Sunday, September 30, 2012

a day on the water

Yesterday was a fine, fine day here in the driftless region, and that good weather was hugging Chicago as well. A great late season opportunity to enjoy the out of doors.

Seizing the day off, my son Phil and his good buddy Jeff went out to fish Lake Michigan and then the Chicago River.

(If you ever visit Chicago, take the architectural tour by boat. I've done it a few times with school groups and once as a guest on a charter outing. Fabulous. But I look forward to the day when I can go with my son, Phillip.)

It was a good fishing day, but late morning, back on the lake, they "caught" something they hadn't expected. A passing jogger had noticed a man floundering in the water and shouted for help. Phil and Jeff responded and were able to bring the man to shore.
Fully dressed, even wearing a down parka, unable to swim and already swallowing water, the man was so disoriented he didn't seem to know his own name. Once safely on shore, medical help and harbor police arrived quickly. 
You hear many many stories about the ugliness of Chicago. I like to think there are many more beautiful stories you don't hear involving good folk going about their days with caring hearts.
God bless all involved in yesterday's rescue. I'm proud of you, Phil.

Friday, September 28, 2012

"The days dwindle down to a precious few... September."

I can not keep up with the velocity of life right now. The days are full and spectacularly beautiful.

The sunlight feels like autumn. The air has a most particular fragrance. And there is a hint of melancholy to the days.

It's good to walk the property at least once each day. There are noticeable changes occurring between sunrise and sunset that need to be noted, for they are fleeting.
Whatever else is on your agenda this weekend, get outside and breathe.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

summer slips away

Tomorrow is the last full day of summer but autumn has been whispering over the landscape for a while now and every living thing around me has been listening.
The liquid feeder has been busy all summer but the past few days it's been emptying very quickly. I refilled it Monday morning. Within moments it was rarely unoccupied throughout the day. That was to be the last I'd see of the hummers this season. Safe flight wee ones. Thank you for your company.

Dovey has been beside herself watching the frenetic activities of a chubby red squirrel just beyond her windows. I've found the hulls of chestnut in every corner of the garden and though the ground beneath the tree is littered with hulls, almost every one is empty. I had to search to find these.

Arranged thus they remind me of chocolates and a cream puff. My sister actually brought some home last autumn and her Italian husband tried roasting them. Foul smelling and bitter. But the squirrel thinks they're just the thing. I imagine there will be many chestnut seedlings in strange places come spring.
The road outside our picket fence runs roughly east and west and we use it to measure just how far the sun's course shifts through the seasons. Recently I took this photo of the sun setting,  just to the north of our street.

This evening I took this second one. I didn't use as much zoom, but you can still identify the silo to the right of the road. Tonight's sun was also a bit obscured by the clouds,  but it left a lovely glowing trail on the pavement. Saturday is the equinox and after that Earth's sun will stay south of our road for 6 months.  Shorter days, longer nights. Our first frost is expected Saturday night, and though we're expected to have days in the 70s after that, somehow the first frost changes everything.
I'll be gathering tomatoes tomorrow, as many as I can find before that frost. I expect that squirrel will be busy gathering as well.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

a 4 egg day

When I got our 5 hens and one rooster back in April from their winter vacation headquarters at our Amish friends' farm, Minerva, our Black Austrolorp was "broody" and looked as if she had already been half plucked. Poor Lovina was beside herself with apologies for her condition. In fact, all of our hens had been "hen pecked" while away. (It's to be expected when strange birds are introduced to an established flock.)
I had read that the hens need extra protein in order to regrow feathers while they are laying. I found several suggestions for foods to add to their organic layer feed. Freeze dried mealworms are their absolute favorite. But all summer they've been eating out of the garden too. Kale, split tomatoes, corn cobs after we've eaten our portion, squash and cucumbers that hid and got too large and overripe for us to eat. And now apples, apples, apples. Watermelon rind is a favorite, too.
Back to the broodiness factor. Poor Minerva had been sitting on a nest of eggs at the Amish chicken house but only one of the young sons knew it and the word didn't get passed along to Lovina and then to me until too late. Following an ancient urge, Minerva would sit in the nest box here, on anyone else's egg or no egg at all with her chicken hopes high.
Minerva then
Then after several weeks of this, Rosie became broody as well. While chickens are sitting on the nest they do not lay eggs. So I had two out of 5 hens nonlaying. And then of course we lost Amelia.
Minerva finally gave up the nest box and now has an insatiable appetite. Not too many days ago I found the darker brown egg in the nest box and knew she was back into production. And wouldn't you know, her feathers are beautifully grown in once more. A bit of R & R and unavailable to the rooster's attentions had worked magic.

Poor Rosie, our Buff Orpington, the proverbial mother hen, had been sitting on her empty nest for weeks and has lost weight and feathers in the process. Just about a week ago she began being out of the chicken house for full days once again. And today for the first time since I brought the chickens back home all the hens layed eggs on the same day.
This won't happen often, as they are molting now and feathers are all over the chicken house and yard.  While molting egg production drops a bit.

The egg which looks white in this photo is actually light green blue. It is the biggest egg from our smallest hen, Ladyhawk. She is the only hen who does not like to be picked up and won't even let me get close, with or without the camera!

 So far Phoebie, the Barred Rock, has been the best layer.

But even a no egg day is ok.  Their cacophony, hilarity, and friendly dispositions are pure joy.

And though our rooster, still called big boy, mr polish, and assorted silly names, is aggressive in his ministrations to the hens, he has learned that I am not a threat and though he is always on guard so I don't take one of the girls away, often presenting himself between one of them and me in the yard, he has not attacked me in a long while now. In April when they first came home, I was tempted to give him back to the Amish family to do whatever. But all has settled down. He is a marvelous watchdog for the flock and I guess if they can tolerate him, he has a place here on the ridge meadow farm.

Friday, September 14, 2012

from seed to sauce

In early spring, 10 varieties of tomatoes were started under the grow lights in the basement.

After being potted up and hardened off in the mini greenhouses on the sunny back porch, they were transplanted into the vegetable bed. Only one year before that bed was part of the meadow! With the additions of horse manure, chicken bedding, and shredded leaves and grass, the soil this year was ready. And those little plants grew,

and grew,
and grew!

This morning, with the cheerful chattering of the chickens foraging nearby, I harvested the fourth load of ripe fruits, some of each variety.

From the barrow to the kitchen sink.

 Then onto the stove to break them down

 so they can go into the hand operated sieve where the skins and seeds are removed.

Then back into the pot so the sauce can slowly thicken by cooking off the excess water. This can take a while.....
depending on how thick you'd like the final product to be.
Meanwhile you wash and scald/sterilize the canning jars and lids and get the water bath boiling.
Ladling the sauce into hot jars with just a spoon of lemon juice is satisfying indeed.

Process pints 35 minutes. Then cool on rack.

And finally the transformation of that barrowful of tomatoes is complete.
The chickens have long since gone to bed, the sun set a while ago, and I just heard the last satisfying sound of "ping" as the 8th jar sealed itself.
Dovey just couldn't understand why I've spent so much time in the kitchen on this perfect weather day. She finally sought the company of her stuffed pals since she wasn't getting much from me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

full week

I see it's been a week since my last post. It's been a full week, some good, some bad.
On the debit side:
I've had an accident in my car with deer on the road.
My washing machine has refused to spin out while full of towels. 
Most sadly this Sunday we lost our dear Uncle Dan. He was Jerome's mother's youngest brother and owned a home on Ice Lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Iron River. When our children were 3 and 1 we spent a week in one of their cabins and began a 30 year annual visitation with him and his wife, Gladys. So many wonderful memories. You might say, driving through Wisconsin every summer for 30 years left an indelible mark on my soul. An interesting couple, examples of how life can be lived. We'll all miss him.
On the plus side:
I've been to dinner and a movie (Hope Springs) with my dear friend Robin.
Been to a fiber arts guild meeting at Ewetopia.
Spent a full day at Quilt Expo in Madison. An amazing day.
Canned pint after pint of applesauce and tomato sauce.
Seen the return of Mr. Pheasant, seen a few rainbows, and just this dawn the waning moon and Venus arm in arm in the rosy dawn.
I do daily check up on each of the blogs I have linked on this page. I don't often comment but I am sustained by what each of you is up to and thank you for the grace I receive reading your postings. I am pulled up out of the dark well of lethargy by your creativity and enthusiasm.
There are bad days, and bad moments but they are gotten through by looking through the windows of your worlds.
Yesterday, as I'm sure many of you did also, I vividly recalled just where I was and what I was doing when the first reports of the twin towers reached my world. Somehow life has never been quite the same for any of us. Each day is precious and non-returnable. Something worth thinking about.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

full days

I've been away from my blog for several days because Jerome has been here and I don't like to  spend much time on the computer while he's here. Yesterday afternoon I bid goodbye to him once again after 4 and a half marvelously full days that included a surprise visit from our son. More about that later.
There are so many great places to explore within a day's drive from here, but we just haven't let ourselves play. Our TO DO list is always too long. This visit, though, we did try a restaurant in Gays Mills for breakfast on Sunday morning. This restaurant, The Red Apple Inn, had been mentioned to me at the last fiber arts guild meeting. I had been asking for recommendations of restaurants for breakfast and Heidi said there was one under new management that she thought was worth a visit. It was a lovely morning for a drive. The food was good and we were glad we took the time to go, about 40 minutes from home through Viroqua, Readstown, and Soldiers Grove on the way.
Gays Mills is a tiny town of about 750. It lies in a valley prone to flooding. The downtown is just two blocks long. A couple years back the town was so badly under water that they voted to move most of the town up the slope to higher ground. Some businesses remain along the old main street, including this delightful greenhouse.

Isn't this just about the sweetest garden shop you can imagine??? Of course being a Sunday it was closed. But on the 15th of September my sister Terri and I will be going to the Driftless Area Art Festival in Soldiers Grove, about 6 miles from Gays Mills. Though she'll be leaving that afternoon, I'm going to push her to stop at The Village Greenhouse in Gays MIlls while we're out that way.