Wrapping Up Summer

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). IMG_5686 (2)

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.

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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.

The Bees

Busy, busy, busy.

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We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.

 

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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.

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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 Chickens

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.IMG_5650

Soap Making

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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

IMG_5576This 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.

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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.

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Lindell, Me, Kara

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.

Have you ever seen tractor pulls?

What is your favorite memory of this summer?

An Interesting Creature

Last week while I was staining our deck I had company. This bug, which I have always called a walking stick, but may go by other names, hung out on our siding for a couple of hours in the morning.

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I caught a second photo of it as he/she wandered off.

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After downloading my photos I realized I really didn’t know much about these creatures, so I did a little research. This article on sciencing.com provided some interesting facts.

  • I was a bit surprised to learn that walking sticks are herbivores.
  • They are mostly nocturnal, feeding at night and hiding under leaves and such during the day, so seeing one like this is a little unusual.
  • I also read that there are over 3000 species of walking sticks. WOW!
  • Probably the most interesting was the fact that in some species female walking sticks can reproduce without the aid of a male. All of her offspring will, however, be female.

For more information click here.

Have you ever seen a walking stick?

 

 

Mornings At The Farm

September 5, 2019

My plan this morning was to clean garlic. There were about 150 bulbs that I wanted to get done. I figured it would take me about an hour to complete this task so I also took some time to enjoy the day. Would you like to join me?

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As I walked past the garden I was greeted by this sunflower. I wonder, is it possible to look at a sunflower and not smile? As you can tell I was not the only one happy to see this flower. The honey bees were all over it.

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This was the view from were I was working. Nothing but blue sky and sunshine this morning.

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While walking through the prayer garden I discovered that the honey bees were also foraging the anise hyssop. This is a recent addition to the prayer garden and was largely added for the benefit of the bees.  I only see one bee in this picture, but I assure you there were more that the camera did not capture.

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My husband discovered that bees like this plant while working at his landscaping job. They had to go to a greenhouse to purchase some anise hyssop plants for a job they were doing, and he said the bees were all over the plants. A couple weeks later he took me to that greenhouse to purchase some for our farm.

Another visitor to the prayer garden this morning was this Hummingbird, searching for nectar in the hanging plants.

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It is a bit camouflaged by the green plants in the background. Do you see it just left of center?

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It is now to the right of this basket.

In recent weeks we have seen the return of an annual visitor. For at least the past 5 years we have seen this bird (or one like it) in and around our pond in the late summer. I am assuming it is the same bird and although we usually see just one at a time on rare occasions we will see two.

Since it was not a bird I was familiar with and was unable to positively identify it through our bird books or internet searches, in 2016 I turned to my blog readers for help through this post. While the answer did not come through the post comments, I learned  that our bird was a Green Herron.

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He or she is a quiet bird and blends well into the grasses that surround the pond.

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Can you believe this is the same bird? It’s appearance certainly changes as it makes a quick getaway.

Before noon I return to the house with that batch of garlic cleaned.

September 6, 2019

Though there was rain in the forecast I was hopeful it would hold off and I could finish up cleaning the last batch (about 100 bulbs) of garlic.

The sky was gray and the sun was hidden. Before getting started I took in some of the surroundings.

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Maple leaves are indicating that Fall is not far off.

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Squirrels have been collecting nuts.

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This sunflower with a fancy hairdo.

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The Norway Spruce that is loaded with pinecones.

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With the threat of rain it was not a good morning for cleaning garlic so my plan B was to work in the prayer garden.

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As I brought out my garden tools the rain began.

Perhaps plan C, canning tomatoes, is a better job for today.

Thanks for joining me. Are you seeing signs of Fall in your area?

 

More Pies

My husband loves when I make homemade desserts and I love my husband, so shortly after we finished our blueberry pie it was time to make another pie. This time I decided on lemon meringue.  As I got out my Betty Crocker cookbook to find a recipe I was feeling sort of down because I was not using any of our home grown fruit for this pie. After reading the recipe I realized that even though we can’t grow lemons here in Michigan, the eggs that are used both in the lemon filling and the meringue topping came from our chickens. That made me feel better. 🙂

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We then had a break from pies for a couple of weeks because the weather got pretty hot. Sometimes it is just too hot to do any baking, especially when we turn on the air conditioning.

Thursday, after the cold front came through and it was cool enough to open the windows, I decided it was time to make another pie. This time it was strawberry-rhubarb, one that  a couple of readers mentioned as being a favorite. I didn’t think I would be making this kind of pie this year because our rhubarb nearly drowned this spring. Thanks to my husband performing lifesaving maneuvers (digging it up and moving the roots to dryer ground) it is still alive, but it has not produced stalks big enough to harvest this year.

A couple of weeks ago my husband mentioned that Karen, our next door neighbor, had some rhubarb that was ready to be harvested. She had already picked all that she was going to use and said I should come and pick what I wanted. The next day, before I got a chance to get over there, Karen was knocking at my door holding two big bunches of rhubarb with the leaves already trimmed off. You gotta love neighbors like that! I gave her a couple of quarts of our strawberries that I had frozen and we were both happy campers.

I cut up the rhubarb and put it in the freezer… until yesterday when I was ready to bake my pie. There are many recipes for strawberry-rhubarb pie out there, but since I am not a huge fan of pie crust (I usually don’t eat that thick outer edge) I decided to make one with a crumb topping.

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It is now evident that Autumn is quickly approaching and with that we have high hopes for both homemade apple and pumpkin pies. 🙂 I’ll keep you posted.

Do you have a favorite Autumn food?

 

A Starving Artist

Yesterday morning I was enjoying my morning coffee on the deck when I noticed that an anonymous arachnidian artist had turned our deck railing into his/her art gallery. As the sun attempted to break through the fog the lighting made for lovely viewing of this artwork.

As I photographed the five webs woven between deck spindles the artist was nowhere to be seen.

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While I might view these as works of art, to their creators they are a means of survival – their “bread and butter” so to speak.

In the evening I decided to see if the webs had served their purpose. Were there any bugs caught in the webs? Would the “starving artist” eat tonight? I was surprised to see that only one web remained. Upon closer observation I noticed the artist, an “Itsy Bitsy” spider, not much bigger than a fruit fly, was moving in imperfect circles between two deck spindles. The evening lighting was such that the web was invisible, but I assumed that Itsy Bitsy was creating another web.

After searchng for answers as to what may have happened to the other four webs I realized that I may have been wrong on two accounts. According to this article  https://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/spiders-recycling/ spiders sometimes eat their own webs. Perhaps that is what I witnessed in the evening, and if so this is not likely a starving artist.

Did you know that spiders eat their webs?