Wild Things Farm

  (Crab Orchard, Tennessee)
Farm life adventures of the Happy Hoer
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Is it really Spring?

Although I've tested the limits of gardening by planting in the high tunnels and under cover, snow flakes have fallen on my efforts and the seeds have begun to germinate!  I'm not cheering yet, but it seems as though the "outdoor" crops are on a roll.  Just last week we had snow flurries for a full day.  Now, the last couple of days, have been near 80.

Being a farmer is kind of like working for a woman who's going through menopause.....okay one day and very messed up the next!  Just go with the flow......

This morning began with thunderstorms.  The storms were predicted to be really fierce here on the Cumberland Plateau, but for some reason we escaped the "fierceness" factor.  Fine with me.

The dogs, cats, and I took a walk this afternoon just to see what's going on around the farm.  I took a few pics.....

daffodilsfromnannys2014.webJPGThis  patch of daffodils I got from my Nanny's house in Newport many years ago and have moved it 4 times until here....I hope their final place to multiply.  She had a hillside full of them that she planted at her house.   They make me smile and think of her.  She's my horticultural inspiration.

mushroomlogsAnother item in the woods are the logs that I've innoculated with shiitake and maitake mushroom spawn.   I hope they've survived the brutal winter we had and will produce lots of yummy mushrooms in a few months.

pachysandra4.4.14webSome of the spring flowers have started to bloom, and I was amazed that the pachysandra waited so long to bloom.  Here it is among a field of trout lily leaves.  Here's a trout lily just beginning to bloom:

troutlily.webToothwort is coming out....always one of the first to bloom

toothwortwebAlong with Virginia Bluebells, one of my favorites:

bluebells4.4.14webI'm still amazed every spring because the hillside behind the house is literally covered with bluebells!  Gorgeous sight to behold.

One thing that happened a couple of weeks ago was a little disturbing.  I noticed a different spot on the bluff behind the house.  It sort of caught my eye one day as something that was different....

rockfall1webSee the light brown color at the top of the bluff, kind of in the middle?  Well, that color was new.  I walked over to see what had happened, and I found this...

therockthatfellwebA rock on the ground, right where I used to stand at the really cool creek that runs in and out of the bluff behind the house.  WOW, it was big!  About 4 feet around.  I looked at where it hit the ground and there was quite a hole there, along with a bunch of rocky debris...

wheretherockhitIt doesn't look like much from the pics, but it sure made me feel small and very careful about walking around bluffs.  You just never know when nature's going to rearrange her house!

Happy Spring, Y'all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winter is hanging on

Okay, so March 20 was officially the first day of Spring. There were a few days of nice, sunny, spring-like weather BUT winter has not quite let go yet. With nighttime temps at 24 degrees last night, about the same tonight and even colder tomorrow night, I'm sure getting a workout with the row covers and high tunnels in this sort of weather.

Today I transplanted 5 flats of Broccoli Raab into individual cells for replanting outside, really soon!

broccoliraabwebthe chives outside the high tunnel are happy, happy....

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One of the projects on the wintertime funky weather list was to install a dry creek bed at the back of the house to drain the roof (no gutters yet) and a spring that is under the house.  Here's a start....

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It will evolve over the course of the season, but at least the landscape fabric is down and the outline of rocks is in place.

I've been planting comfrey around the farm for the bees and the mulch.  Comfrey is a perennial that will produce lots of organic matter over the course of a season.  Several plants were planted in the orchard and at various places around the farm....

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Two weeks ago a new puppy arrived at the farm.  His name is "Blue".  His father is a Cur dog and his mother is a Catahoula.  I call him a "Curtahoula".  It's been awhile since a new puppy was here at the farm, and it is a constant battle to teach them not to kill chickens, cats, and not poop on the porch.  So far he hasn't threatened a chicken, hasn't caught a cat, but, hmmmm, has pooped on the porch several times...

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In this photo he is really fascinated by a bunch of acorns he found on the ground--I could not get him to look at the camera.  He's a good dog so far :-)

I dug a clump of daffodils from my Nanny's house in Newport about 25 years ago, and moved them to my place in Lenoir City.  After that they moved to Crossville, to Crab Orchard, then to Wild Things Farm.  In spite of being relocated several times, they still remind me of my Nanny and I smile when they bloom.

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In the photo below you'll see the "Front Bluff" gardens planted in Swiss Chard, lettuce, kale, onions, mixed greens, and spinach---all covered up with row cover.  Maybe I can fool Mother Nature long enough to get a few things under way a little early!

The area nearest the camera is the newly established berry bed.  I killed the grass in this area last year, mulched with chicken manure, and will mulch with leaves before the raspberries, tayberries, blackberries, and hazelnuts are planted.

 

backyardberrypatchwebI'll go throw another log on the fire and dream of warmer days......

 

 

 
 

Winter chores and a wildflower walk

Winter chores are nothing new.  While on the way home from town Friday, I noticed that the 36" culverts that carry the canal through my property were sort of getting overgrown and close to getting clogged up....

stoppedupculvertswebIt's way easier to clean out a culvert BEFORE it gets clogged with everything that culverts get clogged up with.  After chainsawing for about 30 minutes and piling everything up in between the culverts, I was able to get a small fire started to burn the debris....

fireatculvertswebOnce the fire went out I had a small bucket of glass bottles, a tractor bucket load of firewood, 2 clean culverts and a good workout!

I checked the beehive and was so happy to see that it was FULL of bees and they were BUSY!

After planting 6 flats of assorted greens; lettuce, kale, mustard, and braising mix in the large high tunnel, I threw several bags of leaves into the chicken pen to keep the girls out of the mud.  They love scratching in the leaves and will spread a pile of them in no time.

THEN I had promised the girls I would clean out their coop and put fresh leaves in there.  It's amazing how much quicker their coops get pooped out in the winter when they are stuck inside during cold weather.

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I used hay last time for their bedding.  I won't do that again.  It turns into a solid mat that has to be chopped apart AND I had to put it in a separate compost area because I know how many weeds can germinate from hay--BUT it was all I could get at the time.  I refloored their coop with fresh dry leaves from my stash.   It smells wonderful.

Today was a gorgeous day so Hattie (the dog), Bandit (the girl kitty) and I decided to take a late afternoon wildflower walk.  There really are wild things to look at this time of year, and some are even starting to grow (I'm so excited!)  Here's a visual of our afternoon journey.

streamandbluffbehindhouse2.22.14webThis is a very cool bluff right behind the house.  The stream you see is it....it comes out from under the rocks where I was standing and goes back in where the black area is in the top of the picture.  Very cool spot.

tricklefromrocks2.22.14webThe rocks are leaking....look closely... maybe you can see.

moss2.22.14webBeautiful moss garden--it loves this weather!

columbine2.22.14webColumbine starting to show some life...

heuchera2.22.14webHeuchera showing its winter colors...

pachysandra2.22.14webNative pachysandra should be sending up white flowers before long.

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Sedum

walkingfern2.21.14web

and Walking Fern are still attractive through the winter.

fullpond2.22.14web

The pond is full to overflowing with the recent rains.

Days like today give one that boost of sunshine desperately needed this time of year!

 

 
 

Life in the Country

Life in the country is somewhat different than life in the city, or even in the suburbs.  If you live in the country you have to get used to seeing, uh, well, dead things.

Theres'a perpetual spring really near the farm, called "Baker's Spout" .  It's a spring that runs under the county road that my farm is on, and someone has plumbed a pvc pipe into the spring so it is running out of a "pipe" and it runs all the time....24/7.  It's been a local "hot spot" for many, many years, and folks still gather water there for drinking.  I drank it once when I first moved out here and, um, I'm won't drink it again :-)

That makes it a favorite for local hunters to bring their fresh kill to clean under fresh running water.  Do they take the carcass, guts, and bones with them when they are through?   Nooooooo they don't.  The local dogs go shopping there quite often.  Every dog I've had since I've lived here has frequented "The Spout" for supplement to what they are fed here at the house.

Hattie is no exception.  Just a few days ago I was working over at the new high tunnel at I noticed her prancing about and was able to get a shot.......

hattiewithribcagewebShe had confiscated an entire rib cage and was carrying it about looking for a place to bury it.  Some people say "ooooh, gross"!  I say....It's life in the country  and someday she may stumble upon it and have a tasty snack to munch on :-)

 

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Brrrrr! Cold Chicken Toes

That's the only suitable title I could come up with for this post.  Sunday was fairly warm for January--in the upper 40's actually--then the wind blew and blew and the bottom fell out of the thermometer.  Monday and Tuesday night were both 8 degrees below zero and the high yesterday didn't get over 6---SIX!  That's not much.

Then, then.....the power went out about 3:15 yesterday.  I had a gut feeling about it so I put a pot of chili on the woodstove....

chilionwoodstove1.7.14web

 

Oh, and the reason it looks so light in there is because of the camera flash.  It was really dark, but I had candles lit in my awesome scavenged wrought iron chandelier that couldn't be used electrically anymore......

diningroomchandelierweb

 

It is hanging over the table in the "wining room" (the room where all of my wine is in various stages of fermentation) formerly known as the dining room.   It's actually part of the "great room" so the candles worked great.  Who actually uses a dining room that much anyway....

After staring at the fire, chunking wood, reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" with my tiny flashlight, and eating a bowl of pretty darn good chili,  the power came on--just about 5 hours after it went off.  I've lived off the grid before and really, I like a little electricity.  I don't use my clothes dryer, don't have tv, I heat with wood, am stingy with hot water.....but I do like electric lights...oh, and the computer :-)

Today I had to get outside.  The temp had gotten up to 30 so it was time for an excursion to the high tunnels to see how the veggies had held up to the brutal temps.  Lettuce, chard, spinach and kale all did well.  The broccoli raab and arugula succumbed to the bitter cold--BUT they were sort of on their way out anyway so it's not a big deal.

When I went to the empire of the Happy Hens yesterday to water and feed, I saw blood in the snow around the water and feed pans.  Oh no!  Not blood.....not now!  I looked at chicken toes until I found the problem.  One of the hens had broken a toenail into the quick and it was bleeding pretty profusely.    I gathered her up under my arm and headed to the house to the first aid kit.   I told her to not tell the others that she had actually been in "the house".  I grabbed some gauze and peroxide but couldn't find any adhesive tape, so here we go to the shop.  She behaved fairly well and didn't try to attack me or anything.   I was able to clip off the damaged part, pour peroxide over it a couple of times, then bandage it with a gauze pad and------electrical tape.  Maybe it will stay on long enough to heal a little.  Even  a small problem seems amplified in bitterly cold weather.

This morning when I went to water and feed and collect the frozen eggs I saw no blood and I didn't see a bandage on any chicken toes, so maybe all is well.   Their feet do look awfully cold in this weather though.

A lot of the country is experiencing this brutal cold front called, what, "Ion" or something like that?  Stay warm and pore over the seed catalogs.....spring will be here before we know it!

 

 
 

Twas the Week Before Christmas

And all around the farm, the creatures were stirring....

kittensonfenceweb

 

hattiediggingformouseweb

 

chickenslooseweb

 

Really looking for something to harm......did you think I was going through that whole poem?  Really........

Today was one of those wintertime treats!  Sunny....mid 40's at some point during the day.  It's funny how 50, cloudy and breezy is intolerable but 33 and sunny calm is great!

One of the projects on my "to do" list for the winter is to mulch around the blackberries and blueberries and I got started on that yesterday......

berrypatchmulchweb

 

I know, I know, the black leaf holders are kind of ugly, but they do keep the leaves from blowing around until they are put in their place.  I'm using layers of newspaper around the bushes then lots of leaves to keep the weeds down.  I do have lots of leaves....

2014leavesweb

 

I LOVE my leaves!

leafbagsontractorweb

 

Each season, John, Dear (that would be my tractor) and I spread a thick layer of leaves over every inch of garden space, in the chicken pens, and wherever I want new garden ground.  I did get the orchard completely mulched last week as well---yay!

seedlingflatingreenhouseweb

 

One thing I'm experimenting with this year is planting seedlings in the high tunnel throughout the winter season.  Most of the crops in high tunnels are planted in late September/early October but in the hurry of getting another high tunnel built this year and all the other chores I have around the farm, the big high tunnel wasn't completely planted before cold weather set in.  I'm experimenting to see if everything doesn't need to be planted at the same time.  So far I've planted endive, yellow and scarlet mustard, braising mix, assorted varieties of lettuce, sorrel, and kale.  The first test plot was planted about 3 weeks ago and I've harvested a few greens from them.  Today I planted another 5 flats of seedlings and we'll see how they do.   True, things do grow slower this time of year, but they do still grow!  I say hopefully next year I'll have time to get everything in earlier :-)

Okay, now scroll back up to the first pictures.  The kittens follow me into the high tunnels and catch and eat grasshoppers!  I don't know how to reward a cat, but I make a big deal when they catch one.

(2nd pic) Hattie the Catahoula dug in that bed for hours--then she came up with a mouse!  I was so proud--that's one I won't have to deal with :-)  Notice one of the Happy Hens had made her way up to the bed.....see next pic....

The chickens were in their pen and I was in the back garden spreading leaves.  This garden is really close to their pen, and they were following me up and down the fence.  I got to thinking--hmmm what is there to keep them in the pen?  Just a fence--no gardens to scratch up and destroy, so I let them loose.  They had a ball!  I think I'll let them out again tomorrow...it's supposed to be pretty here again (yay).

Until next time.....

 
 

Open Farm Day at Wild Things

The weather couldn't have been better for today's Open Farm.  Although I've hosted several Open Farm days for the CSA members, this one was for both members and customers of the "Organical Veggie List".  Visitors got to pet Hattie and Lucy (the dogs), love on Smoky and Bandit (the cats) and we were mildly entertained by the Happy Hens.

Unfortunately my camera is still laying on the counter in the kitchen, untouched during the days' festivities.   Just imagine the fresh greens in the high tunnels, gorgeous blue skies, Christmas lights in the house......there, you can see it.

Several tie-dye shirts found new homes, I have a feeling that many tubes of soothing lip balm are going to be in stockings this year, as will the awesome handmade soap bars that flew out the door!

The real reason for this communication is to pass along recipes for some of the snacks that folks asked for.  The spinach balls were a big hit and they would be well served in a bun warmer to keep them warm while on the table.  This recipe is from a cookbook from a Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs cookbook, sponsored by Historic Racheff House and Gardens.  I got suckered....uh....persuaded to buy the book when I was Pres of the Fairfield Glade Garden Club.  It's actually a pretty good book.  Here's the recipe:

Spinach Balls

2 (10 oz) pkgs frozen spinach
2 medium onions (1 cup finely chopped)
2-2-1/2 cups stuffing mix
6 medium eggs (I used Fresh Eggs from the Happy Hens)
3/4 cup melted margarine (I used butter)
1-1/2 tsp thyme
1-1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder or 1 large garlic clove, crushed

Cook spinach and drain well.  Use paper towels to help dry spinach.  (I pressed it into a sieve to get all the liquid out.)  Combine all ingredients and mix well--I used my mixer.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight.  Form into about 1 inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake in 350 degree oven for app 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  After baking, balls may be frozen and reheated in oven at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes.

The next favorite recipe was from the same cookbook and this one came from Moira Kay, WBIR TV co-anchor.

Sweet Vidalia Onion Cheese Dip

2 lg Vidalia or sweet onions, chopped (I used sweet onions)
1 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (I used regular)
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1-1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Grease baking dish.  Preheat oven to 375.  Mix onions, mayonnaise, cheese and Worcestershire sauce.  Turn into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.  Serve warm with crackers or chips (I used tortilla chips).  I kept the dish on the stove eye on low while everyone dipped and munched, but my stove is very handy to the traffic pattern in the kitchen.  A hot plate would work well also, but it needs to be served hot.

Lastly, is the homemade pimento cheese.  I had clipped this recipe from a Southern Living magazine several years ago.  It's called:

Our Favorite Pimento Cheese

Make the mayo mixture:  In a large bowl stir together 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise, 1 (4 oz) jar pimentos, well drained, 1 tsp worcestershire sauce, 1tsp finely grated onion, and 1/4 tsp ground red pepper.    Mix well.

Toast the pecans (I used walnuts):  Toasting brings out the rich flavor of the nuts.  Preheat oven to 350.  Bake 1 cup nuts in a single layer in a shallow pan for 8-10 minutes or until tasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Shred the cheese:  Using the small side of a box grater, grate 8 ounces of extra sharp cheddar.  Then use the large side of the grater to grate an 8 ounce block of sharp cheddar.  (I cheated and used packaged shredded, but "they" say that fresh shredded really makes a difference.  I'll try that next time.)

Stir together and enjoy.  It may be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.

No one asked for the recipe for the M&M's or Nutter-Butters, but then I don't think anyone tried them either :-)  That's all for now--I'm going to put my feet up for a while!

 
 

Preparing for Winter

The weather prognosticators are calling for really cold weather tomorrow night--first really "hard freeze" of the year, although my thermometer read 24 degrees last night.  So that means removing the irrigation pump from the pond and subsequently draining the lines that feed all the different garden areas and the drip irrigation spiderweb that is in place in the gardens.  Done!

Next is to install all the wire hoops over the beds in the high tunnels to protect the winter crops inside the high tunnels.   The second layer of protection inside the tunnels really makes a difference..

rowcoversinhightunnel11.13This is a shot inside the larger high tunnel which is 20x96.  This tunnel has lettuce, kale, braising mix, spinach, broccoli raab, endive, mustard, radiccio, and a few other greens. The newer tunnel is 12x80 and is protecting spinach, swiss chard, arugula and broccoli raab.  Oh, and both tunnels have a row of strawberries on each of the outer walls.  Strawberries outside in this area (on this farm, anyway) are "iffy" during late frosts and freezes in the spring so I'm trying them inside each tunnel.  So far I've been able to eat strawberries with my yogurt about 3 days a week.  We'll see how they do on a production scale next spring.

On Saturday I opened the bee hive and on top of the frames of the top box I placed 2 layers of newspaper, cut a hole in the middle, then poured about 3-1/2 pounds of white sugar on the paper.  The sugar was then spritzed with water to "crust" over.  Several of my beekeeping buddies have said they are going to put a solid bottom board in over the winter because they are thinking that we will have a colder-than-normal winter--so, I decided to do the same.  I cut a piece of 1/4" insulation and covered the bottom board just after I put the sugar on, then I went about my chores.

It was a beautiful Saturday, low 60's and sunshine.  About 30 minutes after tending to the bees I noticed A LOT of bees around the entrance and a few of them on the front starting to "beard"--okay, maybe it was too warm to install the bottom board on Saturday.  I moved it back about halfway and a few minutes later all was back to normal.  It's okay to deal with one or a few hives in this manner but you sure couldn't do this with more than a few!  I've got a lot to learn about beekeeping :-)

Wintertime around here also means doing indoor things and that includes soap making.  I LOVE patchouli scent and bought a couple of patchouli plants this past summer.  They are in pots in the house and doing well.  I've been collecting leaves from them to make an oil infusion and finally gathered enough to actually get it done.  I used sunflower oil as the base oil (it's cheap and effective for this purpose).  I stuffed a pint jar full of dried patchouli leaves then filled it with sunflower oil.  Heat a pan of water to boiling, remove from the heat and set the jar of oil and leaves into the pot of water and let it cool.  Put a lid on the mixture and shake it up every time you walk by it for a few months.

patchoulioil

 

This is my first time doing this, so I'll report back as the experiment progresses.

Another project on the farm is that the chimney for the woodstove is in progress--YAY!  Hopefully it will be ready to use by Christmas--I'm excited!

chimneyinprogressweb

 

I plan on stuccoing the block since it's on the back of the house and not visible unless you walk all the way around to the back of the house.  Building the scaffold is just about as tedious as the block work.

Another winter project around here is winterizing the gardens.  The front bluff garden was in pretty good shape but there were 3 beds of overgrown lettuce, pepper plants, and a few ugly cabbages in addition to a few weeds.

I moved the electric poultry fence around this garden since it's adjacent to the chicken pen anyway.  The girls went nuts!

chickenpeninfrontbluff

 

Now that they've gotten that garden cleared out they'll be moved to the pond garden next--I appreciate all the help I can get :-)

 

 
 

Winemaking and Rainbows

This is about Week 6 of my winemaking adventure.  So far I've got Pear Wine, the first batch started, Blackberry, Strawberry, Raspberry Jam, and today a batch of Muscadine was mixed in the fermenting crock.  Everything seems to be going okay so far.......(the taste test will tell in the end).

winemaking110213web

 

The big carboy is the pear wine and the others are in gallon jugs.  Sometimes there is too much "must" to fit into a gallon jug so that's where the smaller bottles with balloons on them come into use.

I picked up a quart of pure Muscadine juice at the grocery store the other day so I've got that brewing in the fermenting crock in the pantry where the freezer keeps the temp just a little warmer than the house if I leave the door closed.

Now for the rainbow.....this fall has been great weather-wise; mild temps, bright sunshiny days....but the leaves just sort of turned color really quick then fell off.  A cold front moved through today which caused things like some wind, lots of clouds blowing around, and bright sunshine and rain at the same time, in the late afternoon.  You know, the perfect setup for a rainbow

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I didn't notice while I was taking the picture, but it almost looks like there are two rainbows there, doesn't it?

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A little more protein than I bargained for

Yesterday morning, instead of the usual yogurt, fruit, and granola, I opted for a fresh pear that I picked from a friend of a friend of a friend....well, somebody's tree, and a piece of Friendship Bread with cream cheese on top--a little indulgence to break the routine.  Okay, I was out of granola.

I lightly toasted the bread, shmeared (yes, that's "sh"meared) the cream cheese, cut up the pear and sat down to enjoy a light breakfast.  I finished the bread first, and got to the last slice of pear....took a bite.....and there was a worm pulling itself back into the center of the slice.......

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See it there in the lower right hand part of the plate--I put an arrow next to it (I think it's an arrow, anyway).

I'm glad it was a whole worm.

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Little Miss Muffett

I know why the spider frightened Miss Muffett away....it was probably a Black Widow.

Today was one of those "piddling" days where there are some things on the to-do list but nothing really pressing (finally!)  I had gone to the big high tunnel to remove unneeded items for the winter season and store them where they are supposed to be stored--flower pots, a stray gourd, a sprayer, and a sprayer box with attachments inside.  The box had been flattened during its abuse this summer, being tossed around out of the way of summer harvesting.

I took all the "stuff" to the shop to sort out and properly store.  I opened the sprayer box and noticed that the owner's manual brochure, warranty card, and plastic bag with spray tips were all glued inside the box with spider webs, including about 2 dozen acorns and some leaves.  I swiped it all out with my hand (bare, no less) and cleaned off the book and other items and put them away.  I had thrown the box down in the floor of the seed starting greenhouse and when I walked back out there, this is what I saw:

blackwidowwebsize

The spider is just to the right of the peanut butter lid.  I know it doesn't look like much here, but in real life it weighed 2 pounds!  Well, it WAS about 1-1/4" from tip-to-tip.  I was REALLY, REALLY close...can't you tell?

And I was lucky she didn't bite me while I was sweeping her house clean with my hand!

P.S.  The peanut butter jar lid is what I used to trap her while I ran to get the camera.

P.S. again.....she's a lot smaller now.

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The last of the fresh tomatoes

Although I'm always ready for the intense labor of the gardening season to subside, I'm never ready for fresh tomatoes to end.  Yesterday I made a scrambled egg/pepper jack cheese sandwich with 2 slices of a very ripe, juicy, Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato.  There was a bit of it left, just begging to go.......

cherokeepurplewebsizeOh my!  I call that an "oralgasm"!

 

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A Tale of two Kitties

This past year has been a banner year for the rodent population.  Both in the small seed-starting (aka "flower house";) and around the Empire of the Happy Hens.  I corralled one into Hattie's pathway the other day and I give her credit for the "kill".....but I'm not always around to find them for her :-)

hattieandfreshkillwebSo, I put the word out that I was looking for a couple of cats, actually kittens, to help keep the rodents under control.  I know, I know, domestic cats are going to take over the world, but I'll let them start their war here on the farm.  My boyfriend came by one afternoon and asked me if I had seen that little kitten up at the mailbox.  I told him no, and as soon as he left I went up there and looked around--nothing.  My neighbor did pull up while I was walking around up at the road so I went over to visit with him for a little while since it had been a long time since we chatted.

I told him I was looking for a kitten and he said he'd bring it to me if he saw it later.  About 30 minutes after I got home he came carrying up two tiny kittens--one a smoky grey and the other one the proverbial black and grey striped cat, both females.

smokeyinhoneysucklewebbanditonhandrailwebWell, they played and pooped around (mostly on the porch uggh!) for about three weeks and one day I was backing my car out and, well, Smoky is gone.  Bandit was lonely.  I went to the flea market the next Saturday and one of the first things I saw was a cage with two gorgeous grey "Smoky" colored kittens with a sign that said "Free Kittens".  They were friendly, so I took one of them home.

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First greetings with everyone didn't go so smoothly.  I decided to call her Smoky because Smoky and Bandit go together and she is the perfect color.  Anyway, when I put her down on the porch, Bandit and Smoky both said "Hhhhhhhhhi" to each other, in a gutteral sort of way, and Smoky hid under a pile of rhododendron on the back porch for about 2 weeks.  I had just gotten Bandit to go poop in the yard, and here we go again.  Smokey started pooping in the sawdust pile underneath the table saw in my makeshift wood working area on the back porch.  She has since started going out in the yard.

Ever so slowly she began to come out for longer periods of time.....until this morning I saw this out the front door.....

nursingkittieswebsizeOMG (that's oh my gosh)!  Lucy is letting BOTH kittens nurse--she's not had puppies in years!

Well, I guess the kitties are welcome in doggie world.

 

 

 

 
 

Okra and Grits

Okay, what comes to mind when you hear the words "okra" and "grits".  Why, the South, of course!  Many of the Wild Things Farm CSA members are transplanted Northerners, so on the "Veggie Rating List" each season, okra is one of the most noted veggies on the "Do Not Want" list.  One year a lady told me she didn't even want okra to touch her box!  Hmmmmmm.  Maybe it is an acquired taste, but I LOVE okra.

It's very pretty too, a member of the hibiscus family:

okra

 

I really don't mind if some folks don't like it.  That means more for me :-)

Grits--that's another probably acquired taste, but I love grits as well.  A "health blog" (shall remain nameless) the other day mentioned 10 foods that you should never eat; grits was on the list.  Needless to say there were several negative comments regarding the author's choice of foods.  Some of them like refined sugar, were valid, but some were kind of "eh", not that unhealthy in the amounts a normal person would consume.

Anyway, my ramblings bring me to the subject of polenta.  I only heard of polenta about 9 years ago on a camping trip to Ossabaw Island (NC).  One of the campers had brought polenta in a plastic tube that you just slice off and fry up in the pan.  Hmmmm, cold grits in a tube.  How interesting.

Then I started looking in the stores.  Seems like polenta was a trendy sort of food.  I found a recipe and made my own--it is very good, and sort of like pasta or rice, a good neutral base for all sorts of yummy toppings.  I even did a blog about polenta several years ago.  http://www.wildthingscsafarm.com/blog/2010/01/22/playing-with-polenta

A few days ago I was discussing food trends with my mom and dad, and my dad, who turned 80 this year, said his mother used to make polenta when he was a kid--huh?  I asked him what she put on top and he said whatever was in the fridge that needed to be eaten.

There really is nothing new under the sun, now is there?

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Open Farm day at Wild Things

I tried to capture the essence of the day in photos, but of course parts of it are blank :-)

Started out finishing up four CSA boxes for pickup today and the lettuce is still doing great

lettuceaugust2013

 

Some of the varieties are starting to bolt and taste bitter, but there is a new bed of seeds germinating, a bed of transplants, and several flats of plants ready to transplant in a couple of weeks, so we should be good on lettuce for a while longer.  One of the advantages of living "in a holler" is that it's cooler here so crops like lettuce, kale, and chard will continue to grow during the summer (most of the time).

Today was Open Farm day for the CSA members.  Several families were off on vacation and the threat for rain was REAL, like it thundered all around most of the time we were outside, but the rain held off.  One of the members and I set up a croquet court thinking maybe someone might play, but it was just too hot and humid to play.  BTW I found the croquet set at a yard sale for $3.00.  It was missing the red ball, which has been replaced, and today we discovered that one of the stakes and 2 wickets are missing--oh well, those are easily substituted.

Back to the farm.....we had good eats.  I love it when you say "pot luck" with no rules--well, the only rule I had was it had to be finger food and we cheated a little by scooping the beet and pea salad with chips, but all the food was great and the CSA members got to meet and visit with each other AND see where their food comes from.

inorchardWe worked our way from the house, through the orchard, down to the high tunnel

gregireneritajoelois

 

where I explained how the peppers are doing really well and the tomatoes are doing really crappy--well, tomatoes are doing crappy everywhere from what I here.  The awesome organic salad tomatoes are starting to make a showing though.....

The chickens showed everyone how much they love their new "chunnel" for "chunnelling" back and forth between their portable yard and their happy hen empire

chickensinchunnel

and one of the members was explaining about how large the rose hips are on the rosa rugosa shrubs in the new border along the walkway to the chicken area.

Future plans are for an arbor to support the kiwi vines I purchased very very early in the spring.  I read somewhere that it is best to leave them in the pots the first year until they become established.  They were purchased from one of those catalogs where you can buy 10 plants and get 10 more for a penny or something like that.  Four female and one male plants made it to my place and are doing great in their gallon pots.  It will be in the area between the two beds in the photo below.....

rosehips

 

I also explained to the group how I'm slowing killing all the lawn area in the yard by mulching with newspapers, cardboard, compost, rotating the chickens through an area for a time, and using bagged leaves from the enormous leaf pile.  I have sprayed a few really weedy areas prior to mulching, but I'd rather experiment more with sheet mulching and leave the spray for the fence rows.  So far I've planted rugosa roses, raspberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and Echium vulgare (bee plant) in these newly created beds.  Everything is doing really well, so I'm slowly expanding "the kill zone". 

One thing that we did collectively do was everyone brought a coffee cup or plastic drink cup to use  today and then leave them at the farm.  I'm going to keep the cups in a "party box" to use instead of throwaway cups.  We'll get to the plates next . 

All in all it was a great day.  As you can see, the dogs Hattie and Lucy are in most of the photos, and the newly rescued kitty cats "Smokey" and "Bandit" got their share of attention as well!

michelleandpattyandkitty

It's fun to share this little corner of the world with folks that appreciate knowing where their food comes from!  And thanks, Kim for being the photographer :-)

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