Wednesday, April 30, 2008

More Flowers

One of my favorite spring flowers are maple flowers. There's a huge old maple tree in the yard that is probably about as old as the house (ca 100 years) and right now it is in full bloom. Years ago I embroidered maple flowers on the yoke of a nightgown I made for one of my daughters. When the night gown wore out she cut off the yoke and saved it. I think she still has it.

I finally got all the flowers knitted to decorate a dozen of my felted hats. I've been working on these for several days. They are a lot of fun to make. Today I ran them through the washing machine and by tomorrow will have the hats finished and labeled. As I will be setting up my first crafts booth of the year at the farmers market this coming Saturday I have been hustling to get everything ready. I always forget how long it takes to just get the labels on everything.

Joel got the tomato plants planted in the hoophouse and more onion plants out in the garden. The weather has warmed up a bit so her got a lot more garden beds rototilled. Tomorrow I hope to get some more flowers set out. I have stocks, godetias, and amaranths busting out of their soil blocks and needing to get in the ground.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Blooming plants inside and out

We have this Christmas cactus on the windosill over the sink. it blooms beautifuuly when it is suppossed to, between Thanksgiving and Christmas but then the silly thing keeps putting out a few buds every few weeks after that. this last bunch of flowers came out just a few days ago.
Outside the Asian pears are beginning to bloom. This is an especially pretty little tree with yellow green leaves bordered in a reddish color with the pretty white blossoms. Our oldest daughter has been giving us trees for our birthdays the last several years. Both of our birthdays are in the two weeks after Christmas so no one is particularly interested in parties, etc. We love getting the trees. She's sent us several apples, four hazelnuts, several Asian pears and a peach, a pluot (a cross between an apricot and a plum) and two tea bushes over the years.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Almost First Farmers Market of the Season

I meant to take pictures of the first weekly market of the year last weekend. I even had the camera with me. but I was just too cold to even think of doing it. Besides I just would have had snowflakes and rain on the lens anyway.

So, I took pictures of the second weekly market of the 2008 season. The weather was lovely, sunny and warm, at least if you stood in the sun. And no snow in sight anywhere.
We had lots of good stuff especially the overwintered brassicas such as the purple sprouting broccoli and overwintered cauliflower above. The purple sprouting broccoli is a popular vegetable in Britain but not often seen here except at farmers markets where the farmer grows specialty crops and things you never seen anywhere else. The overwintered cauliflower is a special treat as it tastes much, much better than summer cauliflower. They are just different varieities that grow over the winter and make heads in the spring. But all the brassicas are happier and taste better in cooler temperatures.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More rugs, and more farm work

I got started today on what will probably be the last rag rug warp until next fall. Once the market starts up on a weekly basis I don't have a lot of time for fiber arts. Not that I don't have a bunch of ideas for other rugs in other color combinations. But they will have to wait until fall.

Today we planted the second bed of onion sets, the first bed of sunflowers, more radishes and the first bed of beets. Joel also planted out a bunch of brassica seedlings and tilled up more ground. Our garden area is pretty wet in the winter and dries out slowly, first the slightly higher areas and last the lowest ones. So we don't till the whole thing at any point. We work up whatever beds are dry enough and plant in them and then go on bit by bit until it is all planted, usually not until June.

The apple trees are just starting to show a bit of color. If we get a bit of warmer weather they'll be in full bloom very soon. I've been wondering if we will get any plums this year. The egg plum has been in full bloom since last week's snow but it has been awfully cold for any pollinators to be out and I haven't seen more than two or three bee type critters in it. We don't have many honey bees here so we have always depended on native pollinators for our fruits and vegetables. They do a good job. Over the years several people have brought bee hives here but it is a small island and we don't have a lot of big areas of flowers so it is hard for the bees to make much of a honey crop.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Naked Sheep

Joel started shearing our 8 adult sheep today. He got four of them finished and we'll have some really nice wool to make rugs out of. He uses hand shears to do the job and doesn't try to do the whole flock in one sitting.
The lambs are so funny when you shear their moms. They run around and bleat looking totally lost as their once very wooly mother comes out of the barn a mere shadow of her former self. She just bleats in annoyance and would, I know, roll her eyes, if sheep could roll their eyes, at her offspring. "I'm right here, chill." Eventually the lamb discovers that all of mom's essential parts are right where they've always been and the family goes off together.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Living with wildlife (and chickens)

I woke up this morning hearing a ruckus from the chickens. I looked out the window and saw the rooster, out of his pen, running for the bushes near the house. I got dressed and went out to see what was up and startled a mature bald eagle who had just killed one of my Barred Rock hens. The chickens are kept in small pens called chicken tractors that are moved around the garden where they can eat bugs and scratch up weeds. The wire at the end of this pen was loose. It looked like the chickens had tried to escape the eagle by forcing their way out of the pen. Last spring I chased an eagle away twice who was chasing my chickens, probably the same one. Once it actually grabbed one and tried to take off with it. But a full grown Buff Orpington, like the ones in the picture, is too heavy for an eagle to get off the ground with, so as soon as it saw me it dropped the chicken, who ran for cover and survived the experience. I rarely let the chickens loose to run around just for that reason. In the evening when we are around I will often let them out for a couple of hours. Once chickens are used to sleeping in their pen they'll go back there when it gets dark and I can shut them up again.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

April snow

Well, today was the first Farmers Market of the season and this was the beginning of our 22nd year at the market. And it was the most miserable day we have ever spent there. There was blowing rain and sleet and snow. It was COLD. My fingers gave up early on after handling wet vegetables and only the coffee guy's product kept them functional at all. Well, the vegetables didn't wilt, there is that. And there were our wonderful, wonderful customers who came out in the awful weather and bought our broccoli and rhubarb and greens. Thank you so very, very much to each and every one of you. People kept saying they were surprised we were there, but the snow didn't start until we were about three quarters of the way through harvesting yesterday. That's a picture of a flowering plum tree in the snow storm about 3:00 Friday afternoon. At that point with all those vegetables in boxes we either have to try and sell it or compost it. And we didn't really believe that it could be that cold in the middle of April. Oh, well, no where to go but up. In the middle of August when it's in the 80's and the vegetables are wilting we'll remember this day, with fondness???

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I've been watching this pair of flickers peck a hole in the top of this dead white fir tree. This morning I heard them working at it and set up the camera on my tripod and got a picture of one of them in front of the hole. Well, this afternoon we heard more pecking and went to check only to find a Red-breasted Nuthatch in the hole throwing pieces of wood out of it and obviously settling in. I'll keep an eye on the situation and see who ends up nesting in it.

First Rhubarb

The first rhubarb is ready. Our rhubarb is all descended from plants Joel found here when he came to the farm in the late 70's. The place had been abandoned for about 40 years, or since the end of the Depression, when those islanders who had waited it out with no money but plenty to eat, went into town for jobs that the beginning of WWII created. But the rhubarb had persisted. I've been eyeing it for more than a week, wanting to make a rhubarb crisp (remember, Joel does pies, I do crisps) but not wanting to rob the cradle, so to speak. But today I decided it was finally big enough to harvest.
I brought in about 2 pounds and made a crisp. Here's my recipe:

Cut approx. 2# of rhubarb into a 7" x 11" baking pan (a bigger pan would just make a flatter crisp)
Add 1/2 cup sugar (I use evaporated cane juice) and 1/2 cup flour to pan and shake around to coat rhubarb.

For topping:

Melt 1/2 (1 cube) butter, add l c oatmeal, 1 c flour, 1 c brown sugar. Mix lightly with a fork so that it stays crumbly. Cover the rhubarb with this mixture and cook until done. Since I cook on a wood stove and the heat is rarely ever the same I can't say how long in a regular regulated oven. This took a little less than an hour to cook. It's done when the rhubarb is soft.

Add ice cream or whipped cream if you have it. We'll take whatever is left with us to town tomorrow and buy ice cream to have with it.

For those of you on San Juan Island, we will have rhubarb at the market Saturday, which is the first regular weekly market of the season. We'll be back at the courthouse parking lot. Come early if you want rhubarb as we won't have a lot this first time. There'll also be lots of spring greens, purple broccoli, and spring cauliflower.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Finished Rugs

I finished the batch of rag rugs that I've been working on today. I'm running out of time for serious weaving as the garden is going to demand most of my time very, very soon now. If it ever warms up. I want to get one more warp's worth of rag rugs woven before I slow down for the selling season. I've got the new warp tied to the loom and will get it threaded tomorrow. These are going to be very pretty. I should be able to get the hems finished, get them photographed and on Etsy in about a week.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Apple Pie

Joel made a pie out of the last of the Enterprise apples last night. I am amazed at how long and how well those apples have kept. We haven't done anything special, just left them out on the porch in a box. Periodically we'll go through them and remove any rotten ones, but that all. Joel is the pie maker in the family, I do crisps, he does pies, I do biscuits, he does bread - division of labor.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bird Nest Cat

Zebu is one of our older barn cats who a couple of winters ago decided that in her old age the fire in the stove looked mighty cozy and maybe those human beings weren't as scary as she'd thought before. So she has been spending much of her time sitting by the stove purring. She'll let you pet her or pick her up but doesn't really like it much. She is one of those long haired cats that leave little bits of fluff behind wherever they've been. I'm always picking up bits of Zebu fur and tossing it in the wastebasket. Well, today I saw a little chickadee picking up bits of her fur and carrying it off obviously for nest building. So now when I see a bit of white fur on the rug I'm carrying it outside and putting it where it can be found by the birds. And after checking back most of it is gone.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The First Warm Day

It was such a lovely day, the first warm day in ever so long. I sat on the back porch preparing rag strips for weaving and had to take off my sweater and put on sun screen as my face was feeling way too hot. Had to search for the sun screen as it's been so long since it was needed. I know that before long I'll be complaining that it is too hot. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest anything over 75 degrees makes me feel faint.

I thinned seedlings in the greenhouse. The picture above is a flat of aster seedlings. I hate thinning as I'm always sure I'm throwing out the prettiest ones, but long experience has taught me that if I don't give plants enough room to grow they don't do well. If you are thinning plants where all the seedlings are the same color you want to choose the strongest plant, but if you have a mixture of colors, the pastel ones can be smaller and paler so you want to be careful to leave some big ones and some small ones or you may end up with all purple.

Joel planted 120 strawberry plants that our daughter brought us from the mainland. Partly June bearing Shuksan and partly the day neutral varieties Seascape and Tristar that will fruit all summer and into the fall.

I also finally got started weaving the next batch of rag rugs. These will be my rainbow rugs with the colors in color wheel order. The warp is stripes of purple, red-purple, red, orange, yellow, yellow-green, green, blue-green, and blue.
The rag strips are the same colors. It takes quite a while to collect all the colors I need to do this pattern so I don't do it very often. I can dye some of the missing colors but this time I found every one that I needed at the thrift store over the winter.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tulips, Mosquitoes, Hummingbirds, Swallows, and

We've had company all week, my oldest daughter and her family so we haven't done much gardening and I haven't done much weaving or knitting. While they were here the weather finally began to feel springlike. The frogs in the marsh are very, very loud at night, I've seen the first hummingbirds at the flowering currant bushes as well as a white crowned sparrow at the feeder. I heard a common yellow throat this morning. And this evening we looked up and saw a huge flock of swallows, maybe 40 or 50 birds swirling around in the air over our clearning. They looked a lot like violet-green swallows but they were fast and high and could have been tree swallows which are very similar. I 'm not aware of having seen them here before but all the information I could Google about them mentioned them flying in large flocks. So that was exciting. I did see several pairs of violet-greens down at the dock on Monday and two at the farm yesterday. We usually have 3 or 4 pair nesting here. the barn swallows come later and I haven't seen any of them yet. We also saw the first mosquito last evening but we also saw a bat flying around. They are about the best mosquito eaters around.

The first tulips are in bloom, the early Greggii ones with the striped leaves. And I got a big box of bulbs, gladiolus, lilies, dahlias and onion sets. So we have our work cut out for us. A few warm days and the soil will dry out enough for some serious tilling.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lawn Daisies

I think I mentioned a while ago that our lawn is purely wild grasses that came in after we grubbed out the wild roses and blackberries. Well I planted the lawn daisies (bellis perennis). I know that millions of Americans spend millions of dollars on nasty chemicals to get rid of such things in their lawns but I glory in the fact that these have spread all over the place. They come right back after being mowed and bloom some more.

Market last Saturday was great. We came home with one bunch of napini that we ate for dinner. I also spent time in Friday Harbor last weekend setting things up for my participation in the annual San Juan Island Studio Tour. I will be a guest artist at beautiful studio of Mary McCulloch.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bookmarks and Radishes

I spent yesterday weaving bookmarks on my 8 harness loom. I have wanted to try out some great snowflake patterns I have in a weaving book and bookmarks are such a great way to try patterns. Because they are small and weave up quickly I can try all sorts of variations on the patterns. Bookmarks and mug rugs give me a nice bunch of small ticket items for my various sales venues.

Then I planted more stocks and my first cosmos and lavatera in the greenhouse. And in the afternoon Joel and I planted the first radishes. Chas, below, came out to help by walking down the rows as we planted. The days are so satisfying. This weekend is the last winter Farmers Market in Friday Harbor at the Fairgrounds. On the 19th we will start the weekly regular market back at the courthouse parking lot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Weaving and Digging

I finished a batch of mug rugs today. These are small coasters made out of the leftover bits and pieces of Joel's handspun wool for rugs. I often have a skein or two leftover in a particular shade and rather than mix them up in a rug I make these small guys. It takes an amazingly long time to make small things. More than their equivalent in a rug. There's not only the weaving, but sewing up the ends, and then putting a label on each one. I've put 6 sets of four matching ones in my Etsy store. I'm planning on taking the rest of them to the Farmers Market his coming Saturday.

And Joel has been out spading up some of our higher, dryer garden beds to get them ready for some of the seedling about to come out of the cold frames. It is often possible to get into soil that is too wet for a tiller or a tractor with a shovel. The machines would turn it to mud but the shovel doesn't, just turns it over nicely.