And just like that, July is gone without even a single post here in this space. Let's see, what have we been up to...
We have pulled off more honey and are having fun experimenting with making creamed honey (oh, my.) as well as infused honey by steeping it with a few vanilla beans. The first small test runs of both were quite successful.
The elderberries are coming in now and we are picking and drying (instead of freezing) this year. I need to strain out the elderflower tincture I started earlier in the summer.
We are expanding the veg garden quite a bit and beginning to plan the fall plantings. The herb garden is thriving with all of the regular rain we have had this year and I have been making tinctures, picking and drying for teas and salves and experimenting with infusing herbs in oils for making soap. So far I like the comfrey (in soap) the best, but I am going to try a few different herbs in the next batch. All of my soaps are unscented (I don't tolerate scents - even with essential oils - very well anymore) but I am loving the gentle caramel smell that comes from the honey soap! This is my second try at honey in soap and by far and away, my favorite. Can't wait to test it out in 4 - 6 weeks, even though I know the sweet smell will have faded.
Speaking of the herbs, I just made my annual batch of herbal salt for the kitchen. I just pick a good variety of fresh herbs (a firmly packed cup of just the leaves), add about an ounce (by weight) of peeled garlic and pulse it in the food processor until all is chopped fine. Then add a cup of nice sea salt, pulse a bit more to blend well and spread on dehydrator trays. Dry on low temps (with a bit of occasional hand stirring) until everything is completely dry (I let it go about 24 hours). Easy peasy and so very good.
It has been ages since I have actually gotten my act together enough to join Ginny in her Wednesday Yarn Along. In desperate need of a quick and easy way to relax, in the tiny bits of time I seem to have lately, I have taken up circle granny squares... and I love them. I am using this pattern and really not giving the colors much thought except to outline each one in cream. I am currently reading Perennial Vegetables and am getting many great future-garden ideas from it. Who knew there were so many interesting things to grow.
May is certainly here. The garden is taking off and even my late (for us) planted beans are twining and vining. We are eating the blackberries (which are crazy early this year) as fast as they ripen. The pears are coming along nicely, too.
The last couple of days have been quite warm and the bees are working a little harder to keep the hive cool. I have on entrance reducers because one of the hives was being robbed a couple of weeks ago. I walked out to check on them one afternoon and was surprised to see a large cloud of bees frantically trying to get in. Luckily I had ordered a couple of robbing screens when I purchased my equipment (because I am paranoid like that), and after two days, the robbers gave up.
So not only do we have 16 ducklings on our back porch, but we have added two goslings for future flock protectors. The geese are such characters! Here is a bit of video from last Friday... enjoy!
We are doing a bit of study into the fascinating world of soil life this year, especially how it is important in the practice of permaculture. I am, frankly, a complete nerd about this stuff and I could read books on the subject all day. My children, on the other hand, have a somewhat shorter attention span and so I thought a visual aid or two would help a bit with retention.
The print above illustrates the amazing symbiotic relationship that trees have with beneficial fungi, called mycorrhiza. I drew both illustrations in pen and ink and then digitally colored them using swatches of watercolor wash that I also scanned in. The tree was digitally colored with the text of a handwritten poem done by my great great grandmother. The poster below was made to give just a small idea of all that is going on below the surface of the soil. Goodness, these were fun to do. :)
It has been rainy and somewhat gloomy out lately, yet there are sure signs of the coming spring.
~ The pear trees are covered in blooms. ~ Clover carpets everywhere you look. ~ The chickens laying like they mean it. ~ Garden plans running through my head constantly. ~ Two empty hives, all sealed and set up, ready for their inhabitants to arrive next month. ~ Dozens of robins in the yard every morning. ~ Peas pushing their way past the straw mulch.
Hope you are seeing hints of spring wherever you are. :)
This morning I took my camera along for a quick garden check before I cut more of the lemon balm that needs picking before a frost knocks it back. I feel like every other post these days has something to do with the gardens, but I can't help it. I love this time of year.
This photo is from Collin's garden. the lettuce is Black Seeded Simpson, but Collin always calls it his "favorite lettuce". It does very well in our warm weather and we always plant lots of it.
(little kale plants)
After the big veggie garden, I slipped into the herb garden for the lemon balm. There is a nasty nest of wasps living in one of the cinder blocks that edge the beds and I am having a frustrating time trying to get rid of them. One stung me about a week ago, but luckily the lemon balm is on the opposite side of the garden, and they left me alone today.
I have wanted to try growing my own luffa for more than 15 years (I kid you not), and this year I finally tried it. We have been picking and cleaning them for a while now, so I thought I would share a few pictures today of our most recent harvest. We first selected the ripe ones (brown) and snipped them from the vines. The kids then snap off the blossom end and dump out the seeds into a bowl. Most of them come falling out (you can hear them rattling around in there) at this point and the rest come out when we wash them. (We only save for later planting the ones that fall out before washing.)
Then we peel them using fingers and occasionally a butter knife, but there seems to be several different ways of cleaning them out there. We may try other methods in the future, but this way is working great for us now.
Lilly had to have her own bowl of seeds to play in. They really are rather nice to run ones hand through and they sound so pretty hitting the bowl. Star, one of the kittens, is patiently supervising.
So this is our modest little haul for the day. They have not been washed and dried in the sun yet, but aren't they fun?
And there are so many more out there!
We grew Luffa aegyptica pruchased from these very helpful people. It has a very dense fiber and a long growing season of 180 days. We really like it and have saved many (many) seeds for later planting, but I have ordered some Luffa cylindrica seeds to try next year. The Luffa cylindrica has a growing season of only 130 days and a slightly different fiber texture and I really want to see what it is like. :)