up here near the tundra), and if I'm going to get more time to do some quilting, March is the month to do it in.

Above is the wall next to the back entrance we go in and out of 99% of the time.  That little rectangular, rusted tin sign above the light switch says "Let It Snow" and will have to be replaced with something more seasonal soon.

A couple of days ago I finished a small quilted wall hanging using some soft, pastel colors.  These colors are not the usual ones with which I prefer to work, but I was going for light and spring-like for the piece.

The block I used is Mosaic Rose and worked up quickly. 

Once I had the little wall hanging finished, I realized it reminded me a lot of a piece I did in the same color motif (although using totally different fabrics) years ago.  The quilt group I belonged to at the time did a "challenge" piece every year that we unveiled at our annual Christmas/Holiday dinner.  The year I did this one, which is a derivation of the Grandmother's Fan block, we challenged ourselves to do something with curves or circles.

The new wall hanging is not on the wall yet.  The month of March is bound to bring us more snowfalls, for sure.  So my "Let It Snow" sign has a couple/few more weeks to occupy its present spot before it gets replaced for another year.