Friday, September 26, 2008

The Myth

I fall into this trap every weekend... It's Friday and it seems like the entire weekend is stretching in front of me. I'll spend the evening having a drink or two (ruby port tonight) and making a list of things to do. I will somehow convince myself that it is reasonable. Just a matter of priorities, right?

Yeah... It NEVER works the way I plan. I expect this has something to do with the fact that I don't plan time to mess around on the computer or stare out the windows or take a nap or other activities which take up a REMARKABLE amount of time. And THIS weekend. It will be raining. Which really throws a wrench into the gardening, but not so much the kitchen work.

My garlic arrived today. Broadleaf Czech, Lorz Italian and Shvelsisi-Chesnok Red (really!). So the challenges are to get it growing (apparently the best time to plant is in mid October after a light frost) through the winter, fertilized and growed up, and harvested, dried and saved until next fall so that I can increase my stock. Cuz I didn't get so much garlic for my $26. But I guess if I look at it as the seed for all the garlic I will ever need to buy in the future, it isn't so bad. The bed is sort of dug. So it shouldn't be too difficult to get it in if things dry out.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Finally we are getting a little more rain. It has been sporadic at best. Tons, then none for about 2.5 months and then 5 inches then 2.5 weeks then a little. What happened to the Virginia summers that included the 4:15 afternoon downpour that you could set your watch by?

It is chilly and fall-ish and lovely. I am looking forward to a weekend of winter type cooking. Maybe pot roast or bolognese and definitely bread. And with lots of chard in the garden, chard/sausage/pasta yummers.

I have already started scouring the SESE catalog and picking out what I want for next year's garden. So far, on first pass, I have found about $480 worth of seeds and starts. That should keep me busy through March/April. I must admit, mania does make this activity less cost effective. Hopefully on second pass I can make some exclusions. Especially considering the pile of seed packets that I have left over from this past year. Or I can put an addition on the house. In other needs for the garden, I have to get some floating row covers. That is so that I can keep my greens longer. Though with this weather, it seems like we will be having major frost before half of the stuff really even gets started. My bad. I started late on this. Who thinks "It's time to plant fall carrots!" on the 4th of July. Really.

Ok, now I have to come clean. I bilked the system. And I almost feel bad about it. I managed to get the LAST share of a cow herd in North Garden. While many well intentioned people were trying to make the world better for everyone, I was looking out only for me. And I got the. last. share. I can't wait to meet my sliver of cow.

I was emailing with the very nice dairy lady. I confessed my desire for a dairy goat in my future and she was very encouraging. She is a lobbyist for small farmers and is committed to helping people get dairy animals and promoting these small herd things. Anyway, it was nice to get encouragement.
I thought that if I can't get the city council to change the city code to allow goats, I'll buy some of those holiday strap on antlers for dogs and disguise my goat as a deer. We have plenty of deer in town and no one has outlawed them. Downright discriminatory. And in this day and age!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So Long Summer

This morning I was out watering my chard before the bus came and I heard this little peeping noise. I turned slowly, expecting to see a maimed animal on my porch, compliments of my exceedingly bad cat. But it turns out, I had just rousted a hummingbird from the nasturtiums. It flew up above the flower pot and about 3 feet away and hovered there peeping at me for 30 seconds or so. I asked it what it was still doing here and encouraged it to head south with all due haste to keep ahead of winter. When it turned and headed off it was going west. Which is pretty much par for the course with my advice.

I don't know if it was one of the birds we had seen all summer or if it was just passing through and stopping off for a snack on the way. It was either a female or a young male as it didn't show the ruby throat of the mature males. I realize as I type the LB recently had a similar experience. You gotta wonder what is going on in the bird brain.

Monday, September 22, 2008


I checked the bees today. There definitely is activity. Though really, they are not going through they syrup like I would expect. The flights are more frequent and there aren't signs of robbing or incursions by stronger hives. The long and the short of it is that I am going to have to go in full tilt this weekend and take the whole stinkin' hive apart again and see what is going on in there.

I spent last evening with my neighbor. G is the sort of friend that one really needs in life - I am just lucky that she lives next door to me. She is British, and has a way with roses. She is an experienced naturalist and gardener. She keeps up on local and national politics and keeps the BBC as her webpage. She has an AMAZING cook book collection, a passion for prints, and a fantastic and fascinating living room. She is the neighbor that always has a cup of sugar, bottle of capers, a lemon or some ginger when your guests are on the way and you really NEED it. She can talk art with the SB all night long. She is wholly supportive of the chickens and ducks. And besides all that, she has some experience under her belt. Always nice to spend an evening in her lovely house sipping gin and bitter lemon and catching up on national politics, local gossip and personal plans for the future.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Wasn't it only a few days ago that my market bags were overflowing with peaches and tomatoes? Now, when I cast my eye about the kitchen, I see winter squash, apples and sweet potatoes. My garden is pumping out chard and the ever present tomatillos. And raspberries (STILL!) though I thought they would be gone a few weeks ago. I bought peaches a week ago at the market. They were icky. I guess they had been in cold storage since earlier in the summer and they have the most revolting texture. I resolved not to buy more, but the Vintage Virginia Apples folks had some. I sampled them and they were not the kind of peach you might choose in high peach season, but they are DEFINITELY the kind of peach you choose in September when the other options are holdovers from June. It just makes me appreciate all the more the role of diversity. Produce for different purposes... peaches for spring, summer and fall- apples for eating, sauce making, cider and winter storage - tomatoes that are all ripe at the same time for canning or periodically for fresh eating. It's all there, we just have to dig deep and sort through it all.

My spider has suddenly disappeared in the night. I don't know what that means. The web and everything. Gone. No visible egg case. Interesting.

I visited the bees today. Considerably more comings and goings today in the late afternoon than in the past several months. Wondering if the addition of sugar water to the scenario has gotten the queen back into top form. Though it takes 21 days for he bees to emerge. It seems a little early. I guess that ultimately it doesn't matter why. I will go out tomorrow and check the syrup situation and hope that they are packing enough away to stay with us through the winter. I was going to say that my fingers were crossed, but since everything crossable is already crossed for a particular local (who shall remain nameless) in her own particular transition, I guess I will just double count some of those crossings for the bees. Good luck.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dare I hope?

Not one to blog about politics, I will link to this, which at least gives me hope that even red states aren't fully red and that there may just possibly be hope - though I am far from betting the (urban) farm on it... Vote, people. Vote.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Because you were so patient, I decided to go ahead and load up my riveting photos of yesterday.
These are the spinaches coming up outside the door. In the other pot, I planted a lettuce mix from Burpee.

This is the granola I made. Yummy! 4 cups oats, 2 cups puffed rice, 1/2 cup sliced almonds, 1/4 oat bran and 2T brown sugar. Pour over that a mixture of 3/4 cup pineapple juice, 1/4 cup apple juice that has been reduced to 2/3 cup and then 1/4 cup of honey dissolved in it. Pour the liquid over the dry stuff and mix well. Put on a jelly roll pan (with a little oil or non stick spray on it) in a 325 oven and stir every 5 or so minutes for 25-30 minutes or until things look like they are toasting. Don't let it go too far or it will burn pretty easily. Add the raisins after it cools. Store in an airtight container. I'll be having this with homemade whole milk yogurt and some of the last raspberries of the season for breakfast.

Cho, turn away and don't look. Or at least prepare yourself.
This is a garden spider. I have one in this same spot every year. Normally I see her on the first of September or thereabouts. I don't know if spiders live more than a year. I suspect not, but it is uncanny how it is always there this time of year. It was a good day for this spider because she was munching on something. If things go as usual, we will have an egg case somewhere about before the really cold weather sets in.

I dug out our old compost pile this morning. Wow. Compost is some good stuff - gorgeous and rich and squirming with all manner of life. I mixed it into the beds where I was planting more spinach, some kale and more of the mixed lettuces. Then I did a half assed job of turning more into the bed that is going to get the garlic along with some of the straw leftover from the potatoes. I also put a bunch on my asparagus bed. The asparagus bed is getting special treatment this year as I didn't get any asparagus last year. I think I haven't been feeding it enough. Apparently it is a heavy feeder. So I didn't harvest any of the spindly spears and left the bed alone, other than weeding and feeding this summer. Well, I watered it a bit. I'll try to continue to be diligent. Maybe it will forgive me an send up big fat tasty spears next April.

I am already starting a list of things I need to grow next year. I think I will try sweet potatoes again. I spent some time today working on planning for ducks. I have decided that they need to be in the garden. Or at least that is what I think right now. I think the chickens will be mobile. We have work for them to do in other areas of the yard and having them on the go will be good. I am hoping we can put them to work cleaning up some of the MASSIVE amounts of chickweed (or whatever it is) that takes over our wooded area like a great tide of pale green slime in the spring. It really does have the look of the pond has receded and left this goopy stuff all over. But if it IS chickweed, then what better to do with it than let the chickens scratch it up and eat it. I am all for it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Market

I feel the end of the market looming. Mama and I went this AM at our usual ungodly hour. I ran into my neighbor V who introduced me to the LARD. Yes, people, real lard. For biscuits, pie crust and other delights. These of course can be made without lard, but why bother? We also ran into SHG for the first time in many weeks. She of course already knew about the lard. Sigh. In my mild panic about the market ending in a month and a half, I bought enough food for about 8 people. So, if you are around this week and hungry, come on by....

Today I am making tomatillo sauce with one of the few success stories from the garden. I still have lots of leeks and parsley, so last night I used many of my teeny potatoes to make potato leek soup with fresh milk. Deelish. I still have potatoes to dig, but I don't think the harvest will be great (very late and half assed job) and since they seem to still be happy out there and because I don't really have a good place to put them, I am leaving them in the garden bed. We will revisit them later. I am also making granola. I haven't made it in ages, but the rising costs at IY is encouraging me to branch out. The granola I bought for the SB before he took off cost $12. Um. That is too much for cereal people.

My bees are not eating. I went out yesterday to refill the feeder, thinking it would be dry, but it was almost full. Don't really know what is up with that, but my theory is that I must have burnt the sugar a bit when I made the syrup. I had a new batch whipped up so I made a new feeder from a Rubbermaid container with holes poked in the lid. I took it out this AM. I felt like I was going to a potluck with my little container. They seemed a little more interested in this, but I'll have to check tomorrow and see for sure.

I am hoping to get some more seeds planted over the weekend. And some general yard and garden work accomplished. Of course, it is supposed to be sweltering. I'll try to follow the shade around the yard. I have spinach coming up in one of the former tomato planters. I am cutting out the other tomato today and replanting there with lettuces or more spinach or chard or something. I also need to do some work on my garden pathways to keep the weed barrier in order. Yesterday I was out puttering and pulled a plant that was covered in bugs. I thought, wouldn't the chickens like this? I really need me some chickens. And some ducks. And since we no longer have the raw milk available (ending the last week in September), I REALLY need me a cow. And the truth is that I need to be a housewife. Actually, I really need to be an urban farmwife. All my work clothes will be black.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I'm Back

You thought it would be weeks, didn't you? Admit it. But no, here I am only a few short days later.... Well, maybe a week, but who's counting?

It has been a busy weekend. Friday I had to take off work early so that I could go snorggle some baby ducks. A lady out by the airport keeps runner ducks and she has some ducklings. She let me hold them even though I was very clear that I was NOT going to purchase any. Not even one. Not even all 5 of them. I got to check out the duck layout and see some runners in action. They didn't seem terribly messy, but the 7 ducks have free roam of the yard, and the goat pens, so there is lots of space. They have a solid enclosure that they are comfortable in and I got to watch the ducks put themselves up for the night. Man those baby ducks were cute. Pocket sized. If they were mine, I would make myself a duck apron so I could pop them in there and take them out to the garden with me.

Saturday I skipped the market all together and went straight to the harvest festival in the rain. I thought I was bein' all sly by going in the rain thinking no one else was that crazy. But LO.... Wads and scads of crazy gardeners. Wandering in the downpour. I thought I would have lots of time with the speakers to ask questions and tap into their knowledge, but things were hectic because of all the changes and people were coming and going and everything was crowded. I got a great handout though on winter vegetable gardening and I am scouring it to see what I still have time to put in.

Later Saturday I went to the parent's for a neighborhood potluck. I was sort of all social-ed out by that point so I didn't stay long. Though I had lots of nice garden/chicken chats with my neighbors.

Today was spent puttering in the garden, doing some weeding and trying to figure out where I might be able to put some of those winter vegetables. I washed all the potatoes from last weeks harvest and picked out some to try to save a seed potatoes. We'll see how that works....Clearly, it has been done, I just don't know if there is anything special that has to be done... I cleaned the front bed and planted some kale and arugala. I have teeny spinach coming up in one of the pots that (until this AM) contained my persimmon tomato.

And speaking of fruits, I had the rapturous experience on Friday of tasting my first ever paw paw. I bought some at the market on Wed and forgot about them. They were almost too far gone on Friday when I remembered them. After trying them, I raced out to my paw paw tree to see if mine were ripe, but the are still hard and green. I checked again today and still no. But I am watching them, as I am sure the squirrels and raccoons are. Hopefully, I get there first.

The rest of today was spent with the bees and my bee mentor (who rocks). The bad news is that there is going to have to be some serious feeding to get these guys up to speed before storage activity shuts down in October when the weather gets cold. Like, I have to be ON IT and be sure that their feeder never runs dry. He tells me I am going to have to feed 30-40# of sugar in the next 6 weeks. So tonight, I went grocery shopping and came home and made dinner for the bees. I filled the feeder and took it out at dusk without the smoker, but with my gloves and veil on. That time of night things are pretty quiet so there were no problems. Other than they forgot to tip the delivery person. Ahem. Makes me feel sorry for the Dominos guys.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Wow. Another long break. I hadn't intended it to be so, but alas.... We got the SB off to school in NOVA. Then back for a long weekend, then off again. Give me strength. These transitions just about kill me, so I am hoping against hope that this is the last year of it.

Last evening I harvested the rest of the main crop of potatoes. I didn't mean to, but once I started, it was so darned much fun. The soil was so lovely I pretty much dug them all by hand, without gloves. And what I kept thinking the whole time was "Dang, I need some chickens and/or ducks to come and follow me around because there are some juicy lookin' grubs in here" And there were. Fatties. Nasty grey critters. Maybe Japanese Beetle larvae, but other things too. Large and small. Crickets and grasshoppers were hidden in the straw, there were GIGANTIC worms, teeny little ant like things and all kinds of delicious variety. Chick Collective, beware. I have decided that the best of intentions are getting us all exactly no where in terms of chickens. I am hatching a plan to motivate. Stay tuned.

I filled a 3 gallon nursery pot full of potatoes. They are "curing" in the back of the SB's truck. I need to bring them inside in the morning so that they don't start to turn green. I have been eating some of the earlier harvest. These little things are super. They have a stout little skin that is toothy and insides get soft and creamy when you cook them. I roasted some with a chicken and then made and Indian type dish with them tonight. Boil about 1/2 - 3/4 pound of potato bits until just tender, drain and set aside. Saute one onion and 2 cloves of garlic with a 1 inch chunk of ginger (all chopped). Add about a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander, chili powder to taste, a few saffron threads, 1/2 t. turmeric and a teaspoon or two of curry powder or garam masala. Fry briefly then add about one cup chopped tomato and either 2-3 cups of fresh spinach or 10 oz or so of thawed squeezed frozen spinach. Warm through, add potatoes and a little water or broth and stir together. Serve with plain yogurt or cucumber raita.

In other exciting news, over the long weekend, the SB and I went to see some ducks. We had a delightful tour of Split Rock Farm from what turned out to be a neighbor of ours that works there. She showed us their amazing and beautiful chickens, and the ducks that were supposed to be runner ducks but they got shipped the wrong thing. Turned out they got buff ducks instead. They are still cute and they are garden loving critters that hunt slugs and eat rotten tomatoes. And not so rotten tomatoes that have the ill fortune of being low on the vine. I am sure they would love the beetle larvae as well. This new neighbor is interested in having chickens - the collective grows. AND she hooked me up with someone who DOES actually have runner ducks and who has invited moi to come and see the new hatchlings. I am afraid to go. I am afraid that I will accidentally bring some home. They might sneak into my purse or pockets or get under the seats in my car. Or something. They are wiley those little ducklings. They can hide just about anywhere. Like the basement. Or my bedroom. Or in the cab of the truck out back. It is soooo dangerous. I will probably go anyway and just make sure that I don't have any pockets or cash.

Tomorrow I am going to the Central Virginia Beekeepers meeting. I am going to be reminded what I need to do to get my hive ready for the winter. There I will also meet with my bee mentor and talk about times to put my wire strung frames into the hive. Which will be SUPER exciting. My bee mentor pretty much rocks.

AND, AND this weekend, I am going to a Harvest Festival. And I am going to attend workshops. And I am going to learn about winter gardening and growing garlic and onions (my garlic arrives in two weeks), and about growing fruit and no till planting. This is all the more exciting because I thought I was going to have to work this weekend, but the event was canceled thanks to a possibility of a hurricane, which may, if it comes, impact the harvest festival as well, but I am keeping my fingers crossed. Oh, and did I mention that it is free? At least the majority of it and I am not doing any of the parts that cost $.

Cho-girl and I are going to the Fiber Festival the first weekend in October. Tag along if you like.