Saturday, May 27, 2017

saying it with flowers

Thank you for your comments on the previous post - I'm happy to report that it was perfectly lovely - I've never been to a nicer wedding! I had an excellent time, as did the friends I travelled with, and, as far as I could tell, everyone else at the event.

The week since has gotten away from me a bit, but all is well, the animals are fine, and enough about me, wouldn't you like to see some flowers?

rhododendron and birch, at the wedding reception

Since last Saturday, we've had a series of mizzling drizzling raw rainy days. And nights. The paddocks are soggy and the black flies and mosquitoes are having a field day biting all of us warm-blooded creatures. (Actually they do that rain or shine, drat the wretched things.)

In the midst of all this rain, the sun has occasionally appeared
to dazzle us with it's sudden exuberance!

Look! The Amsonia is budding:

An iris that struggled last year is blooming for the first time:

And do you have wild geranium where you live?
This is Geranium maculatum - a hardy little native...

whose cheery flowers are popping up everywhere:

Finally (for today's post), the always-elegant columbine.
They grew thigh-high seemingly overnight,
and I'm so grateful the rain hasn't destroyed all the delicate blossoms:

Just a little postcard from the land of wet flowers :)


Saturday, May 20, 2017

going to the chapel

And also the Country Club.
Big doings this weekend, as my Occasional Helper is getting married and - to my surprise and pleasure - he and his fiancee invited me to the wedding.

Friends in town are picking me up, so I don't have to drive across the Commonwealth - which, to me, makes a huge difference in how many hours I can reasonably hope to be physically comfortable. In fact, it makes the difference in whether or not I could attend this wedding at all. I am so grateful to be a passenger!

I'll be wearing a calf-length short-sleeved cotton dress, and - unless it is too hot - a favorite vest:

My best silver necklace has been retrieved from it's box in the corner cabinet, and polished.
A new wide-brimmed straw hat was purchased for the event.

And I intend to wear my Actual Shoes.

I may be the most casually-dressed person at this shindig, but I'm making an effort. People who know me will probably think "Ooh, Quinn very dressed up all fancy!" when they see me. And anyway, I'm pretty sure I've not been invited to glam things up.

My Occasional Helper is a really special person, and I'm touched to be invited to share this special day. Even if it takes a few days to re-energize afterward, it will be worth it.

Here is the gift, handmade in Massachusetts.
For a plate, I think it is extremely evocative.
I wonder if they will use it as a plate or hang it on the wall?
Maybe both?

Morning chores were done so early this morning, the goats probably think they dreamt their breakfast buckets. Extra hay and water are available all over the paddocks in case I am tired when I get home tonight, or, as I told the goats, because everyone gets Special Extra Food today because we are ALL celebrating on behalf of our friend. The one who cheerfully carries 50-pound sacks of oats from the car to the barns.

I hope you all have a special Saturday.
If you don't have something special planned, please feel free to celebrate with the Cloud Harvest Cashmere gang...
Special Extra Food required!

Monday, May 15, 2017

not quite planting time

It's been too cold to plant. I mean, it's been really cold.
Giant kettle of soup cold.

Stodgy-meal cold.

I've even turned the heat on for the past few nights so Piper won't think Winter is back. Heat on in May! Good gracious.

Despite the weather, watching the spring wildflowers appearing and the trees blooming and beginning to leaf out is endlessly exciting.

Unfortunately, the cold nights and overcast days have meant a struggle for some, like these Solomon's Seal plants you saw earlier:

These greening and fast-moving days make me feel I'm late getting the vegetable garden started, but in fact it is still too cold for the things I intend to plant. That said, between the rainy spells there's plenty of prep work to be done in the gardens before anything is planted. A couple of weeks ago I marked out the six upper rows in the terrace vegetable garden, and my helper rough-dug the rows and reinstalled a section of garden fence we had taken down in the autumn.

This is what the rows look like after the soil is just turned over...I think you can see a few rocks there?

So I have to go over each row, foot by foot, sifting the soil through my fingers and tossing the rocks into a bucket. I got one row done last week, on a day when the rain held off til evening. This row is ready to plant as soon as the weather warms up:

Only five more rows to go!

Then there's a new little experimental raised bed in the works, for a hill of either squash or cukes - something that will grow on a trellis. It doesn't look like much yet:

This little bed is on a stony bit of slope and I am trying to support the downhill edge of the bed with rocks sifted from the planting rows. A first layer of organic material has been piled up around a 5-gallon bucket, and there will be some soil added to the top. The bucket has holes drilled in it near the bottom, and my plan is to use it as a waterer, to help roots find deeper moisture in the summer.

I don't plan to buy much seed this year - maybe just summer squash and pole beans. I've saved seed from some of last year's success stories: the candy roaster squash, suyo long cucumbers, and popcorn. I also have Egyptian "walking onions" and field peas ordered last Autumn. All of the above came from Sow True Seed - the Appalachian seed company I learned about from Tipper at the Blind Pig and the Acorn blog. You may recall that Tipper kindly allowed this Yankee to participate several times in her annual seed-testing project, which has been great fun.

This year, Tipper has become a Sow True Seed affiliate: here is Tipper's brand-new affiliate link to the Sow True Seed online catalog, in case you'd care to visit. I really appreciate what these folks are doing to preserve and distribute heirloom varieties.

How about you? How are your gardens - or garden plans - or next year's garden plans, for those readers living in the southern hemisphere - coming along?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

one snap

Today my Occasional Helper was here for 4.5 hours, and since he will now be unavailable for the next four weeks, we went non-stop trying to tick things off my list. It was great, but exhausting, and afterward I spent a couple of hours with an icepack on my shoulders, a heating pad on my back, and a kitten draped across my collarbone, before going out to do evening chores. I'm surprised I'm still awake at 9PM, to be honest, but I wanted to post this little snapshot:

Goodnight :) 

Monday, May 8, 2017

bit by bit

hyssop and goutweed

Each day I try to do a little bit - and sometimes it is a really little bit, like two minutes - of work in one of the gardens. Mostly clearing away leaf litter very carefully, to release whatever is growing beneath or through it. Also, removing goutweed, rubus, bittersweet, and more goutweed. It is so exciting to see some of the perennials I introduced in the past few years coming back to join the hardy natives that have been here longer than I have! Not all the additions survive, I'm sorry to say. But this year I am noticing multiple shoots of perennials that were planted two years ago but which struggled last year. Maybe the toughest thing for a transplant is getting through that first complete cycle? What do you think? Opinions welcome!

bee on hyssop, summer 2016

Already there is so much hyssop coming up - far more than last year - that I have given several young plants away. The bee balm is sprouting as well, but more slowly. Fingers crossed both colors - the red and the magenta/pink - come back, as they complemented each other so well. I'm hoping for another big year for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, as last summer it certainly made the daily round of chores more fun.

Some readers may remember when I moved a section of fence behind the goat barn back in 2015, to widen the pathway to the other paddocks and just give the goats a tiny bit more room. (By the way, that link might be worth a click, just to see Tansy and Fern as babies and Tsuga as a lovely young mum.) I rescued a few lilies of the valley from the new browse area before the goats could trample them, and moved them to the edge of a perennial bed near the porch. I love lilies of the valley, and treasure the small number that bloom in one spot on the north side of my house each year.

Last year a few transplants appeared, looking quite frail. But this year - the second year since the transplant - some are preparing to bloom! I hope this means they will continue to grow and thrive in their new spot.

I hope you are getting enough green in your world-view.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

little miracles

Nature provided a visual extravaganza one afternoon this past week. Actually, it was Wednesday - Della's birthday! But this is a much shorter story than the previous one, I promise.

Piper and Moxie and Della and I had come in from working outdoors, and settled on the porch to take a little rest. I was looking out the window just as a mist began slowly falling, backlit by the sun. It was the very beginning of a sunshower!

As I watched, the rain very gradually became quite heavy, but it still fell slowly. Hard to describe...perhaps it was more "dense" than "heavy." Then it reversed, very gradually coming to a stop. All through the shower, the sun had never stopped shining.

It was such a gift to see the entire event from beginning to end. It felt like MY birthday!


This series of photographs was taken through the porch window over a total period of 1 minute and 33 seconds.
Amazing, no?

Friday, May 5, 2017

birthday girls

There have been three birthdays here in the past week.

Piper's actual birth date is not known. The shelter estimated she was nine months old when I adopted her in that long-ago December, but as I got to know Puppy Piper, I soon felt that she was younger, maybe by a month or two. So May first is a good day to declare Piper's Birthday. Happy Birthday, Piper! (Don't worry, we are not telling anyone your age. Keep them guessing, Pip!)

Moxie and Della are also Spring babies, and since both their mamas arrived at the shelter pregnant, I know exactly when each kitten was born. Moxie's birthday is April 28th, and Della's birthday is just five days later, on May 3rd.

They were four months old when they moved in, remember?

Second day at home

Last month. Or last week. Or last night.

And on Wednesday evening, the kittens celebrated their birthdays by saving the life of Betula. No joke.

I was busy working in the house when Moxie began making a strange sound. Almost a continuous growl, but different. Both kittens were staring out the south windows, and I thought there must be some new kind of mayhem going on at the birdfeeders. I hoped it wasn't a hawk.

No hawk, but the kittens were staring so intensely I went outside to take a look around. And that's when I started running, because Betula, the biggest goat in the herd, was standing in the barn doorway but in a strange position. I could only see his hindquarters, but his hind feet were standing on the ground - about 18" below the barn floor. LeShodu - the next-biggest goat in the herd - was in the barn facing Bet, both their heads were down, and at first I wondered if they had somehow locked horns.

AS IF! I don't run this herd by locking horns with underlings!

Betula's horns were both caught in the stall divider, his head was down and his neck was twisted because he had moved his body as far as possible away from LeShodu who was right there, threatening, white cashmere already dangling from her horns. Bet was absolutely helpless. I pushed Shodu away, and she came right back again, grunting, and waving her horns around. (LeShodu is Betula's mother by the way.) I had to tie Shodu to the fence, then encourage Bet to get his hindquarters up and into the barn, so at least there was not that added pressure on his neck. It took some effort to free him - with anxious goats milling around, since there was no time to collar and tie all of them - and to be honest this was one of the worst situations I've dealt with here. There was no way for me to cut the divider. Betula is a big fellow and very strong - all I could do was persuade him to move his head in odd ways to get a little leeway on each horn. And if nothing else, I was able to encourage Bet and keep all the other goats from bothering him while he got his strength up for another try at twisting and pulling his horns free. Which he was finally able to do. Then I spent an hour just walking around in the dark with the herd, trying to settle everyone down. Looking up at a clear, moonlit night and literally thanking my lucky stars...

...because I don't think Betula had been trapped for more than a few minutes before I got there, but he was already physically extremely stressed. His nose felt cold. He could have been killed by LeShodu or another goat. Or he could have just despaired and given up and died. No question.

So, at just (barely) one year of age, the kittens are already performing heroic acts.

I'm pretty impressed.