Monthly Archives: May 2012

On love, honey, wool and clams

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In seemingly an instant the Love in a Mists went from their feathering seeding stage to up and blooming, then petals falling and their great seed heads forming, signalling that we’ve been here on this property for one full year.
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I finished my mittens, and now onto my naturally dyed sweater. I dove right in without much forethought as I knew that if ever I start to research and plan I’ll get stuck in details. The sweater will be based on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s fair isle yoke sweater. I can’t wait to see how this progresses. I have no idea if any of the above colors are colorfast. I used a mordant in each case, but I’ve heard that is no guarantee. If all fails I’ll throw the whole sweater into a vat of RIT dye and call it a day. Oh and I finally got a passable green, you can see in the upper left, it’s artichoke! My friend Jen told me about getting blue with black beans! If I have anymore white left over after the sweater I’m trying that for sure!
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In other news of ‘Kendra dives in without over thinking things’ the bees seem quite happy. I need to open them back up for the third time and see if Hive Left needs a super yet. Why they are so slow to build when their sister hive is three tall and I’m expecting will need yet another super is a mystery to me.
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When Scott’s not been busy digging or building or working, he’s been out salmon fishing and taking the boys crabbing and clamming. Grilled salmon, homemade lox, crab cakes and clam chowder have been on the menu the past week.

I hope all is well in your world!

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Le Run for Le Tour

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Nothing lights a fire under one’s rear faster then signing up to have a steady steam of traffic parade through your backyard. Yes, once again Le Tour de Coop is on and we are on the map. For a full year we’ve been lavishly throwing out comments like, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have a much larger chicken run?’, ‘won’t it be nice when the chickens have a big enough run that we won’t have to let them out so often. (and risk being a foxes lunch)’ Well with a deadline of June 2nd looming we had to get to work. Since my job as ‘second in command’ on digging and building projects has been suspended due to a curious toddler, we had to call in backup. We called in Dave. Dave’s the kind of guy you call when you need a house full of heavy furniture moved, or when you need a 12-ish foot WWII-era antenna removed from your roof, or as it turns out, when you need a chicken run built.

So in the eery light of last Sunday’s eclipsed sun, the men built the run. A few more hours of trench digging, to bury an extra six inches of wire, and door building and our ladies and gent have a new place to ‘run’. Our little mobile PVC run worked quite well for our old garden because we felt quite free letting them be free range, but here we are in fox and coyote territory. Knowing that they could stay inside for days on end with a big outdoor run, is a reassuring thing.
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Also, we’ve had our hens for some time now. Three of them for almost five years and three for two years. Our older hens are for the most part retired, and our newer hens aren’t very productive layers. Our egg production is at a slow crawl. We get maybe one every other day, if we’re lucky. So we’d like to increase the flock and now we have the space.

If you are in the Sonoma area next weekend, please do join Le Tour de Coop! It was such great fun to talk with all our visitors last year and the proceeds benefit one of our favorite places, the Sonoma Garden Park. I know four other coops and coop-caretakers on the tour and all are more than worthy of the visit. So stop by and say hello!

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Knitting and Reading

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For a chance of pace today I thought I’d join Ginny’s Yarn Along. I doubt I’ll be participating every Wednesday as for the past three months and for the future three months, I’m certain this picture wouldn’t change. There is such little time to read & knit these days.

This is my first fair isle project, dala horse mittens and I am loving it! It is a challenge to work with two colors and in the beginning even resulted in a fair isle related arm injury. Who knew knitting could be so very dangerous?

My natural yarn dying friend, Jen, lent me The Road Home months and months ago and I’m sure she thinks she’ll never get it back, but she will! I am really enjoying this novel, set up mainly in Nebraska. It chronicles the lives of three family members through two generations and is so well crafted. I already bought another Jim Harrison book to read when I’m done, Dalva.

The Seasons on Henry’s Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm is a must read if you are gardening minded. It too is beautifully written and is the perfect combination of farming/gardening instruction, literary pose and stories of people’s lives. It is written by a woman who lives and works on her brother’s organic farm in the mid-west. The book is divided into months as chapters so I’m trying my best to read a chapter a month, but it’s so hard not to read ahead! You should really give this one a read!

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Pardon our absence, we’ve been digging

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Boy, putting in a garden is hard work! And I say that on behalf of Scott, who has been doing all of the digging this year. While I’m a willing digger, digging and chasing a toddler don’t go well together. So instead I chase and he digs. Next year he’ll get more help. Anyhoo, want to see what’s going on in these parts? Above is the front of the main garden. We cleared out the front bed to make way for things we’d like to pick quickly for dinner, carrots, lettuce, basil and the such. Beyond that are boysenberries.
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Then we trellised a row of concord grapes. Last year we managed to get only a few jars canned of grape jelly and it was carefully savored. Can’t wait to have a whole cupboard full!
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Volunteer onions! What a nice surprise!
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Between the walls of asparagus….
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…lies another few rows of seasonal goodies. This patch we planted all out with seedlings back in March and everything came up and was immediately eaten. It was so disappointing. There is some debate between whether the culprits were sparrows, snails or a combination. However the sparrows have migrated away and the snails got evicted by a troop of boys who were paid 5 cents a smooshed snail. Things are growing once more.
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Like cilantro and beets and kale.
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This section of garden is south of what I just showed you and has been the main source of the work lately. This was all grass before and was carefully dug out with foot and shovel. Amended with heaps of compost and smoothed out. We’re trying out a new irrigation technique we learned about last year. Where you put a grid of drip down over the entire bed.
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Last year a few of you mentioned that you were interested in learning more about this new system we learned about, are you still interested? I can do a whole post (and it will take me at least one long post) to explain, if you’d like. In this bed live 12 tomatoes we grew from seed and maybe 20 peppers we acquired from different sources. Yes, 20!
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We’re giving San Marzanos a try again this year. In our previous garden we had a terrible problem with blossom end rot with that variety, but we’re hoping they do well here.Grow little tomato, grow!

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Filed under State of the Garden

Color in the meadow

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I got a few moments to walk around the garden kid-free yesterday evening, what a treat! The ‘meadow’ is exploding with color.
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One row of berries, speckled with onions is weeded and composted.
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The hammock is hung.
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Can you believe the color on this rose?
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The mockingbird eggs hatched this weekend! So miraculous to peep in and see two little beaks pop up!

Hope you had a good weekend!

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Artichokes

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(Artichokes are starting to make their way into our dinners.)

Have a great weekend!

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Filed under just picked

Where the Wild Bees Are: catching a swarm

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Sunday night right before dinner the phone rang. It was my neighbor Michelle, ‘I was looking out my kitchen window and you have a swarm in one of your walnut trees!’ No way! She had just picked up her package of bees the day prior. Knowing that her aspirations were to capture a wild swarm for a second hive (as they seem to be common on this street, our other neighbor had two swarms taken from his property two weeks ago), I said, ‘Well come get them!’

As soon as I hung up the phone, I hollered out a family wide announcement of  ‘Put your shoes back on! We’re going back outside!’ Just to be sure we checked on our bees first, yep, still safely in their hives. It wasn’t ours that had made a run for it.
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Then we walked across the property to check out this swarm. Even with my miniscule, newly acquired bee knowledge, I know that wild swarms are quite docile. Bees, while searching for a new home are all too preoccupied with their house hunting to bother stinging anyone, so I got up close to check them out. Amazing, isn’t it? Somewhere in the middle is a queen. How does she not get crushed? How does she breath in there?
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Whilst we were in the middle of putting the three kids to bed, Michelle came over fully suited up and calmly dropped that buzzing ball of bees into a box and carried it home. Just like that. Pretty remarkable, isn’t she?
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Now they live in their temporary box with two frames of foundation to keep them occupied until she can make the run out to Beekind to pick up another hive box.
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Looking at the scenery around her bee yard, I think those wild bees, with the help of ‘realtor’ Michelle have found themselves a prime piece of real estate!

I am quite anxious to see how my two colonies of Italians, her ‘Local Survivor Stock’ colony, and her wild colony will all compare. Will any one be stronger than the other? Will their honey taste differently? Only time will tell.

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