Tuesday, October 29, 2019

transplanting tuesday


We've had a couple of rainy days, and tomorrow is predicted to be the first of three more rainy days, so today - which only looked like rain, all day long - was my do-or-die chance to plant the new blueberry bush, transplant the strawberries, and move a big clump of anise hyssop that got tipped up when the bigtooth poplar by the barn was blown down in the recent storm.

milkweed, detail

After morning chores, I got stuck into the job.

(By the way, the photographs are from a few days ago.
They are from the garden but not directly related to this post.
I didn't take a camera outside today because I needed to Focus On The Work.)


Now, at 4 PM, I am patting myself on my aching back (only mentally, I can't reach) for having gotten all three tasks completed. I've also had a lovely lunch - fried egg on a brioche roll with mayo and lettuce, and a glass of guanábana juice.

(A local store has been selling the soursop juice for a dollar per can lately, and although it is not quite what I vividly remember drinking on a very hot day in Puerto Rico, it's refreshing. And I was certainly glad to have it on hand during the recent four days without water.)

goldenrod, detail

Moxie has joined me and I'm idly wondering when I'll have to switch from my back-length heating pad to my back-length icepack. Maybe when I can't feel the heat anymore?

 I am in no hurry to try to move, so I'll just stay put for a while.
Unless Piper wants to go out.
Or Della wants to come in.
Or there's some sort of mayhem in the paddocks.
(Please, please, let there be no mayhem in the paddocks.)

Until then, just blogging. And sketching! That's coming up next.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

sunday review of saturday snaps

The light was lovely yesterday.

I took a break between chores and we went to the woods.

Result: a perfectly happy Piper, doing what she loves most.

Piper was off-lead the whole time.
We spent more than an hour rambling.

Look at this face:

Maybe you've heard the old saying: 
"You can always tell the cobbler's kids - they've got no shoes."

Well, here's a photographer's Self-Portrait With Hound.

I've been a photographer since 1989.
Have had more images published than I can recall.
Have had work exhibited in museums.
I made an effort. This was the best result.
Cannot stop laughing.

It's raining here today, which means postponing the planting of the new blueberry bush - the first one I've ever bought - and the transplanting of all the strawberries into the new raised bed I almost finished filling yesterday. I thought the soil and muck layers should have a chance to settle before adding the strawberry plants, and this rain is certainly going to help with that settling process. I hope the bed will still look almost full when I go out to check later! It's two feet deep, 32 inches wide, and 6 feet long, and required a lot of shoveling and pitchforking and dragging of muck-filled bins. Transplanting the strawberries - the ones I grew this year - will be a piece of cake by comparison, even if I end up doing it in the rain.

 Is your weekend going well?
I hope so, and I hope you feel like this:


Sunday, October 20, 2019

the calm

I'm sorry I've been out of touch. The power has been out since a storm Wednesday night, and just came back at noon today, Sunday. No power, no phone, no water. And just to make things interesting: no vehicle. My Highlander went onto the shop on Tuesday, and there it sits. I think the garage got their power back yesterday afternoon.

My road loses power with some regularity, so I had no idea how widespread and severe the damage was (see no phone, etc, above) until Friday, when my Occasional Helper came by as fortunately prearranged and gave me the bigger picture.

Bit of a storm.

So my power is back, which is a huge relief in regards to the freezer, which I have spent four days and nights practicing not worrying about. Long story short: I think the frozen food is okay! Having water again is rather nice, also. The contents of my little fridge were greatly reduced, but now the fridge itself is sparkly clean and extremely tidy, so let's enjoy that while it lasts.

On the down side, there is still a fallen tree pinning two power lines - from house to workshop and from workshop to stilt barn - at 52 inches from the ground. That is the height of the paddock fence the bole is now resting on. It's not a large-diameter tree, but is about 35 feet from root mass to crown, so it caught both lines before resting neatly on the fence. I checked with the power company about the safety of using power in the house while these lines are so compromised (even with that circuit switched off, of course) and was advised that I should treat it a a dangerous situation, stay away, and use no high-draw appliances until a National Grid tree person can get here. Which may not be for a couple of days (I'm guessing) so I ran down the list of my appliances and got the "okay" on the dishwasher which made me very happy indeed. It will probably take a couple of days just to get all the dishes washed.

I'll leave you with a couple of pictures taken the day before the storm.

We are having a stunning foliage season this year, and surprisingly, despite the storm, vast quantities of leaves are still on the trees today! Lots of leaves are on the ground, of course, and there are small branches everywhere, so the goats are enjoying an extended picnic.

This is my east view from the barnyard:

I sometimes forget to provide a sense of the size of the forests I keep showing you,
so here is the east view from my back door, with Adirondack chair for scale:

Now off to the barns.
With no power out there yet, I need to get the chores done while I can still see.

But I wanted to touch base after my latest post,
with a heartfelt thank you for all the kind thoughts.
Much appreciated.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

a long life

May 7, 2004 - October 11, 2019

LeShodu moved here from Maine in 2010.
She had just turned 6.

She became my foundation doe, the Matriarch.
She is the mama, grandmama, or great-grandmama
to every Cloud Harvest Cashmere goat.

She ran the entire herd - including goats who grew to far outweigh her -
with an iron hoof. I was sometimes genuinely surprised when one of the big boys stood next to Shodu and I could see that she was not the Biggest Goat.
She certainly seemed like the Biggest Goat.

LeShodu has always been my favorite to comb.
Not only for the quality of her cashmere, but for her willingness to negotiate.
We had a deal.
She didn't want to be tied for combing,
so I offered to comb her untied if she would stand still.
I also suggested that when she had had enough,
she signal restlessness with a tilt of a horn
and I would soon stop combing for the day.
It worked.
(I don't know if even cashmere people will believe this, but it is true.)

LeShodu has been with me for over 9 years, and has been an Absolute Presence for all of that time. Every night when I've finished the chores and am walking back to the house, I always call a "goodnight" to each animal by name or nickname, "Goodnight, Campion my Scampion...goodnight Betula, my birch-boy...goodnight Acer, my maple-man"...etc., always ending with, "Goodnight, LeShodu, Queen of the May."

I know some of my readers follow this blog for the goats, and I've written about LeShodu several times on Comptonia so I know this will be sad news. But please try not to feel too sad. LeShodu had a very long and good life, and a blessedly brief decline. The vet came out yesterday morning and LeShodu was quietly euthanized as I sat on the barn floor next to her, holding her head in my hands as I've done thousands of times, telling her what a Good Girl she has always been.

Good night, LeShodu, Queen of the May.

Thursday, October 10, 2019


Yesterday the weather forecast was 5 days of rain beginning at 7 AM. This was not great news, but it did get me up and out early to do as much as possible. I carried extra hay to all the covered feeders, filled water buckets, gave the hens a tomato and half an apple, and coaxed LeShodu to eat some apple slices - she was a bit quiet and didn't want to eat anything, even oats which I had to sneak past the other goats. Then I closed some of the barn doors to keep a bit of the rain out. The barnyard is already so muddy I've put 2x6 "bridges" out for the goats, and I have to wear rubber boots to get to the barn.

At 7 the sky was grey and rain seemed imminent, so instead of taking Piper for a walk - we got caught in heavy rain a half-mile from home a few days ago - she joined me to work in the vegetable garden. It was still too wet from Monday's rain to harvest the catnip, but I did gather a few zinnias, picking ones whose long stems seemed most likely to get pelted to the ground.

I also picked an armful of bean leaves, still green but already beginning to fall from the vines. I brought them to the barn for the goats to munch - LeShodu said "no, thank you" - and at that point, the sky looked light blue! I opened up the barn doors that I had closed earlier.

Then I drove down the driveway to the garden, so I could bring up all the vegetables in one trip. By the time I started carrying the vegetables into the house, the sky was  grey again. And in just a few minutes, the rain began and went on for the rest of the day.

So by trying to beat the rain, I got a few hours of focused outdoor task time yesterday, which was fantastic. I couldn't tackle any of the big jobs I had planned for this week - for example, rebuilding paddock gates and working on the new raised bed - but at least I got late vegetables harvested before rain could rot them!

And when the rain came...I baked.

Big News: both the young hens have begun laying! Let the baking commence.

This recipe for "Impossible Pumpkin Pie" is similar to the very popular coconut version. Instead of canned pumpkin, I used the last package of frozen Candy Roaster Squash puree from last year's garden. Since I used a 10-inch pie dish instead of the 9-inch called for in the recipe, I also used 6 little pullet eggs to add volume. My estimate was a little off, though, because it made a bit more filling than would fit in my pie dish. No worries! The extra went into a little Pyrex dish and baked separately. Oh, the house smelled SO good as soon as the baking began!

I would call this more of a baked pudding than a pie, but it does set up solidly enough to cut into wedges and has a well-balanced, not-too-sweet "pumpkin pie" flavor. If I make this again I will make more of the single-serving size - very handy for snacking or sharing.

Happy to say it is not raining this morning, though the forecast still calls for rain today through Saturday. Time to get cracking and see if I can manage another productive day. I hope your Thursday will be wonderful!


Saturday, October 5, 2019

gardens 2019: sweet corn

I always try to write a single post reviewing the year's gardens,
but it soon becomes long and unwieldy.
So this year I'm going to try writing about individual "crops."
It will be helpful to me when I'm planning the 2020 garden adventure.

First up: sweet corn!

I grew miniature corn this year.
I didn't plant miniature corn, but that's what I grew.

'Bon Jour' Early Bicolor Corn
organic seed purchased from Renee's Garden Seeds

In the Spring we had unusually hot days and unusually cold nights, so the soil was slow to warm. Corn cannot germinate well until the soil is very warm - some say 65-70F - so I held off planting as long as I dared. But because corn also needs a long season, I finally had to cross my fingers and plant, along with the pole beans which I wanted to grow along with the corn.

Even though I waited until June 22nd to plant, the corn germination was much lower than expected, which was later reflected in the incomplete pollination of the ears. The stalks grew to 5 or 6 feet, and eventually, tiny ears appeared. For a couple of weeks in September it was a treat to pick 3 or 4 little ears every couple of days, and microwave them for a quick lunch.

The ears in the picture above were the very last, and are being rationed out to the hens as a treat. They really enjoy corn on the cob! And as I pull up the stalks - the ones that aren't still entwined with pole beans - I dole them out to the goats. Everyone likes variety in their menu.

Does anyone have recommendations for a sweet corn variety that might do well for me next year? If I have room, I'll plant a larger patch. Or maybe I'll grow popcorn again, like I did in 2016. (I only "remember" the year because I searched the blog for it!) Homegrown popcorn was a fun treat in the middle of winter.