Last Monday was the perfect summer day for doing anything outdoors. I started my outdoor tasks mid morning by mowing our lawn at the house. Our weather had been so dry in recent weeks that it had been about three weeks since we had to mow the lawn. Then after lunch, while my husband went to the farm to work in the garden, I returned to the yard to work on trimming and weeding.
I had been working for less than an hour when my husband called. ” Are you married to doing that yard work today or do you want to come out and play?” he asked.
I hesitated briefly because I had weeds and branches laying around the yard that need to be picked up, but I quickly decided they could wait until later. I left my garden tools and gloves on the deck, slipped my bathing suit on then put shorts and shirt over top. I grabbed a couple of cold beverages and my husband was there in about 10 minutes to pick up me and the boys.
When we got to the farm my first order of business play was riding the four wheeler. Last summer I didn’t get to ride at all and I really missed it. This year my husband committed to getting it running for me, so with some help from my son-in-law, he got the carburetor cleaned. He then replaced the air filter and it’s running again. (THANK YOU SWEETIE!) For about 45 minutes I zipped around the back field and down the winding paths that run through the woods on the 4- wheeler. So much fun! 🙂
When I had my fill of riding I decided to go for a dip in the pond. I stopped by the garden, where my husband was having his own fun caring for the plants, to let him know I would be in the pond. I grabbed my innertube, took off my shorts and top and waded into the refreshing water. I spent the next 45 minutes or so floating and paddling around the pond on my innertube. Since the pond is not visible from the garden where my husband was working playing, every once in a while he would yell “Marco” to which I had to yell “Polo” in reply (otherwise I’m sure he would have executed search and rescue operations).
After my refreshing time in the pond it was time to go home and make dinner. When we arrived back at the house my husband said “don’t worry if you don’t get the weeds and clippings picked up tonight. They will still be there in the morning… unless” “somebody steals them,” I quickly chimed in. He laughed and then said “or the Yard Clipping Fairy shows up.” We both laughed at that.
The next morning I found out that I apparently haven’t been good enough the deserve a visit from the Yard Clippings Fairy, but thankfully the weather again was pleasant enough for me to finish the job. 🙂
What recreational activities do you enjoy in summer?
According to almanac.com the dog days of summer run from July 3 through August 11 which is normally the hottest and most humid time of year in the northern hemisphere. Around here every day is a dog day. Just ask Ranger and Trooper. But, yes, the HEAT IS ON and it is accompanied by a dry spell so keeping the gardens watered has been the main focus for the past week or so. If you are curious about how we manage that on our off-grid farm you can check out our off-grid irrigation system here.
In the mean time I put together a collection of pictures that I’ve taken over about the past few weeks to share with you.
This is how Ranger cools off on these hot days. (Did you know beagles can swim?)
and Trooper enjoys laying on the beach after a swim in the pond.
The grandbabies love the water as much as the dogs do.
Dragonflies are yet another creature that appreciate the pond.
This one is drinking water from the sand. Check out the honey bee (on the left) that photo bombed this shot. She too was coming to the beach for a drink of water.
This beauty hung out with us on the beach, for a couple of hour yesterday evening, fluttering about and pausing now and then to rest or perhaps get a sip of water.
One last pond picture because we can never have too much cuteness. LOL.
Speaking of cuteness, here is a double dose – twins.
The lavender is gorgeous this year and the bees and butterflies are all over it.
We have transitioned from strawberry season to blueberry season. On the same day that my husband, and (daughter) Kara, picked the last of the strawberries, I took (daughter) Tina, and Jackson and Addy into the blueberry patch to pick the first ripe berries. While Kara took her 3/4 of a basket of strawberries home. Addy couldn’t wait, so she ate all of the blueberries we picked while they were still at the farm.
Start them off young – that’s my motto. They posed for a group photo then dad took Jackson and Addy, one at a time, for a ride on the tractor.
The garden is flourishing. I have harvested basil and calendula flowers twice so far.
We have green tomatoes, peppers starting to develop, blossoms on the eggplant,
blossoms on the green beans and the corn is knee high.
We cut garlic scapes (check out this post to learn more about scapes) about two weeks ago and will be digging garlic soon.
It seems that every summer our back field is dominated by different plants. This year it is full of clover and birdsfoot trefoil and I think it is just gorgeous. It’s also great bee food.
I’ll leave you with one last photo of this pair who stopped by our deck for a short visit last week. They were kind enough to stay so I could get a photo then they hurried on their way.
Thanks for visiting and remember – stay hydrated, breathe deep and stay well.
It’s hard to believe that autumn is here. I just wanted to hold on to summer – perhaps indefinitely. Since it is humanly impossible to stop time, the best I can do is hold onto and treasure the memories that Summer 2019 gifted me. I have decided to place some of these precious memories in this post where, like keepsakes in a trinket box, they will be safely stored and I can return to them whenever I like. I will also share them with you.
At The Farm
In early August I used my hours at the farm for picking blueberries, watering plants, and mostly weeding the prayer garden (this is the time of year that weeds really start to take over if they are not kept in check).
I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the prayer garden was in full bloom. My husband said he wanted to correct that statement but didn’t. He is right of course – by design the prayer garden is in continuous bloom, from early spring, when the daffodils appear, until late fall, or at least until we get the first frost of the season there is always something blossoming.
By mid August my chore list had changed. We had some decent rain so we didn’t have to do much watering. We began picking tomatoes and peppers and I began cleaning our 2019 garlic crop.
For the past four weeks or so the focus has been on harvesting our garden and either cooking and eating or preserving the harvest. While most of the tomatoes have been frozen so far, I did manage to get 15 quarts of tomato sauce canned. We have been enjoying fresh red skin potatoes (boiled or made into potato salad), Swiss chard (sautéed with garlic, cooked into an omelet or added to a cream cheese stuffed chicken breast), baked butter nut squash, tomatoes (fresh on the side, on a sandwich, or cooked into homemade pasta sauce) and stuffed green peppers. I also cut up three small cabbages and started the process of turning them into sauerkraut. This is the time of year that all of the work pays off.
Busy, busy, busy.
We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.
We have harvested honey three times this summer from three different hives. Each harvest yielded approximately 30 lbs. of honey. After we harvest the honey and wax from the frames my husband sets the frames back out for the bees to finish cleaning them up. The picture above shows the bees completing this task.
A few weeks ago one of the hives swarmed. My husband captured the swarm and put it in an empty hive. He then placed a feeder with honey in it on top. The next day the bees had left that hive. We are not sure why they weren’t happy there but they did fill up on the honey before leaving.
The eight Jersey Giants that were cute little chicks this spring are now full grown hens. They began laying in eggs in August and will hopefully keep us in fresh eggs through the winter months.
Normally I don’t make a lot of soap during the summer months but I found I was out of a few varieties. I decided to have some fun with it.
My sister had given me some silicone mini molds so I made a few small bars using them. I can see making holiday themed sample soaps or using teddy bears or duckies as favors for a baby shower. They would however need to be clearly labeled “Don’t Eat It!” as I would want someone thinking they were white chocolate.
I have also been practicing using my soap stamp and getting better at it. It’s really a matter of stamping the soap when it is still just a little soft.
Family and Fun
In early August we planned a family picnic at the farm. Not all of the girls could make it but Tina and Ken brought our grandkids and Kara also came out. After we ate, our three year old grandson, Jackson, went fishing with his dad and grandpa and caught his first fish. I didn’t get any pictures of this because Tina and Kara and I had taken (granddaughter) Addy to pick blueberries.
Not only did Addy enjoy picking the berries she enjoyed eating them as well. The cutest part was that each time Addy, who is learning to talk, picked a berry she would say appo (apple). The first time she said it we thought it was so cute we laughed before telling her “berry”. So after that each time she picked a berry she would say “appo” and laugh then when we told her berry she would say “ber-ry”. Her laugh was so contagious that we were all laughing each time she said “appo”.
In August my husband and I went plant shopping. Normally I don’t like shopping. The exceptions are going to a greenhouse or nursey and shopping for yarn or other craft supplies. Each spring we usually go to a local green house and pick up a least a few plants for the year but it’s quite easy for me to get carried away and buy way more plants than I need.
You may remember from this post that my husband was working at a greenhouse this spring and was able to bring home many plants that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster. With all the free flowers we had there was no need to go plant shopping…until August. While working the landscaping job that he started in July my husband had to make a trip to a nursery where they purchased anise hyssop plants that would be planted at one of the jobsites. “They had pretty purple flowers and the bees were all over them,” he said as he told me about the plants. I knew this herb had some medicinal properties and if the bees like it then we should definitely plants some.
I did a little homework and found that anise hyssop is generally a plant the deer avoid because of it’s strong fragrance. This sounded like the perfect addition to our prayer garden.
We purchased two large plants that were in full bloom and two smaller (less expensive) plants that should continue to grow each year until they are about a foot wide. I understand that these plants also drop seeds each year that will readily sprout into new plants. These plants are still blooming more than a month after we planted them and I saw bees foraging in them yesterday. 🙂
As we were walking through the green house I noticed a table full of flowers that I was not familiar with. They had bright orange and yellow flowers. They were marked $5 each. After asking an employee if the deer would eat them and being assured that it was not likely, I picked out two yellow and one orange. (There I go getting carried away.) The plant is called lantana. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized that they are an annual so will not be coming back next year. 😦
We took a Sunday off in August to visit the Armada Fair and watch the tractor pulls.
My husband and I wore our matching tractor pull t-shirts so my daughter snapped a photo of us. We were joined by daughters Kara and Lindell and Lindell’s boyfriend Brysen. We arrived early enough to walk through the animal barns and view the exhibits before the tractor pulls began. I’m not sure which is cuter baby goats or baby cows. I love seeing them both.
We also filled up on lots of expensive fair food. I wonder which was higher the calorie count or the price.
For those of you who, like Brysen, have never seen a tractor pull, let me sum it up. Basically tractor pulling is a competition to see who’s tractor can pull a weighted sled the farthest. If you would like a little more information see this article.
This tractor, named Cruel Intentions, is owned by the Capozzo family. They also own and operate the excavating company that dug our pond. This is the tractor we were rooting for that day and they did take first place in their class.
After the tractors were finished they brought in a couple of semi’s that did an exhibition pull.
In the photo below I was trying to get a shot of the score board that electronically records each tractor’s speed and the distance they pull but my aim was a little high.
After viewing this photo I did spot something I hadn’t noticed before. The street signs to the right of the score board mark the intersection that leads to the adult beverage tent. If you can’t make out the signs they say “Good RD” and ” Beers LN”. That made me chuckle.
The beverage tent was the other place we visited at the fair and while I mostly stuck with non alcoholic beverages that day I did end up drinking a glass of hard cider when Lindell ended up with an extra one.
Even though autumn has arrived, and the temperatures have been slowly cooling, we are forecast to have at least one more of summer-like day today and I will happily take all that we can get.
I can’t believe July is nearly over. I certainly have been enjoying the summer weather we have had this past week, but I fear that summer will be gone before I know it. I am trying to make a conscious effort to take at least a little time each day just appreciating what the season has to offer. Sometimes that involves taking a dip in the pond or kicking off my shoes and going barefoot in the lush green grass. Other times it involves observing nature in all of it’s glory. Last week it also involved a homemade blueberry pie. ☺
Below are some of my observations from the past week.
That’s Just Ducky!
One day last week, when I was working in the prayer garden, I noticed we had a visitor in the pond.
In the past when we have had ducks visit they have not stayed long. This one doesn’t want to leave.
I can’t say that I blame her as it is a very lovely environment. I am not sure what kind of duck she is so if you know please leave me a comment at the end of this post.
We don’t want ducks or other water foul living in our pond so we have made many attempts at letting her know she needs to leave.
At first I thought it would be as easy as letting Trooper chase her off, but as he entered the pond she swam quickly to the other end of the pond. Trooper lost sight of her and interest. As I walked around the outside of the pond to the area where she was swimming she again just swam to a different spot. My husband attempts at throwing small stones in the water near her didn’t seem to deter her either. She certainly is persistent!
Finally on Friday when I had family over for a picnic lunch I told my niece, as she and my cousin set out in the paddle boat, that their job was to chase the duck away. A while later my niece announced that the duck had flown away. Good Job Ashley and Abbey! It was maybe a couple of hours later, after we had finished our pond activities, that we saw her land in the pond again. Good Grief!!!
I do think that she has since gotten the message that we don’t want her there because now when she sees my husband or I approaching the pond she flies away – only to return when we are not around. Perhaps she figures “what we don’t know won’t hurt us – or her”.
So far this year I have written about robins building a nest in a flat of pansies and the sparrow who was raising her young in the middle of our strawberry patch but this is the oddest nest yet.
This past winter my husband noticed that what we assume was a confused woodpecker had made a hole in our U.S. Coast Guard approved floatation devise that our township requires be kept near the pond. It is not made out of wood!
Last week he told me that he looked in that hole and saw what he thought was a sparrow inside.
I decided to try to get a photo. As I approached a small bird flew out. It was similar in size and color to a sparrow but I noticed that it had a long pointy beak. After doing a little research I have decided it is probably a house wren. While it seems to have found a cozy home I am not sure that the U.S. Coast Guard would approve.
Hawks soaring high above our farm is not an unusual sight; it’s just one that I have difficulty photographing. It does get concerning when their search area comes close the area where our chickens are foraging as we have had several chickens fall prey to hawks in the past. Such is the nature of allowing chickens to free range.
As I watch the hawk gracefully circling I envy its view from above.
A Berry Good Year
While our garlic crop was disappointing this year, all of our berries performed beyond our expectations. As I have mentioned in previous posts it has been a wonderful year for strawberries, currants, cherries, and blueberries. Grapes seem to be following suit.
One day last week I noticed that the grape vines were sagging. Upon further inspection we discovered that the top wire that supports the grape vines had broken.
The vines are so heavy laden with fruit that the wire could not support their weight. My husband was able to place a couple of wooden stakes under the vines to keep them off the ground, but repairing the wire will have to wait until after the harvest.
If A Tree Falls and Nobody Is Around To Hear It Does It Really Make A Sound?
As of this writing that question will go unanswered.
My husband was standing in the garden, perhaps 100 feet from this tree last Sunday when the storm came through. He estimated the wind gust at about sixty miles per hour. As he felt the gust, he heard a loud crack and watched the tree fall.
The dead ash tree has been standing dead in the wood line for several years and we have been waiting for the right winds to come along and bring it down. We can now cut it up to use for firewood this winter.
The Garden Was Busy This Morning
Perhaps I should say buzzy. The squash and pumpkins are blossoming heavily right now,
and bees and other pollinators love squash blossoms.
It is not unusual to see two or more pollinators in the same flower.
The bees were also foraging in the buckwheat. They moved quickly from flower to flower and I was not able to capture a photo of one.
We don’t harvest buckwheat but it does serve a dual purpose. It acts as a cover crop, enriching the soil in areas where we are not growing food. It also helps feed the bees.
Thanks for spending a little time with me. What are you doing to make the most of summer?
It’s been just a few days since summer arrived, but for once the weather seemed to coincide with the calendar. The heat that we have been getting has served to dry things up nicely so things are looking much better at the farm.
Despite the cool, rainy spring our strawberries did well. We have been picking berries for about two weeks now.
These berries were from the first day we picked. Since then we have picked about 60 quarts of strawberries. They seem to be slowing down but we will probably be picking for the next couple of days at least.
Besides eating fresh strawberries (even some right in the field as we pick) we have enjoyed them in fruit salad, as strawberry short cake with homemade whipped cream, I made nine pints of strawberry jam, and we have about 15 quarts in the freezer. We have also been able to share them with family and friends.
As we were picking berries on that first day we came across this well hidden nest in the middle of the patch.
We had no idea what type of eggs they were and we hadn’t seen a momma bird around at all.
Then a few days ago when my husband was picking berries alone he called to tell me that the eggs had hatched. He also said that momma sparrow was watching him from the fence.
Yesterday as we picked she stayed on the nest until I took her photo.
I think that startled her and she quickly flew away, so I was able to get a photo of her young.
Although there were five eggs in the nest I could only make out four babies.
Over the last two weeks we were able to get the garden planted. Although planting conditions were less than ideal we planted cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, basil, parsley and more tomatoes. We also put in carrot, beet, and Swiss chard seeds.
The plants that we put in seem to be taking hold but the seeds that only went in a few days ago have yet to sprout.
This year we decided to use weed guard around many of the plants. This product is a thick organic paper. It will help keep moisture in and weeds down. It will also break down over the course of the summer and can be tilled into the soil.
Having been unsure when or if we would be able to plant a garden at the farm this year I had planted sweet peas and pole beans in containers and they are growing on our deck.
The peas which were planted several weeks before the beans are now producing pods and the peas are growing inside of them. I picked a few of the pods that had not began to fill out and added them to my beef stew a couple nights ago.
As always we have been keeping an eye out to see where the bees are foraging. We have seen them in the clover, chives, thyme, and raspberries.
Last Saturday while my husband and son-in-law were doing some fishing I was moving some bricks with the tractor (I love driving the tractor) and I noticed this swarm of bees in a pear tree. Christmas in June! LOL!
The guys finished up their fishing and my husband prepared to capture the swarm. We helped him set up the new hive and he got out all of the equipment he would need.
The swarm was located within reach so he had no need for a ladder.
The hive these bees were placed in is a warre top-bar hive. Since there are no frames to remove and the top bars run across the top of each box it was necessary to have the box upside-down pour the bees in. Then he covered it with a piece of cardboard while he returned to the pear tree to gather the remaining bees.
The bees that did not get captured the first time around were collecting back on the tree limb so he gave them a little time to settle before shaking them into the bucket and taking them to their new home.
After pouring the remaining bees into the hive box he again covered it with the cardboard. then Ken helped him hold the cardboard in place as he flipped the box over and placed on top of the lower box. He then slid the cardboard out so the top box sat directly on the lower box.
I thought I would include one last picture just because I thought it was cute.
Not all of our chickens have names but there are a select group that have earned their names. This one is Honey. She is one of three surviving chickens from our very first batch of chicks in 2013. She earned her name by being friendly and lovable. She is at the top of the pecking order, and while she is rarely mean to other hens she pretty much rules the roost and the bumper as the case may be.
I will leave you with this – one of my favorite scriptures.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7