Sunday, May 31, 2015

a bit more gardening

I'm going to try to plant a little something every day.
It may not be possible,
but I will try.

Yesterday I planted a few things at the town plot:

Root crops!!

 And just look at Piper, checking my pea placement:

She is such a stickler for even spacing.

Today I gardened at home;
expanding the fenced area of the terrace garden,
transplanting four butternut squash seedlings,
and putting in a block of sweet corn:

Can't you just taste that sweet corn?

I was determined to get the corn in before the rain began,
so I worked until I sort of fell over,
and finished just before the first drops fell.
Very satisfying.

Now we are expecting two days of rain.
If it's off and on, I may be able to do more planting.
If not, I'll at least do some prepping for related tasks,
because Wednesday I've got a new helper coming
to work with me on gates and fencing for a couple of hours.

But as soon as weather permits, I will be planting:

more seeds!

I'm done buying seeds for the year now, I think.
(I'm pretty sure.)

And as I say goodbye to the Dog Days of August
which came in May this year,
I'd like to share one bit of quite thrilling garden news.

Guess what this is:

Or maybe I should say,
guess where  this is...

because this Red Kuri Squash is
the very first planted seed to sprout in the

the adventure continues.

Friday, May 29, 2015


Spring (detail)      Jacob Grimmer ca.1525-1590

Garden 2015 is finally underway!
There have already been a couple of nice surprises.

First, I happened to arrive at the feed store
just after they had set out all their plants.
I may have been the first customer to see it. 
Row upon row, table after table,
and not a gap anywhere.

There were a few gaps when I left, though.

I treated myself to perennial flowers.
Not just one or two, as usual, but a dozen!
Some are potential dye plants I've been hoping to find.
Others were unfamiliar, but chosen because
they can tolerate partial shade.
Like this Milky Bellflower: 

The image below clearly demonstrates what gardening is like here.

See that little yarrow plant?
See that pile of rocks?

ALL those rocks came from the hole dug for a 1-quart yarrow.
It's like some kind of freakish twist in the law of nature:
every hole I dig produces a greater volume of stone
than the volume of the hole.
I cannot explain it.
But I live it.

Several plants went into one of my existing garden beds.
But five are in a new spot, along a path
I walk several times each day for chores.
Flowers along the way? A very cheering prospect!

A second surprise:
I was invited to take a plot at the community garden in town.
This idea had never once occurred to me.
I thought community gardens and allotments
were specifically for people who have no land.
(But now that I've typed that...
in this rural town, I'm not sure who those folks could be.)

Then I thought about what a battle it is to garden at my place.
My land is composed almost entirely of stones,
with little bits of rusty soil in between.
And direct sunlight is at a premium;
it's always a challenge to decide what I might squeeze in.

So, maybe I should try adding a garden in town?

After waiting a week in case any landless soul needed the plot -
- there are only 8 in total -
I inquired and found there was one space left.
Already rototilled.

Ha! I still managed to get the only spot with shade!
But just in the morning.

With this extra plot - about 20 by 25 feet -
I suddenly have more options, and much more direct sun.
And for the first time in decades, I can plant root crops.
This is thrilling! I use a lot of root crops.

Yesterday, on the way home
from a doctor's appointment an hour away,
I visited a couple of feed stores and bought a few seeds:

Does that look like a lot?
Am I being too optimistic?

At least I can count on Piper to help with the planting.

Lots of work ahead, but it's an exciting experiment!

So tell does your garden grow?

Friday, May 22, 2015

friday follow-ups

Just a few brief notes about
things that have been happening here this week.

Azalea and Campion had their first birthday!

Azalea is maturing very nicely:

And Campion is now taller than his mama!

Remember when they were born?

I sure do!

Azalea and Campion, one year ago.

The porch floor:
it's finished - five coats - and looks good.
Really good.
Now a thorough cleaning is needed, to get rid of the sawdust lingering in every nook and cranny of the porch.
And all the windows must be washed.

This will be an opportunity(!) to try
the extreme-housework-with-audiobook system.
So far, I have:
1) found the 5-foot stepladder, and
2) lugged it from the workshop to the house.
It's a start!

But I'm going to save this task until it's too hot to work outside.
Other than Quite Small Tasks, 
everything happens on a Priority basis around here
and most of my priorities are outside.


In the Quite Small Task category:
my unstained cherry table gets an occasional application of oil.
I took the opportunity of doing it outdoors this week.

This is a genuinely enjoyable task.

Then I put the little table on the porch.
The room immediately shrank before my eyes!

It will be difficult to decide what goes on the porch.

I'm thinking beloved and happymaking items only.
The cherry table probably stays.


In other cherry-related news:
I've started a bucket of black cherry soaking for dye. 

Prunus serotina

I've never used cherry before, but Annie Cholewa recently blogged about her experiences with it. I don't know what species Annie used, but probably not the one I'm using.
An interesting experiment anyway.

And in my ongoing efforts to avoid using mordants (which improve the colors but alter the fiber) either to pretreat fiber or as part of the dyebath, I've poked around online and found a mordant-free method involving two separate cherry dyebaths at different pH extremes.
Well worth a try!


And now, I'm heading back outside to shift some fence panels.
Have a lovely Friday, everyone!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

four weeks

You know how I mentioned yesterday that I am having trouble
getting decent snaps of Tansy and Fern?

Here's why:


Saturday, May 16, 2015

presto chango



I had to laugh when the kids struck the same pose
in the same spot, seconds apart!

Can you see the size difference in the two?
The silver girl has gotten heavier and bigger.
The black girl, by comparison, is still a peanut!
But only by comparison.
She is growing, fit, and active, and getting plenty to eat.

They are both very active.
One day I shot 327 images, trying (and failing) to get
a decent picture of each kid so I could do a special
"introducing" post to tell you their names.
(Which are NOT "Presto" and "Chango."
Nor are they "Bloodroot" and "Lungwort,"
but thanks, Tanya. HAH!)

Their names are:





Tansy knew her name the first time I used it.
Fern is taking a bit longer,
or else she has just been too busy to respond.
In the picture above, she is checking
to be sure she has tracked dirt into both compartments
of the mineral feeder.
Because any job worth doing is worth doing well.


And now, before the looming rain begins to fall,
I'm going to take this girl for a run in the woods.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


The porch floor work was mysteriously delayed for two days.

I don't know why. That's the mysterious part.
But today, the gentlemen arrived on time and got busy right away. They left at 5PM, after sanding the floor thoroughly and putting down the first finish coat of a probable three.
Fingers crossed it will be done by the weekend.

I didn't take a wide shot of the entire floor before they began sanding, but here's a fairly representative section of floor - this is the area in front of the slider, looking south - taken on the day when I insulated the kneewalls:

And here is a detail of the floor in front of the slider
after the sanding was done today:

It was fun seeing the original colors reappear.
(It was especially fun since I was not the one
on my hands and knees, sanding.)
The wood has been darkening naturally since 1997.

I remembered finding the mahogany at two lumberyards,
laying out every single stick,
and choosing the ones I wanted.
This is not behavior that typically endears a person
to the lumberyard staff, by the way.

(This doesn't worry me. I mention it as general information.)

There is a lot of variation in this mahogany,
and I remember deciding how to arrange the colors.
Now those colors are more than coming back;
the wood is taking on new depth
as the clear finish goes on.

In this picture, the upper section has one coat of finish:

I suddenly remembered having a load of this lumber
tied to the roof racks of Brownie, my old wagon,
when I stopped at a dog show in NH
where a good friend was showing her Irish Wolfhounds.
She is gone now.
As are her Wolfhounds.
As are my Wolfhounds.
It was another lifetime.
But it's all there somehow, in the wood.

Friday, May 8, 2015

repeated handling, no wheels

Yesterday I pulled the big tarp off the pile of construction debris left by the carpenters who worked on the porch,
and began picking away at it.
It's a task, alright.

Many years ago, I worked for a while in a stockroom.
Heavy boxes. Lots of them. Receiving, distributing.
At the time, I relished heavy physical labor.

Two tips I learned from the stockroom manager,
which have served me well over the years:

1) Move it once.
2) Put it on wheels.

Unfortunately, neither of these tips is applicable
to the debris pile situation.
It's a matter of picking up each piece,
brushing off dirt and sawdust,
determining potential usefulness,
removing all nails and hardware,
and adding it to one of several smaller piles.

After one hour, the original pile looked like this:

And there are now five smaller piles/stacks
that look more like this:

It looks like progress!

It also looks like the same mess
spread out over a larger area.

If When I get to the bottom of the big pile,
each smaller pile of salvaged material will need to be
sorted, organized, and carried, piece by piece,
to one of the sheds for storage.
Likely much of it will reappear in a future project.
(Stay tuned!)

I have to pace myself on a task like this.
Well, on any task, if I'm honest.
I can spend an hour or so working,
then must stop and rest my bones.
And repeat.

The work periods get shorter,
and the rest periods get longer.
As the physical toll becomes cumulative and 
the resting becomes less effective,
it becomes more and more difficult 
to pry myself out of a "zero-gravity" position
and force my body back into action
for even fifteen minutes.

I'm a long, long way from those stockroom days.


I often remind myself: it is not important
how long it takes me to do something
or how difficult/exhausting/painful the simplest task.
What is important is that I can do it at all.
And that I do.

I believe this, but must remind myself. Daily.
Because in my mind I hear, "lazy." Also, "whiner."
Sometimes even, "Lazy whiner!"

It's certainly true I postpone/avoid some chores.

Many of my routine tasks come with an obvious reward.
Carrying water buckets to the goats, for example.
Brushing Piper. Emptying the dishwasher.
Disproportional fatigue and aching joints, but:
healthy goats, happy Piper, a harvest of sparkling dishes!

Tackling a chore like the pile of construction debris
is less satisfying. It's much more like housework, which is also an awful grind and rarely gives me a feeling of satisfaction.
Possibly because I am so bad at it.
Or maybe that's a chicken-and-egg situation.

Here's what I'm thinking:
I need to adjust my attitude;
learn to find the satisfaction - the inherent reward -
in all these tasks.

Any advice?


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

way back in April

Only five days ago, waaaay back in April,
the daffodils were just beginning to appear.
Not the flowers, but the leaves.

And the vinca was just beginning to bloom.

Now, only five days into May,
we've had several days of high 70s.

Yesterday and today went over 80F.
It's like summer.


the trees have not yet leafed out.


instant summer heat, but no summer shade.


The goats aren't complaining, but they're quiet.
Spring came so slowly, most of them are still wearing
remnants of their winter coats.
(Not the babies, of course.)

I'm taking fresh water to all paddocks several times daily,
and today I added electrolytes to some buckets.
Can't hurt.
And besides, goats like a choice.
All goats.
Even baby goats.

Success! That single, perfect blade of grass!

Brief newsflash:

the last big interior task on the porch renovation
is now scheduled for next week!
The gentlemen who urethaned the walls
are coming back to do the floor.

It's going to be exciting to really "move in" at last.

And finally, one special treat to share
from our walk yesterday:

a Great Blue Heron.

And companion.

They are getting ready to move in, too.

I was very close before I saw the herons,
so Piper and I quickly moved on,
leaving them to consider potential nest sites in peace.
Fingers crossed they'll choose to build where 
I'll catch a glimpse now and then.
Such fantastic birds.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

weekend snapshots

It has been a hot, sunny weekend.
I mean, hot.
And sunny.
I had to take off my flannel shirt. And put on a visor.
And now, at 5 in the evening, 
I've had to come inside for a while to cool off.
Good time to post a few snapshots!

Yesterday, after doing the recycling,
Piper and I went for a stroll by the pond.
This is Piper, strolling:

The maples were flowering.
And the sky really was that blue.

See? Even in reflection. Very blue.

But when you look beneath the reflection,
you also see green and yellow.
(A few weeks ago, this was ice. Remember?)

There was a lot of green at the water's edge, too.
These reeds are vibrant.

Back at home, there is also a bit of green.
Softer green.

I almost cried when I saw these fragile bloodroot flowers.

Bloodroot is always a miracle to me.
And this year, even more so.
Because these very few and tiny plants 
mean the goatbarn builder
did not kill all my bloodroot with his skidder.

I love bloodroot.


Now, does anyone know what this little plant is called?
This amazing plant that is already poised to flower?

It's one of the many, many perennials
given to me by a generous friend last autumn.
She told me what most of them were, and when I got home,
I tried to remember.
And as I planted them, I carefully placed a label next to each.
I laughed yesterday when I saw this plant's label:


True enough, as far as it goes!

Does anyone know what it is?
The flower may be purple, if that helps.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!
Are you gardening yet?
It seems like I am so far behind everyone else,
but here the ground is only now warming up.
As I was typing,
the first hummingbird just swooped by!!!
Must go prepare the feeder.