Thursday, December 10, 2015

Decorating for the Season

My girl wanted to do the decorating this year. So she went to work making snowflakes to decorate our windows. She has become quite the master at it.

She didn't use a template or anything just snipped a little here and there until she had a bunch of beautiful snowflakes. i did have to help with the folding, but she did all the cutting herself. 

Back in November i came across a picture from this blog and completely fell in love with the winter scene she had created on a window and knew i wanted to do something similar!  My girl made all the snowflakes, and i cut the trees and stars out of cardstock.  The orginial photo had a branch wrapped in lights, but after several small hikes aroundthe property i couldn't find what i wanted. So my window looked rather plain for a couple weeks.

i eventually found a branch that i liked, although not quite long enough it still worked okay. Once the window was totally lit up i feel completely in love with it.  This will be a new tradition for us. Next year i may add the silhouettes of a few woodland creatures, but i love the simplity of this design. It feels peaceful and quiet and respresents the things that i really do love about the winter.  

He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.... In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. ~John Burroughs

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Digging the Yule tree

Digging the Yule tree is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  We always have a live 'potted' tree that we replant after the new year.  Some trees we are able to dig up year after year until they get too big to dig.  Bringing them in the house to decorate is like welcoming  back an old friend that only visits once a year.

The year that we dug last year, has been struggling to take root. It's still alive, but struggling a bit and i think if we had redug it it would probably die. So we chose to dig a new tree this year.  

We headed over to Deberosa Tree farm, where all the trees were $10 each and they allowed us to dig one.  Most of the trees were very large, and we wandered around for quite a while before deciding on our perfect tree. 

All over the tree farm we found praying mantis egg cases. Some had already hatched out, but many were new and would not hatch until the spring.  Although with our unseasonable warm winter, i wouldn't be surprised if they hatch early.  This little case can contain hundreds of baby praying mantis that all hatch out at once. 

We were very happy with our tree, loaded it up and headed home.

The kids did all the decorating this year. i never did get around to making any gingerbread ornaments, so it looked a little bare this year.

No one seemed to mind though, and we all thought it looked beautiful.  Our decorations are all pretty simple. Glass balls in blue and silver, handblown glass icicles,pine cones decoratd in glitter, acorn shaded bells, and silver butterflies.  i also added some dried citrus slices and typically decorate it in gingerbread as well.
 Yule trees are brought inside to provide a warm and festive place for tree elementals who inhabited the woodland. They are also a good way to coax the native faery folk to participate in Solstice rituals.  :) The greenery of the yule tree is symbolic of the hope for the sun's return.

i embrace these traditons and rituals as a way to stay positive during the hard of winter. Celebrating the season, gives us hope and helps us to recognize the beauty in all seasons. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Garden pictures -May, June, July, August and September. :)

 Hey folks! Summer time is my busiest time. i had every intention of blogging about our summer and garden progress, but the crazyness of life sort of took over. Summer seemed extra short this year. My garden was planted late due to traveling and weather. We went on a couple of small trips including a super cool Florida trip to Harry Potter World and a trip up to Michigan. I got behind with planting and kind of feel like i spent the entire summer just trying to plant the garden. Somehow i still ended up with a pretty good harvest.

i got a new pressure canner this year, and canned beans, tomatoes and corn.  We harvested over 100lbs of potatoes, and around 50lbs of sweet potatoes. We usually harvest more sweet potatoes, but the voles found them again.  i completely abandon everything during gardening season, so i completely failed log any of it.  i did take a lot of pictures though, and thought i'd share some.

As with every year, we deal with many gardening challenges. This year was no different,and i'm listing them here for my own benefit.  Cucumber beetles were terrible this year, and infected almost all of my summer squash with mosiac virus. The white patty pans seemed to be most resistant, and i was able to grow an abundance of them. We had a ton of rain in the spring which also caused problems. Many of my neighbors lost their tomatoes just from the rain.

My tomatoes had Septoria leaf spot, this year. They really struggled, although i was able to harest a lot of tomatoes the plants themselves just looked terrible. The ast couple of years my tomatoes were hit with late blight and bacterial canker, which almost wiped them out. So although the septoria was annoying, it was somewhat managable.


i'm sure you can tell i had a lot of fun taking pictures of my harvest.  i really enjoy the colors and variety. This was my first year growing the Blue Beauty tomatoes. They are absolutely gorgeous. Athough they a rough start, they continued to produce long after the other had died back.  The flavor was okay, nothing spectacular...but the deep blue, purple color definitly made up for it.  i'll be planting them again next year, just for the color. :) 

i didn't not plant much of a fall garden this year. i do have a variety of leaf lettuce, kale, carrots and sugar snap peas planted.  Our weather is quickly turning cold, so i'm pretty much done with the garden until spring. This winter i'm looking forward to slowing down, finishing some projects and starting some new ones. 

In seed-time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. ~William Blake

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Checking in!

Hey folks!  i seem to have fallen of the earth again.  i was hoping to keep up with blog updates, but somehow it always gets neglected. i'm really going to regret the lack of updates when i look back on it in a couple of years. i have a terrible memory and really rely on it as a personal journal and record of what we do each year. One day soon, i may add a few back posts to fill in some of the gaps.

This past summer was especially busy with a trip to Michigan and a trip to Florida. i have so many gardening posts half written that will probably never be posted.  Garden season was busy, which turned into a busy canning season and then back to school. 

My boy started high school this year  and joined the marching band.  My girl joined the IVE basketball team. So our fall has been filled with  Friday football games (for the band) and weekend Band competitions and Basketball games. Lots of driving and late nights picking up from practices, away games and competitions.  i enjoyed seeing my kids do their thing, but am quite relieved to have a break from it for a while.

i've been busy working on all kinds of things. As soon as the weather changed i abandoned the garden and started binge crafting.  i signd up to vend at the local school fall festival, so i began making a variety of different items. 

This was my first time setting up in years. It was both exciting and intimidationg. It's difficult to pour your heart and soul into something and then put it out on display for all to see.  For the most part the comment i received were kind, but i dd have several people look and work and say it looked 'tedious' to which i replied 'it's a labor of love'.  It's such a small festival i really didn't expect to sell anything, so i was pleasantly surprised when i did. Not a lot, but good for the size of the festival, and better than i expected. i do need to work on my set up.  i made a bunch of clip in hairwraps, but they ended up hidden in the back and were totally overlooked. 

i started playing in the glass shop again, which i seem to do once 3-5 years for about an hour. :) i'm hoping to stick with it a little longer this time. i've been working on making these freeform glass leaf pendants, which i hope to eventually incorporate into my beadwork. 

So, yeah. Things have gotten busy and it seems that as the kids get older no matter how much i try to slow things down it all just seems to spiral out of control.  i will try really hard to update the blog more often, and i still intend to one day post the dozen drafts that i have started but never finished. 

i do have a giveaway going on over on my Facebook page. So if you get a chance stop by and enter and check out all the pretty things i have for sale!  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Raising Monarchs 2015

Every year we walk down our road and collect all the monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars we find.  We live on a rural road and the county comes through and mows down all the weeds along the road to improve visibility several times during monarch season. Unfortunately any monarchs caterpillars that are on milkweeds get killed or are left without food. So we collect them, and raise them inside where we can provide a safe environment and fresh milkweed daily.

i thought i would share the process.

Once the egg is laid, it takes about 4-6 days to hatch. The baby monarch caterpillar eats it's way out of the egg and then it eats the egg. When it hatches the caterpillar is about 2mm long.  We collect any eggs we find because their are many predators that will take/eat them.

The caterpillar will shed it skin 5 times during the larval stage. When it hatches it is called a first Instar caterpillar. Each time it molts (sheds it's skin) it becomes the next instar.  The caterpillar in day 5 is a 2nd Instar. Day 7 is a 3rd instar.

The caterpillar continues to eat and grow.  In approx. 2 weeks time, the caterpillar with be 3000 times larger than the day it hatched. The caterpillar in day 11 is 4th instar, and day 14 is the 5th and final instar.  

Day 15 the caterpillar stops eating and begins to wander around the enclosure. Once it finds a suitable place it will spin a silk mat and hook it's cremaster into it and hang upside down in a J position. The caterpillar hangs in this position for 18-24 hours. Then it sheds it's skin for the last time and the chrysalis begins to form. When the chrysalis is first formed it is very soft and vulnerable. After a few hours it will harden.

The caterpillar remains in the pupal stage for  around 10-14 days.  When it is getting close to emerging the chrysalis will darken, and then within 12-24 hours the butterfly will be visible inside.  The chrysalis splits and the butterfly ecloses (emerges).

When the butterfly first emerges, it's abdomen is large and swollen and it's wings are tiny. The abdomen then begins to contract, pumping fluid from the abdomen into the wings. Slowly, the wings begin to unfold and straighten. The wings are still damp and soft. The butterfly will spend an hour or more hanging upside down until the wings are fully dry.  

When the butterflies wings are dry he will begin opening and closing them.  This is when we know to take them outside and release them. 

We have released 7 monarch so far, and have 14 chrysalis and another 10+ caterpillars still munching on milkweed. Monarchs are becoming endangered due to the use of pesticides and the loss of habitat. In the wild only one in 10 will survive to adulthood, so raising them inside really increases their chance of survival. If it's wonderful way to teach metamorphosis first hand, but also a great way to help out the monarch!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Devil's Den- Mother's Day hike

 My favorite days are ones spent with my family outside. So for Mother's day this year, Kenan asked where i wanted to go hiking.  There are several spots we hike often and i was having a hard time deciding where i wanted to go.  Then Kenan suggested Devil's Den Nature Preserve, we'd hike here only once before and it had been several  (5+) years ago.

This is on the backside of the Devil's Den sign.  i love this. 

There is a huge field where we parked to start the trail. At first it just looked like a hay field, but upon closer observation i realized it was beebalm. Then i began to see Milkweed and echinacea too.  The entire field was planted in wildflowers, like a giant butterfly garden. i can not wait to come back this summer when the field is blooming. 

Devil's Den nature preserve is a 250 acre tract, with hiking trails and abundant wildlife.

The name Devil's Den refers to a 600-million year old cave formation.  This is the entrance to cave known as Devil's Den. You are not allowed to enter it, and although you can't tell from the photo is a very steep rather scary hole that goes into the ground. My family is actually standing on a ledge above the entrance.  You can feel the cool dampness of the cave here.  You have to be very careful in this area because there are many hidden holes that lead to the caves below. One wrong step and you could easily fall in. The cave also had a role in local history.   It is associated with the 1912 Carroll County Courthouse shooting and was a major attraction in the 1920's.  They occasionally do tours of the inside of cave, but i didn't find much info about it online.  

When we first began our hike, the Dwarf irises were everywhere. We also saw trillium, mayapples, Clintonia (speckled lily), wild azaleas, wood violets and more.

We even spotted this pair of Bobwhites not far from the entrance. The one on the right with the dark head is the male, and the one on the left is the female.

Just as we were almost finished with out hike my daughter pointed out these Lady Slipper Orchids!  i was so excited!  This was the perfect ending to a perfect Mother's day.  i am somewhat obsessed by native wildflowers, and Lady Slippers are somewhat rare.  i've searched our property for them, but have never found them and in all the hikes we have done i don't believe i've ever come across them before. So this really made the hike extra wonderful.  i snapped a couple of pictures and examined the leaves, so i have a better idea of what to look for on our property. i was told by a neighbor that yellow lady slippers use to come up on our side of the creek, but i have never found them. 

i really enjoyed hiking at Devil's den and really look forward to returning this summer to see the butterfly garden. Although the actual trail is less than a mile loop, it's still a wonderful scenic trail and worth checking out. This simple hike and time spent with my family is the best gift they could have given me. The day truly could not have been more perfect.

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. ~Author Unknown

Friday, May 15, 2015

Chicks, chicks and more chicks!

This has been the year for new chicks! Remember the new chicks that we hatched out here? After moving them to the chicken tractor, another olive egg hatched. So my hen ended up with 4 olive eggers, and one Mottled Java cross.   It has been a month, and the babies are almost fully feathered now.

Mama is very protective, so they are so it's hard to get a picture of them. Of the three 4 olive eggers three appear to to be crossed with the BCM, but the 4th has the look of a Cream Legbar.  i'm a bit worried, all three of the BCM/OE cross have very pink combs and the beginnings of wattles. One is quite obviously a roo and the other 2 definitely have to look but i'm trying to remain optimistic. Of the remaining two chicks, the OE/CLB cross has a very small yellow comb, and the Java cross also has a tiny yellow comb.  The Java however, carries himself/herself like a roo. See the one standing up? Yep, that's the Java. So, yeah...if 4 out of 5 turn out to be roos i may just cry.  i currently have 4 BCM roos and i have to find homes for atleast 3 of them, which isn't very easy to do.  i know most folks would just cull the extra roos,but we are a vegetarian family and kill them is just not an option. 

This one of my game hens. Several weeks ago, she disappeared. She is pretty wild and doesn't always sleep in the coop,so i figured something may have snatched her in the night. i also knew there was a pretty good chance that she had a clutch of eggs hidden somewhere.  

Right before we left for our vacation she showed up in the yard. She was very obviously broody, and disappeared back into the woods. i was so worried that the chicks would hatch while we were gone. We had hired a pet sitter, but she wouldn't know how to catch the hen and chicks and get them into the coop. Thankfully, they didn't hatch until a few days after we returned and i was able to move them into the pen where they'll be more protected from predators.

i'm very curious to see their feathers come in. i believe the two black chicks were fathered by a BCM, but the rest of them i have no idea. Our main rooster Mr. Beardy is an EEi believe, and we also had the Cream Legbar at the time (he has since passed). So this is a mish mash barnyard mix of cuties. They are around 2 weeks old now and are just beginning to get some feathers.. 

This little mama was setting on eggs when we left as well, but hers were not due until May 1st.  The day came and went, but no little peeps.  i got a message from a local lady who had just hatched out silkie/sizzles and asked if i was interested. How could i say no? So i removed a few eggs from under mama, and shoved the day old chicks underneath her instead. Then i waited to see if she would accept them. Ideally, you would do this at night. So the hen would wake up with baby chicks under her...however i was terribly worried that she wouldn't accept them and they would die in the night. So i did it in the evening and then checked on her repeatedly to make sure all was well.  She took to the babies right away, and is a wonderful foster mama.

i really wasn't sure what to expect with Sizzles. Honestly, i thought sizzle was another name for a Frizzle and thought that silkie/sizzles would be a mix of silkies and frizzles (not necessarily crosses). i've been eagerly watching their feathers come in and was a little surprised that of the 4, it appears only one has frizzled feathers, one looks like it is going to have silkie feathers and the other two so far have regular smooth feathers.

After a bit of research i'm finding that a sizzle is a silkie/frizzle cross.  When these two are crossed only 50% of the chicks will get the frizzled gene (less in my case). The smooth feathered chicks will have silkie characteristic, but regular feathering...they may carry the frizzled gene even though they do not have frizzled feathers. You can not cross two frizzles or you get a bird with really messed up feathers.  So these are interesting. i'm watching the feathers come in and can't wait to see what i end up with. 

 My daughter named the frizzled chick 'curly fry'. :) 

Oh yeah, i still have one more broody hen. lol.My silkie, Stevie, was setting on a few eggs but kept rolling them out of the nest, so i gave her 3 more Olive eggs to set on. i'm so worried that all of my olive eggers are roos, i figured i'd try again. :)  With all these new chicks i currently have over 30 chickens...i'm starting to feel like a crazy chicken lady.  and husband is not very happy, but i keep reminding him that at least half of the new chicks will be Roos and i'll have to find them homes. Also the chance of all these chicks surviving to adulthood is pretty slim, we have way too many predators in the area. By the time fall comes around, i'll be lucky if i have 5 new layers.  If by chance i did end up with a bunch of girls, they would be easy enough to sell.  So even though i'm looking  like a crazy chicken lady at the moment, as long as i can find homes for all of these roos i'm not that worried...even if my husband is. :) 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In the Garden- First week of May

It seems like everything is starting a bit earlier this year. i've been in a rush to get my gardens planted, even though in the past this area doesn't plant until Mother's Day weekend. Many folks don't even put out their tomatoes until Memorial day.  Although the weather is warm, and seems perfect for planting it was only a couple years ago that we had a freeze the last week of May, so i'm really trying not to get too ahead of myself.

My late winter lettuce is still doing well, and i have a spring planting that is close to harvest. We are beginning to get asparagus, and i found a few more morels last week. Chickens are still laying well, despite about half my hens trying to go broody. 

The weather has been a bit strange this year. The spring has been warmer than usual,and then we had a freeze at the end of April that really seemed to screw up my broccoli. Almost all of my broccoli plants began to button after the freeze. Buttoning is when the plant produces a small premature head because of a drop in temperature.  i have had broccoli bolt because of hot temperatures,  but this is the first timei've had it button. i don't know if the plants will recover, but i removed the buttons and am watching to see if they are stunted or will continue to grow side shoots.  

The late freeze also killed the blossoms on my pear trees, and most of the blossoms on my peach trees.  The temperatures went from freezing one week, to 80 degrees the next so now i'm dealing with spinach, radishes and kale that is bolting.  

Root veggies have never done well for me,so this year i planted them all in pots of raised beds. My radishes were doing fabulous up until we had a week of 80 degree temps and then they suddenly began bolting. i  planted the Easter Egg radishes, which had a really nice variety of  colors. All of the white bolted, but i did get to enjoy a few radishes on my salads this week. 

i plant the Redbor kale every year because i love the deep purple color it turns in cool temps. It also grows well in the heat, but the leaves are green when the temperatures are warmer. This springs temp seem to have confused my Redbor kale, as the plants are both purple and green. Some of them are trying to bolt, while others are still growing fine.

i have a few tomato plants that were started early that are doing really well. One even has baby tomatoes on it! Most of my tomatoes are still really small. We went on vacation for a week in April and i didn't get them started until we came back.  So i should have a few early tomatoes, and then lots of later tomatoes as well.  The eggplant that  overwintered is doing great too! :)

Most of my tomatoes look like this, and i somehow managed to start over a 100 plants again this year. i have no idea where i am going to plant them all. 

My frost free date this year was May 6th, which just seems so early. i have all my old crops in, even though it's been 80 degrees all week.  i have potatoes, cucumbers, peas, squash and beans coming up. This week i'm working on getting all of my tomatoes, sweet potatoes and peppers in the ground.  My main garden is still pretty empty, but i have the other 4 about 75% planted. 

i'm hoping that things cool off again,so i can continue to enjoy my homegrown salads. These are one of my favorite things this time of year. i'm continuing to sow new lettuce seeds about very 3 weeks, but if the temperatures stay this warm, it's just going to bolt and get bitter.

i'm definitely excited for the growing season, and optimistic for a good year .i've just got to finish getting it planted! :)