Friday, May 29, 2009

The killer roses

That's how we refer to these roses because walking through the garden gate can often be a treacherous endeavor. This is a "New Dawn" in all it's glory. It covers the entrance arbor to the garden and about twice a year we have to hack it back severely to be able to get through the gate! I love roses, but I'm just too lazy to grow the high maintenance kind. I only grow a few climbers and some of the new Knockout roses. I go for low (as in NO) maintenance types.

When we first moved here, the garden area was a big flat place where the elderly owners had planted for many, many years. The soil was not so great. When I decided to put in raised beds, I spent weeks digging out the aisle ways, heaping the soil into beds and then adding composted bedding from the sheep pens and the chicken house. Now the soil is almost too good. Not only does it grow great vegetables, but the weeds grow fast and big too. Since I'm trying to raise plants as naturally as possible, I don't use herbicides on the raised beds and have had to come up with a method for controlling the weeds without spending every waking moment out there weeding. Right now I'm putting layers of newspaper down around the plants and then mulching heavily with straw. This seems to do a better job than anything else I've tried. When I started planting this year, there were a few beds that still had the coverings from last year and NO weeds at all. I once read that every time you turn the soil over, you expose more weed seeds. Disturbing the soil as little as possible supposedly gives less weeds to deal with and this method seems to accomplish that. Every year my husband tries to talk me into letting him get in there with the tractor to flatten the raised beds and plow the whole thing up. His arguing point is that it will be much easier to keep the weeds in check if we can just run the rototiller between the rows. It's such a man thing to want to use a big machines to accomplish a task instead of doing it by hand!

I don't know what variety this rose it, but I just love the color. And it must be hardy or it wouldn't still be here!

A star is born

I'm going to indulge in some grandmotherly bragging this morning. Last night my son Chris and I went to see his daughter, Brooke, perform in "Beauty and the Beast". Brooke is 11 years old now and it's no surprise to any of us who know and love her, that she has a real flair for drama. She was wonderful (if I do say so myself) in the part of a "Silly Girl" and also did a bang up job as the knife in the flatware ensemble (you have to know the story to understand all that!) She danced and sang and, best of all, seemed to be having a great time while she was on stage. I'm continually amazed at how confident my grandchildren are, whether they are performing in music recitals, acting in plays or playing sports. I know for a fact that I was not that confident at their ages (and probably, truth be told, I am still not that confident). Anyway, it was great fun seeing Brooke perform and I'm so proud of her.

Yesterday was the first time in ages I have been away from the farm from morning until late at night and when I got in last night, it appeared that things had fallen apart while I was gone. My husband was dealing with a really sick ewe, having trouble with the bottle babies and thought there was a chicken missing. After putting in a very long day making house-calls, he was pretty frustrated with all the problems facing him when he came home. This sort of thing presents an interesting dilemma and we talk about it fairly often. We both love our animals, but sometimes we just need a break from the routine. It is so difficult to find someone to farm sit, or even do feeding chores to free us occasionally. We have mostly depended on my sons and Mike's son to help us out at various times, but they all have busy, complicated lives themselves these days, so that is not the answer. How do other people with livestock go about finding competent people to help out once in a while? If anyone has the answer to that question, I'd love to hear it!

My goal for the coming weekend is to get caught up on the mowing around here. The yard around the farmhouse is going to require a hay baler if I don't get it mowed soon! I hope you have good weather and easy chores wherever you happen to be.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The one and only

Yes, that little chick with Mrs. Dandy is the one and only. She started out with three healthy chicks and now we are down to one. I'm doing my best to keep them safe. I have had them in the dog kennel and somehow the chick gets out every day. So then, of course, Mrs. Dandy gets frantic and flies over the top of the kennel. Every night I put them back in and every day they get out again. Mrs. Dandy is ferocious about keeping the other animals away from the chick, but let's face it, we are dealing with a pea(fowl) sized brain here, so we'll just have to hope for the best.

(And, yes, I am embarrassed to admit that these two peafowl sized brains are figuring out how to outsmart me by escaping from the pen every day!)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nap time

We've had such gorgeous weather this week. Bright, sunshiny days and cool nights. The grass in the pastures has grown at least a foot. All the creatures around here have been up and out early for grazing, but when mid-day comes, everyone looks for a shady spot and settles in for a little rest-period. Come late afternoon, everyone is up eating grass as fast as they can cram it in! This is the best part of summer, I think. Everything is green and growing and the temperature is just about right. Once the heat and humidity sets in (and Kentucky does a bang-up job with that), we'll all want to stay in the shade all day.You might have noticed in that first picture, poor, sad Pippi is not taking a nap. She's heartbroken to be separated from her mother, Strawberry (who is seen cooling her heels with the alpaca boys). It's been a tough week for Pippi. I don't think the Farmer's Almanac knew what they were talking about this time because she doesn't seem any less upset than she did on the first day of separation. I know eventually she will stop stressing, but it sure is hard to watch.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bee Happy

Sorry, couldn't resist saying something so corny. It's all about the bees around here right now. The girls are guzzling down the sugar water and working, working, working all the time. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the orange-ish looking pollen on their back legs when they come in from foraging(click to biggify). It looks as though they will need some expansion room and will be ready for the second hive box to go on in just a day or two. I have spent time just sitting and watching them fly in and out every morning. They have been too busy to pay much attention to me, though I did get buzzed a bit yesterday. I actually got a bigger reaction from the lambs when they saw me walk into the field in my bee outfit! (The jumpsuit is gigantic and makes me feel as though I am moving under water, but everyone said to buy it extra big because it shrinks a lot when you wash it.Add the helmet and the veil and it's a pretty scary look.) The lambs took one look at me and ran for their lives!

Last week I made the trip to Frankfort to one of my favorite places at this time of year. Wilson Nurseries (sadly, no website) is brimming over with beautiful plants and I wanted to bring home a load of them. I restrained myself and only got vegetable plants, geraniums and assorted annuals for the pots that go on the terrace. I have tried to become more realistic about the number of pots and plantings I will do a good job of caring for once the weather gets really hot and that has caused me to scale back considerably. I'm willing to admit that when it gets really hot, I'd much rather be sitting inside knitting---of which there has been very little of lately.

I am working on the "Kate Cardigan" designed by Elizabeth Morrison. It was in issue #5 of Knitcircus, the wonderful little knitting magazine that Susan Anderson mentioned on her blog a few months back. I'm sure I wasn't the only one to subscribe to it immediately. Several of us from the Wednesday Knitting group did and we all love the size and format of it. I ordered the back issues also and have found several patterns in each issue that I would like to knit. Anyway, I'm slowly making progress on the "Kate". I have finished the back, which was boring stockinette, but made for great mindless knitting and am now working on the fronts. I am knitting both fronts at the same time because then I don't have to remember the shaping (lazy, I guess). I'm anxious to get to the sleeves because they are picked up from the armhole edge and knit down, using short rows to shape the sleeve cap. I don't believe I have ever knit sleeves that way and it seems to me, if it works well, it will make fitting sleeves into the armhole opening much easier. (The yarn is Queensland Kathmandu DK in color #434)

Time to get outside and work, work, work (you know, making hay while the sun shines and all that.....).

Friday, May 15, 2009

New workers

Yes, that's right......we have some new workers here on the farm. About 20 thousand of them! They won't be doing any barn chores, but they will be working away filling their hive with honey. First, to feed themselves through next winter and then, if we are extremely lucky this year, there might be some honey for us. That's the "removal of the duct tape" moment happening above. The bees rode out to the farm in the back of our friend's SUV and the duct tape was necessary to keep the bees in the hive and not loose in the car. Our friends, Mary and Tommy, who came to dinner on Wednesday evening delivered our brand new hive with our bees already hard at work. (He is our "bee mentor" and the source of our bees.) The weather did not cooperate with our plans, so we didn't get to be the ones transferring the bees from their nucleus hive into our own hive box, but they are here on the farm now and busy as, well, bees. This morning I stood close by and watched while they flew in laden with pollen and out again to gather more. The more I learn about them, the more fascinating they become. You're probably going to hear more about these bees than you ever wanted to know!

I can hardly claim to have prepared dinner for our friends. I'd say it was more in the simple summer supper category. We had turkey burgers prepared on the grill, Hudson's 7-day slaw, dressed eggs and chips. Then for dessert we had Lemon Yogurt Cake.

This little cake has become my go-to dessert this spring. It's delicious and light and can be prepared quickly. It's another Ina Garten recipe (I do use other cookbooks....honest, I do).It's from The Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook and is the Lemon Yogurt Cake. I also combined a jar of red current jelly (melted)and some fresh (or frozen)raspberries for a not-too-sweet topping.

We have had a couple of other new arrivals here at Tanglewood, but I'll save that for another post. Have a good weekend.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Guard dogs at work

Actually, they are recovering from a night of work in this picture, taken yesterday morning, through the back screen door. (They are on the garage porch.) Holly and Hannah are up all night, most nights, protecting the farm animals from coyotes and other dogs (and deer, raccoons, possums and whatever else happens to be lurking around here after dark). And they do a wonderful job----just by barking. They have a pretty impressive bark. It's big and loud and sounds ferocious. Believe me when I say, there is nothing ferocious about these two girls most of the time. I have never seen them actually have to do battle with a coyote, don't even know for sure if they have ever had to. They accomplish their mission by barking, patrolling and chasing. They are sweet to the sheep and the grandchildren (very important in my book-I don't want any animal who is aggressive). The rest of the time.............

they look like this.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Struttin' his stuff

Mr. Dandy was really working it this morning.....and, as usual, no one was paying him any mind. Funny story about Mr. Dandy: for years we had a blind chicken (we are the only people I know who would keep a blind chicken around for years). She was perfectly happy staying inside the chicken pen, although, occasionally she would get out the little door and then at bedtime we would have to go looking for her because she couldn't find her way back to the door. Anyway, when Mr. Dandy got to be 3 years old and had his first full compliment of tail feathers, he spent an enormous amount of time showing them off. Mrs. Dandy was not impressed and the chickens just ignored him.....except the blind chicken. Mr. Dandy thought he had found the one creature here on the farm who was so impressed with his looks that she was willing to just sit and "look" at him all day. So, the blind chicken became his favorite audience. Everyday he gave her his very best effort....for years! We thought it was a mutually satisfying relationship and were happy for them. The blind chicken finally died of old age last year and Mr. Dandy has been searching for someone to take her place all this time.

Holding that bunch of feathers up is quite a physical accomplishment, especially if the wind is blowing! I don't know how he does it. I do love to see him showing off like this and hear him shaking the feathers in back of the showy part. Have you ever heard the sound it makes? It sounds like shaking rice in a box. Every time I see him displaying like this, I wish I could duplicate those colors in the dye pot.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Graham and Keebler

Boy-oh. Not so good at blogging, and even worse at twittering. This last little bit of time has been such a rush. Last week I was away from the farm 4 days in a row. I don't know about anyone else, but once I leave the farm, the whole day is done for. It takes me 35-45 minutes to get most places and by the time I get there, do what I intended (and often some things I didn't intend), and drive back home, I've used up hours and hours. Then it's time to go back to the barn, or start supper or finish laundry or whatever, and before I know it the day is over. I know that I am not very efficient in using my time. I'm easily distracted by the multitude of things needing or wanting my attention around here. I start out to work in the garden and the next thing I know, I'm cleaning out the closet!
Anyway....where was I going with all that?

Yesterday was a fun day away from the farm. One of my little boy lambs has gone to live with the "famous" Keebler at Equinox Farm. (That's my boy and Sara in the picture. I think he likes her!) Sara thought that Keebler might like to have a playmate....someone his own age to pal around with until he is a big boy and then they can both join the rest of the flock out in the field. The last set of triplets born here have been in pretty heavy competition for their mom's limited supply of milk and I have been supplementing them with a few bottles a day, hoping the ewe would start producing more. Alas, that didn't happen, so the smallest ram lamb was selected to be Keebler's companion. (He's been christened "Graham" since he joined Keebler.) Graham loves the bottle, so going on the bottle full time was not a hardship for him. Keebler was less than thrilled to be sharing all the attention, but we're hoping the two of them will bond and be great buddies.

I love the look on Keebler's face. Clearly, he's saying, "You're not leaving without him.....are you?"

Friday, May 1, 2009

Flora and fauna

Seen on the way to the barn this morning. (I had never seen a poppy emerging like this. It sort of looks as if it is being eaten by something!)

This Luna Moth was waiting for me on the barn door.

Then this on the way back to the house, not long afterwards. Exact same poppy.