Sunday, September 16, 2018

12 Sweetgrass braids...

 Many years ago I planted sweetgrass down by our pond.  The patch has grown every year.  Last year I had 8 braids.  This year I had a whopping 12.  If you have never smelled sweetgrass it is like a freshly mowed field of hay.  It brings back wonderful memories of growing up on the prairie.  Below is a quick tutorial on how to make a sweetgrass braid.  First tie the sweetgrass into bundles and let dry 2 or 3 weeks. 
You will have to re-tie the tops, as they shrink immensely when they dry.  

 Next, either have your husband or a clamp hold the ends.  I gave my husband a reprieve this year, since there were so many braids.  As you see below, just start braiding a nice tight braid.  Don't be gentle.  They can withstand some twisting and pulling.  When you are all done, tie the end and trim any strands that are sticking out.  Trim the top and, if you want, the bottom. 
 What does one do with sweetgrass braids?  I put them in the windows and the scent drifts in with the wind.  Mom always gets one, since she started the whole thing by getting me a sweetgrass braid for Christmas.  I keep one in my office to calm distraught students.  The rest are given to friends and family.  
 There you have it.  12 sweetgrass braids.  Below are some butterfly photos.  There were tons of them today dancing through the flowers.

My bird of the week is a red-tailed hawk.  She is always around the place, but this year she has been super camera shy.  Usually, I get tons of photos of her.  She must know I am doing the bird count.  She flew away seconds after I took this one photo.
 I dealt with the crab apples today.  I made 5 pints of crab apple jelly, 2 sheets of fruit roll-ups, and 1 batch of crab apple wine.  I tried to make spiced crab apples, but forgot to prick them with a fork.  It seems to be an epic fail.  Below is my colorful assortment of wines:  Dandelion, watermelon, huckleberry, raspberry, red currant.  Quite the colorful assortment.  
 I am exhausted.  There was a lot to do this weekend.  I need to go back to work to relax.  I hope you had a productive weekend.  

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Finally production...

Finally, I'm getting some production from the garden.  Two tomatoes, peppers, and one lemon cucumber.  We tried some of the sweet corn and it was fabulous.   I have some late season rhubarb to cut up and freeze.  For some stupid reason I picked crab apples.  I have a plethora.  I will make some jelly and wine.  I may even try pickling some. 
 On the bird front I have a barn swallow and a turkey vulture.  I see the vultures regularly on the way to work.   The barn swallows nest on the school.  They make a bit of a mess, but my students always watch to see how many clutches they have.  I have been so busy with projects I haven't had time to update my bird count.  I will have to sit down and figure out where I am countwise.
 This fella has been hanging around the place all summer.  I think he is a bull snake.  As long as he eats mice I am happy.  I've seen him in the greenhouse, compost pile, and under the water tank. 
 My flowers are recovering from the deer decimation.  I have a few late summer blooms and the smell of phlox is divine.  

The rose garden is making a comeback.  These flowers are in the butterfly garden.  I should call it the butterfly and bee garden.  The bees love it. Does anyone know what kind of flower is below?  I've never seen it before.

 I need to get back to straining my crab apples.  I enjoyed this weekend immensely.  It seems like late summer is taking its time.  To everything there is a season and I'm fine with that.  As long as there is actually a season.   Does anyone have any ideas for those crab apples?  I don't know why I picked so many.  Don't worry the birds will still have plenty.  Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Half a post....

Do you see him?  Way at the top of the tree?  It is a blue heron.  I see him almost every day going to and from work.  I have been trying to get a photo of him all year for my bird list and he seems to know when I have my camera.  I was running at noon and saw him.  The chase was on.  A group of my students went by and they thought I had lost it and was wandering aimlessly in the woods, with my phone out, looking at the sky.  It isn't the best picture, but by golly it is a picture.

 It was a busy weekend.  The painters came to caulk and stain the cabin.  While things were getting spiffed up, I decided to get some linseed oil and oil the wicker sled.  You can certainly tell the poor sled was seriously dry.  The linseed oil sure did the trick.

 I didn't stop at the sleigh.  The front door was next. 

Hopefully, you can see the difference.  I never liked the original color.  It was supposed to be maroon, but looked purple.  Can you see the difference?  I had every intention of showing a before and after photo as well as some photos of the freshly stained porch.  Unfortunatly, I have lost my camera and only half the pictures I took with my phone downloaded.  Maybe next week I can post a full post complete with before and after photos.

I got the camera to work. Here are a few more photos.

I hope you are having better luck with your memory and technology.  Maybe tomorrow I can add a finished photo.  Did you have an weekend projects?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Successes and failure...

I have no photos of my success, because it is kind of gross.  It all started last year when a friend told me her mother would always bury a fish under her fruit trees for fertilizer.  As always, I mulled this information over for awhile then tried it.  It was unsuccessful, because a fox or something came and dug the fish up.  I continued to think about it and read several articles on the internet.  This weekend I successfully made fish fertilizer.  After my fishing trip with the nieces a month ago, I cleaned the fish put them in a five gallon bucket and threw in a carp for good measure.  Most of the articles I read advised to pour some molasses in the bucket and let things stew for awhile.  I also added two gallons of water.  I put a lid on it and stored the stinky mess in a corner of the orchard.  Four weeks later I steeled myself and prepared for a smelly mess.  I was surprised it was actually a nice liquid fertilizer.  It turned out much better than I anticipated.   I was able to fertilize 10 trees, of course I will never be able to use the bucket for anything but fish fertilizer.  

 My other success is the butterfly and bee garden.  I have several grasses and added a bee and butterfly flower mix.  It isn't a lush garden, but it is a very good start.  The bees and butterflies are using it. The concrete rhubarb leaf is filled with sand and makes a wonderful lounge area for the butterflies.  

 My sweetcorn is rocking.  It has never been this tall.  Hopefully it will be ready in a few weeks.  My bees are doing great.  They should produce a lot of honey this year.  

 This is the only planter that has survived.  The deer have munched everything.  Usually the smelly spray works, but this year it rained so much that I couldn't keep up spraying it.  This planter is on the deck.  It was the one place they couldn't reach.  I love the red geraniums and the bright yellow sunflower.  Below is my soon to be giant pumpkin.  It is growing pretty fast.  

My poor peaches and cream hollyhock.  If you look closely you can see the deer stripped every leaf and only left the one blossom  It is doing it's best.  Not only have I had a problem with deer, but the chipmunk population went from 4 to too many to count.  They are everywhere.  So far, they haven't done any damage.  I have noticed the hawk and the neighbor's cat have taken a sudden interest in my yard.   I don't think they have been successful, because I am not seeing a dent in chipmunk numbers.  

 I call the little guy above Rip, because his ear is a bit tattered.
 Perhaps you are wondering about my failure.  Well, here it is.  I spent half an hour trying to get a photo of this zippy little bird.  Finally, I got a photo, but now I cannot identify him.  Any ideas?  I have ruined my bird book pouring through it trying to identify the little bugger.  If you have any ideas could you please let me know.  It is driving me nuts. (Addendum: I believe Charade is correct.  After further research it my be a female redstart.  Now if I could just see a male redstart.)
 That is it successful fish fertilizer and a beautiful bee and butterfly garden, happy bees, a beautiful crop of sweetcorn and a big pumpkin.  To finish it off an unsuccessful attempt at bird identification.  I hope your weekend was also full of successes that outnumbered failures.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

 This was my big project last week.  My father gives me the deer skulls and sheds he finds on the ranch.  He knew sooner or later I would come up with a way to use them.  I've had this project in my mind for several years.  I stained the tree trunk quite some time ago.  Then I finally got around to wiring the antlers and skulls.  To me, Mother Nature is the greatest artist.  I was happy to finally find a way to put her work on display.  Every antler is different and it was fun intertwining them to create this sculpture.                                                                                              It has been a wonderful August.  The temperature has been hot one day, cool the next, and just right.  I love it.  All of the spring babies are growing up.  This flock of hens and chicks wandered through the yard yesterday.  They didn't even notice Ella and I watching them from the porch.  Below are the twins.  They graze in back almost every night.  I am lucky indeed to live where wildlife parades through the yard on a daily basis. 

Here is this week's harvest.  A friend let me pick some of her grapes.  I picked a five gallon bucket full and it was barely 1/4 of what her vines produced.  Grape jelly and several different varieties of wine will be created from this harvest.  Below is my peck of peaches.  I've already created Spicy Vanilla Peach Jam and Peach Cobbler.  Peach syrup, peach ice cream, peach barbecue sauce,  and canned peaches are next on the list.  My husband and I can't stop singing that song, "millions of peaches. Peaches for free.  Millions of peaches for you and for me."  We can't get it out of our heads.

 Fresh Peach Cobbler
8 peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1 t. lemon juice
2 t. corn starch
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
Mix the peaches, sugars, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Pour into an ungreased 9x13 baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.
1 1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1  1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 stick of butter
1/3 c. boiling water
Mix dry ingredients and then cut in the butter using a pastry blender.  Pour boiling water over the top and stir until combined.  Spoon over the peach mixture.  Try to cover all of the peaches.
4 t. sugar
1 1/2 t. cinnamon over the top
Bake another 35 minutes. Enjoy.  This recipe can be found at:

This jam recipe is one of my favorites.  I found the recipe when we were first married and it is tried and true.

Spicy Vanilla-Peach Jam
5 c. peeled, pitted, and chopped peaches
1/4 c. lemon juice
9 c. sugar
1 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. vanilla or 2 vanilla beans
1 pouch of liquid pectin

Process peaches in the blender.  Add lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Cook for four minutes on low then turn up the heat and boil for one minute.  Add liquid pectin and boil again for 1 minute or until it passes the drip test.  Remove vanilla beans if you used them, then spoon jam into jars.  Give a boiling water bath according to your canning books directions.  Altitude makes a huge difference when boiling.  

There you have it.  Two stellar peach recipes.  If you are wondering why three of the jars in the photo above are dark, it is because that was the chocolate/raspberry jam my niece made for 4-H.  Not considered healthy but delicious none-the-less.

I hope you are enjoying your harvests.  I love this time of year.  To preserve your harvest through canning, wine making, and freezing are extremely satisfying.  I would love to know what you are producing from your gardens.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Well, we survived another motorcycle rally.  It is never a sure thing.  It seems like people get out here and forget how to drive. It is an extremely stressful week.  
I haven't had much from the garden.  Peas and peppers are all I've been harvesting.  I did get lots of currants, cherries, and gooseberries.  I had a bumper crop of sand cherries.  They aren't anything to write home about, but after eight years of work I'm picking the darn things and making them into something.  Most of my berries go to wine or jam.  I'm expecting a peck of peaches this week. That will keep me busy.

I'm afraid it was a pretty slow weekend. Did have one big project, but can't get the photos to download.  I will have to show you next week.

I hope your harvests are better than mine.  Any ideas for my peaches?

Sunday, August 5, 2018

It's August?

Your guess is as good as mine.  I think it is a waxwing that lost it's cap.  He was feasting on chokecherries.  Another for my list.
It is busy season for me.  I've been picking current, goose berries, and tons of raspberries.  Everything is getting frozen until they could be processed into either wine or jam.  My garden is pathetic.  Peppers and peas are my only harvest, so far.  I do finally have some tomatoes setting on.
This is one of the few blooms I have. The deer decimated the garden early this spring and it never recovered.

I'm very happy with my new additions to the rose bed.  I spent the whole weekend weeding.    I'm finally caught up.  There wasn't much else to do as it is motorcycle rally week and going anywhere isn't worth the effort.
Finally the does are bringing their fawns out.  We had a set of twins behind the cabin today.   They were fun to watch, but not very photogenic.
I saw this great horned owl when I went to get the girls.  I was in a hurry, but turned around to get this shot.  I figured I wouldn't get another chance for an owl.
I can't believe it is August.  Time for jam and garden produce.  What are you harvesting?