Sunday, February 26, 2023

Saturday, February 25, 2023

winter cheer

I think Della speaks for the entire household today.

Outside it's very cold and murkily grey, and everything is covered in a sheet of ice. Doing chores last night, I had to punch my boot heel into the ice crust every time I took a step, in order to stay on my feet. The cleated boots came out this morning for the first time all Winter.

There's been a lot of this lately:

For a person who has enjoyed - well, let's say "reluctantly swallowed" - coffee about once every two years over a long lifetime, I am making up for it now with a taste for Turkish coffee. I started out making an occasional traditional serving, in a traditional cezve, and drinking it in a tiny cup, unfiltered. A bit of a pleasant ritual. Only one "local" shop carries this coffee. It's in the same town as Faraway Feedstore, so an 8-ounce can of Mehmet Efendi has been on the list for that every-few-months trip.

Well. There's been a gradual uptick in indulgence over a couple of years, and this Winter I've been brewing an entire quart, filtering it, then refrigerating and doling out daily for iced coffee with lots of milk. I recently made the feedstore trip and now the cupboard holds two cans of coffee. 16-ounce cans. Felt very much like getting in a load of hay.

It's so refreshing to the eye to see green, isn't it? I'm trying to keep a few little spearmint plants alive until they can go forth and multiply in the Spring. There hasn't been spearmint growing here in many years, but I am going to try very hard to reintroduce it in 2023.

And speaking of refreshing colors and reintroductions:

Several years ago, I saw the first bluebird here. It was tremendously exciting, and a couple of years later when I saw a pair, I hoped they would decide to stay nearby and visit the feeders often. Then there seemed to be a lull. Well, it's taken a while, but this Winter there have been five or six bluebirds visiting every day! I've added daily mealworms - the very nicest mealworms! - to my hulled sunflower seed and suet buffet. I've been trying and trying to get nice photographs to post for you, but this is the best so far. Stay tuned: someday the sun will be shining and the windows will be washed and the birds will be sitting still, all at the same time.

I hope you are having a lovely weekend, with the companions and activities and beverages you most enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2023

more light

In Autumn 2021, I was once again pondering buying a small greenhouse - KB, are you here? You gave me some very helpful guidance based on your two greenhouses, thank you again. The greenhouse decision rolls around every Autumn. But in 2021, after many weeks of research and pencil-chewing, I came up with sufficient justification and a budget for a kit. For about 24 hours I was SO excited about finally deciding to invest in a greenhouse - a dream for over 30 years!

Then I took a hard look at my current ability to assemble a greenhouse. This put a stop to my gallop. I started wondering who I could hire to do it for me, and what it could cost. It's not a simple task. And it takes multiple people. Site preparation possibly requiring a digger? Oh my. Then, the (all too familiar) question came up: where on my forested property would a greenhouse have enough light?

Overnight it occurred to me to build the goats an extension on the barn instead. (I know. You might not want to go shopping with me.)

West side, framing underway.

I sketched up the design but it was built by Actual Professionals, which is why things look so neat and level and square. The whole construction process was remarkably quick. Usually I don't enjoy standing idly by watching other people work, but this time I just stayed out of the way and took a few snaps every day.

My idea was, that with another 20x8' shelter that can be divided - in minutes! - into two, three, or four little open stalls, more goats could happily share the barn area without intimidation or fisticuffs. I'm pretty pleased with the design. It's a pleasant, flexible, run-in shed. I call it the Peace Pavilion.

the southwest corner

It's been about as successful as all my previous peacekeeping missions in Goat World: i.e., improvement, not perfection. But it's also a very bright and airy place for hoof trimming and cashmere combing! Here, Fern prepares to demonstrate in April 2022:

And although it's not a greenhouse - remember the greenhouse? - the roof is clear corrugated panels, so there is plenty of light, at least until leaf-out. There are also big corrugated windows on the east and west walls, and the south side is completely open. So I told the goats right from the get-go that the southwest "stall" might be seasonally commandeered for use as a seed-starting area. Last Spring I was too busy with extended cashmere harvesting to close off that corner for starting seeds, but this year it could happen.

Fern says, "Really? You're expecting
an easier cashmere harvest this year?"

Hmmm. You have a point, Fernie. Well, we'll see.

By the way, one last comment about light.

Here's what I did with the floss from the milkweed seeds:

And here's why:

magic lantern!

Friday, February 17, 2023

more seedy thoughts

Speaking of growing things, I'm almost positive that I've got all my flower and vegetable seeds for Gardens 2023.  My two favorite varieties of pole bean don't seem to be available anywhere, so I'm going to be trying a yellow romano-type pole bean, and will also plant a lot of the filet pole bean seeds that I've saved from years past. Fingers crossed there'll be some success there, as beans are one crop I've had very good luck with almost every year.

sample of Gardening Plans 2023

Doing more gardening with less leaning has become increasingly important, and after pricing lumber to build a couple of new raised beds last Autumn, I ordered two metal raised beds. You've probably seen these advertised, as I think they are becoming increasingly popular: modular, powder-coated, corrugated tubs. Mine are Birdies brand from Australia, and a brief 20% discount for followers of an Australian YouTube gardening channel clinched my decision. I've assembled them and now it's a matter of placement, which is turning out to be tricky. Finding spots with adequate light is always a challenge here, and these tubs are not going to be moveable - at least not without a lot of work - so I need to choose carefully. Also, one totally unforeseen factor is that big metal tubs - even pretty, pale green ones - are very, very noticeable in my comfortably wildish landscape. I think my Occasional Helper used the term "comparatively industrial." I can think of places to put them where they would look quite nice (such as next to the house) but would not have enough light, and I can think of places to put them where they might have enough light but would be almost jarring to the eye. An odd problem! They will probably look more at home once things are growing in and around them, and will likely become cherished components of the gardening scheme here. But at the moment, the decision of where to put them is proving quite a challenge. Could you all just come by, take a look around, and give me your opinions? Thanks very much!


Saturday, February 11, 2023

milkweed constellation

Despite the wildly ranging temperatures lately, February is recognizable by it's mucky, grey days interspersed with spirit-lifting glimpses of brilliant blue skies.

And right on seasonal schedule, my thoughts have turned to seeds.

Do you remember my efforts to establish milkweed stands for Monarch butterflies? A couple of years ago, I thought the population was secure: a small stand by the barn and two more below the terrace garden. There was an actual row of Monarch chrysalides dotted along the top of a garden fence by the barn, and two more in other locations. Success! I thought my work was done.

I was wrong.

For some reason, in 2021 and again in 2022 there was less milkweed growing and almost none of it blooming. Last year I saw a Monarch butterfly only twice all summer, which may have been the same individual. And I never saw a single chrysalis.

So it's back to trying to increase the milkweed population. My usual method is to do this in Autumn, when the dry pods are already releasing seed. I just wait for a day with a light breeze, stand upwind from areas where I think milkweed has a chance of doing well, and release seed little by little to float and land where it will.

But last Autumn, the only two pods I saw didn't have much of a chance to dry and I began to wonder if the seed would rot before it had a chance to mature and disperse. So when I finally saw each pod split open slightly, I took a pinch of still-compressed seeds, hoping they were viable, and put them in a paper bag to dry. Yesterday I opened the bag.


It's not a lot of seed, as you see:

I'll probably plant it directly, but if anyone has experience with planting milkweed and thinks starting it in a tray and then transplanting would be better, I'll give that a go. Please share your advice in the comments!

Apparently swamp milkweed is also valuable to Monarchs, so I bought a packet of seed to plant down in the tiny wetland where the marsh marigolds bloom every Spring. Another experiment.


Tuesday, February 7, 2023


 From -14F a few days ago to a forecast in the 40s later this week.

Maybe it will be nice weather for outdoor sketching.

I don't expect to see any leafy shrubs or poppies or sprouting crocus bulbs out there,
but there's always something to sketch.


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

right now

 14F. Perfect for crossing the threshold into February.