Sunday, March 31, 2019

'Tis Time!

Even though I've still got at least a month and a half before I can think of setting anything out in the garden (and even then under a cold frame), there are many outside tasks that can be done.  A jump-start, you could say, on our short season when it's possible to work outside without the threat of incurring frost bite.

Although Papa Pea did a bit of clearing on our loop trail up behind us during the winter months, there's still much that needs to be cut down to ground level, widening of the trail in spots and maybe even some mowing with our heavy-duty Gravely garden tractor.  The mowing will have to wait until all the snow is completely gone and the ground has a chance to give up the mud in favor of solid ground.

Oy, the multitudinous fallen branches in the yard areas that need to be gathered and hauled away.  I'll do this while my tall husband spends time pruning the apple trees which, of course, will create lots of debris to be hauled also.

As soon as we have a few more dry, warmish days, some of the garden beds will be ready to be tilled.  Papa Pea spread compost on all of them last fall, but there were a few that I didn't get it tilled in.  (Bad, Mama Pea, bad.)  Cold frames can be put on the couple beds I'll want to plant early salad greens in.  The sooner I get the cold frames on, the sooner the soil will warm up.  The fact that these cold frames are still solidly frozen in their storage spot will slow that process a bit.

We've got lots of trees to remove from the east and south sides of our fenced-in garden area.  These trees have grown so tall they now shade parts of our growing area.  I hate to see the trees go, but seeing as how we live in a heavily forested area, sacrificing those that keep us from growing the food we want must be done. 

As soon as the frost is out of the ground, the electric fencing around the poultry yard can go back up.

Last but not at all least, our wood working area in the back is now dried up enough and free of snow (mostly) that we can start working up wood for the next heating season.

If we get all this done in the month of April (that's the plan), it will be an actual miracle we will be on a fantastic roll for the season.  AND for the recreational time off we've vowed to take in the coming months! 

Yep, 'tis time.  Now let's get at it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

It's Spring! (But It's Ugly)

Even though it appears that spring weather is coming to the north woods a smidge bit early this year, it still tests our patience by giving us sun shiny days when you really want to put on shorts and a tank top and sit outside on the south facing deck . . . but doing so brings on giant goose bumps and a really cold nose, knee caps and any other exposed body parts.  Then there are the nights when the outside temp is below freezing, and it feels chilly enough that we make a small wood fire inside.

Today we took our pick-up truck (alias faithful plow truck) to our mechanic's garage to have a new emergency brake installed.  On the trip, which is about 17 miles each way, we drove through heavy clouds hanging above us, a blip of sunshine and clearing sky, rain and then some sizeable hail.  Typical spring time weather.

We saw a few deer that have come out of the woods to nibble hungrily on the first green shoots popping up near the shoulder of the road.  One still had a scarf around his neck to ward off the chill.  Yep, he did.

Here on the homestead, the frost coming out of the ground is making mud everywhere there is not gravel.

Or remaining ice patches.

The raised garden beds are nearly all uncovered.  The field garden, in the  distance, not so much.

Our little pond is frozen each night, but thaws a little more each day.

Each fall, Papa Pea takes down the electric fencing that encircles the large poultry pasture because snow can damage it.  Plus, when the snow starts to mount up, the electric fencing doesn't work anyway.  So comes this in between time when there's still snow on the ground in places and the ground is too frozen to put the fence posts back in.  The poultry that has lived in their house and attached solarium all winter long is let out, and with no pasture fencing confinement, gleefully explores territory they haven't seen since . . . well, last spring at this time.

Here a few of them are reacquainting themselves with the area across from our back door by the high bush cranberries.  As long as they don't start coming up and leaving deposits on the back porch, I can tolerate their forays.  Especially since we've been getting nine to twelve (yes, twelve) eggs a day from the twelve hens.  I think a couple of the roosters must be helping.

Spring time in the north woods.  My least favorite season.  But it, like all other periods of the year, will fly by quickly and soon I'll be trying to get out in the garden early enough in the day to avoid the heat.  Right now, that sounds pretty good.

Friday, March 22, 2019

I Think It's Going To Be An Early Spring

How's that for sticking my neck out?  (I may wrap a scarf around my neck just in case.)

Not only have we not had our usual heavy March snowfalls (I know, the month's not over yet . . . where's that scarf?), but Mother Nature has blessed us for much of the month with temperatures above freezing and, wonder of all wonders, sunshine. 

This is a shot of our driveway I posted on March 3rd.

This is what it looked like this morning when we walked out to get the mail.

Yesterday our temperature actually hit 55 degrees.  Fifty-five degrees!  Oh, my.  This morning upon our awakening it had dropped back down to 29 and the high for today won't get out of the 30s.  Now, just after noon, we have 34 degrees but we'll still get some melting at that.

The coming week's forecast is for highs in the 40s and sunshine.  More melting!  No s-word is mentioned so we may make it through the last week of the month with no new snow covering.

Not exactly ready for planting (!), but my raised beds are emerging from their winter's blanket.

So.  A whole blog post about weather.  Boring?  Yeah, possibly.  But if these current conditions continue, we're going to have an unusual and very early spring.

Inside, my winter decorations throughout the house are beginning to irritate me.  Haven't quite worked up the nerve to take them down and replace them with the spring decorations.  That might be tempting Old Man Winter a titch too much.  How 'bout if I wait until April 1st to make the switch?  Oh, wait.  That's also April Fool's Day.  Arrrrgh.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Complaint of the Day

More and more often in the literature I read, I am finding that men and women at the age of seventy years and upwards are being portrayed as elderly and feeble, fast approaching or very near the end of their lives.

Who made the rule that anyone over seventy is no longer vital or full of pi** and vinegar, as the old saying goes?

Why are people sixty-five years or older in books (and movies) almost consistently portrayed as aged, precariously tottering on the downhill slope of life?

Are all books and movie scripts being written by the younger generations who look upon those of us over sixty (some way over -- ahem) as worthless, about ready to kick-the-bucket, no longer healthy or maintaining any vim, vigor or vitality?

Even in audio books I listen to, the voice of the reader takes on a quavery, weakened intonation when reading the dialogue of people in their sixties and especially seventies.

Ticks me off, it does.  The book I'm currently reading has just written of the demise of a 70-year old woman and attributed her death not to any disease or accident but to natural causes.  Or in other words, old age.  What?!

Maybe I'm particularly sensitive because next month I will be entering the latter part of my seventh decade, and I don't feel old and doddering in the least.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

What's Been Happenin'

If projects are to be successful, planning needs to be done and can be exciting.  Cleaning just simply needs to be done.  At some point.  Period.

This past Wednesday we made a trip to the big city to check out some materials for upcoming projects this spring/summer/fall.  One can only do so much on-line (an option for which we're grateful) and sometimes new ideas are gleaned and others jettisoned by viewing materials in person.

It made a long day (much longer than planned since we ended up arriving home just barely before dark after having to drive home through rain and fog), but one that we both felt was a profitable one.  Now back to the drawing board with our plans.

You'll be happy to know, dear lady who writes wisps of words, that not only are we thinking and planning work-type projects for the upcoming months, but also recreational outings.  (At this point, we're thinking these will be day trips as I'm a real fuddy-duddy who likes sleeping in her own bed at night.)

Last week brought us a welcome rise in temperature, the warmest we've had all winter, and with the accompanying rain lots of snow melted very quickly.  Almost too quickly.  We have no serious flooding but do have standing water in places we've not seen before.  Papa Pea joked he may have to put on waders to venture into the wood shed when filling the wheelbarrow because of the depth of the water on the ground in there.

After the almost spring-like feel of the above freezing weather, the last two days have been in the 20s and all that standing water has frozen.  Daughter and I were very carefully making our way across our back yard yesterday on the way to one of our storage sheds and as we shuffled along she commented she felt like an old lady navigating the alternating smooth ice and the icy ruts made by vehicle tires.  But that's the only way to go, taking very small steps to avoid a foot zipping out from under you . . . and the rest of your body coming down on a very hard surface.

I've been taking advantage of these last days of winter to do some deep cleaning.  (My, my, what you don't find doing so.)

I've been pulling garden books off the shelves, going through them and deciding which ones I want to keep and which will be passed on.  Each of the ones I've perused so far contains useful information, no doubt about that, but not enough to allow them to take up space anymore.  Something I find interesting (and at the same time distressing) is how they contradict each other and how my own experience goes against the words of the so-called experts.  I don't envy any new gardener as I think the only sure way to become successful is by trial and error gardening in your own particular soil, area and climate.

It took me the better part of two days to tear apart, clean and rearrange my closet and the middle section of our bedroom "wall" of closets.  The middle section is shelving and is about 99% my stuff.  I was then inspired to clear off the shelf above the hanging rod in Papa Pea's closet, pull out his storage totes on the floor, vacuum and then wash everything before putting it back together.  With a smidge bit of reorganization.  (Ahem.)

Next on the agenda is the small bookcase and two other shelves in the kitchen that hold my cook books.  I would like to (should!) weed out some of them, but it's so hard to let any of them go.  Please wish me luck.  I will be brave!  And ruthless!  Well, I'll try.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Blogging Mojo, Where Art Thou?

Yep, I've had writer's block for some time now.  I think it's had something to do with the approaching changing of the seasons which, for some reason, has always affected me in a not-so-good way.  Time zips by so quickly and I'm never ready to give up any season whether it be summer, winter or fall.  Spring I could live without.  That, no doubt, has a lot to do with my aversion to M.U.D.

Speaking of that ooey, gooey substance, we've had our first warming spell of the year accompanied by rain which last night brought a radical change to our outside surroundings.

I took this shot a couple of minutes ago looking at the drive going back to our storage and wood working area.  Up until this morning, the area has been covered with a solid pack of plowed snow for months.  Oh, we'll see snow falling yet this month (and probably next month) but it won't last for long now.

I've continued to be a knitting fool.  (What did you just call me?)  Above is the start of a pair for my daughter.  A rainbow of gorgeous sherbet colors!

This is the first greenish pair I've made for Papa Pea.  Just finished turning the heel on this first sock.

I've made a start on a new spring green and yellow shower curtain I'd like to have done to hang when I take down the blue and white winter one.

This is the current "spring" curtain I made about 4-5 years ago.  I've never liked it.  (Although it doesn't look too bad in the picture, does it?  And, dang, I put a lot of work into it.)  I can't put my finger on why it doesn't appeal to me, guess it's just one of those things.  I know the image of the new one on my design wall doesn't look great at this point, but it will get better.  And I know it's going to be more to my liking than the old one.  Trust me. 

I promised einkorn pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup and/or locally produced maple syrup for our morning meal so I'd better sign off and get on with that.

Which reminds me, take a gander at this fantastic old cast iron griddle my dear husband found this winter on an on-line auction.  He got it for a great price, cleaned it up and re-seasoned it.  It fits nicely over two burners of my stove and enables me to make a whole bunch of pancakes at once.  I love it!

All for now.  Gotta go make those pancakes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Thinking About Spring . . . Almost

Winter is still very much with us.  We're promised a "warm up" for next week with temps possibly even above freezing.  But that also means a rain/snow mix is in the forecast.  Ugh.

I snapped this picture this week as I was driving out our driveway through the woods.  Although we haven't had any new snow in a while, there's still plenty that will have to melt before we see bare ground. 

Earlier today I made a check of the various vegetables we still have in the freezer from last year's bounty.  The only one that we're getting low on is asparagus.  Only two servings left of that.  Everything else is still plentiful including beets which I (once again) put up too many of.

Like bush beans, I keep reducing the number of beets I plant each year, but still end up with more than we need.  Granted hot, buttered beets are not our very favorite vegetable, but I need to make sure I serve them more often than I do.  They're loaded with fiber, Vitamins B and C and iron, they may help lower blood pressure and boost endurance.  (Yay, beets!)  And besides that, how often do you get a red vegetable on your plate?

Last week I took my very last container of chives out of the freezer.  I definitely did not harvest and freeze enough of those last year.  I've made a note to myself to be sure to put by more this coming season.  They add so much color and interest to soups, egg dishes and even salads.

Looking out the window, it doesn't seem possible that I should be starting seedlings inside already this month.  But it's a fact and it is time.  I know some of you in the warmer climates have already done so.  Time marches on and spring will arrive up here in the north woods, muddy feet and all!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

It's Cold . . . and Other Ramblings

Yes, we are, indeed, in a very cold spell.  Last night we were warned of "hazardous wind chills."  I'm grateful we were snug, cozy and warm in our little abode and suffered not one wee whit.

We can look forward to a high today of 2 degrees above zero while bracing for more teeth-chattering wind chills of -25 to -40 developing for tonight.  But, hey, the wind chill forecast for today (with that balmy 2 degrees above) is for only -10 to -20 by this afternoon.  Then those lower temps and nasty wind chills over night may just linger into Monday morning.  (Guess I'll forego hanging my Monday laundry out on the lines.  Until maybe June.  Or July.)  Fortunately, those of us who live here year 'round are used to this weather and tend to look at all the reports of global warming with a skeptical eye.

Despite this weather, our chickens (bless their little hearts) are on the upswing of laying a good number of eggs a day now that they've come out of their (what seemed like prolonged) molt.  A yummy omelette for breakfast this morning was enjoyed and much appreciated.  Thanks, girls.

Believe it or not, hubby and I are in the midst of taking three days off.  Last Friday, yesterday and today have been designated as "relaxing" days for both of us.

Of course, we still have had to do the daily necessities but other than that, we've been doing more personally rewarding fun-type things.  Inside, I don't hesitate to add, because . . . well, it's warm and comfortable in here.  And it's not outside.

I've been knitting and quilting and reading a lot which feels really good.  Papa Pea has been going through old files pertaining to all things recreational, watching videos on the computer that are revving him up for new projects (someone help me, please) and has even watched the l980s looooong TV series "Shogun" which our daughter loaned him on old taped cassettes.

This guilt-free down time has been good for both of us.  Curious thing is that we've both been sleeping so hard the past couple of nights that it's like we've been drugged.  I think it's that our bodies have let go of some of the old, everyday tension we (unknowingly?) carry on a day-to-day basis.

I'm heading off to my quilt room now, but on the way I need to do one of those necessities of which I spoke.  I must water my houseplants.  As I walked by one in the kitchen this morning, I'm sure I heard a faint gasp of, "Water!  Please, water!"