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September 22, 2018 - Happy Equinox!
Time to appreciate the joys of recent summer and look forward to the coming cooler seasons - and check out old haunts that have pretty much been ignored all summer. LilliB confirms that this one works just fine.
August 27, 2018 - Magic!
Our world is full of magic and magical moments which we don't always notice, but sometimes they are so right in front of you that you can't miss them. This was one such. A few weeks ago we saw that a Monarch chrysalis had appeared on the overhead metal evestrough right over our front door. So beautiful and delicate looking. The main door swings in which was fine, but the screen door brushed the chrysalis as it opened setting the pretty green decoration gently swinging. So off came the screen door.
We didn't know how long it would take for the butterfly to emerge but chose not to 'look it up', just enjoy it. The last days we'd noticed the chrysalis darkening so knew something would be happening soon. I was concerned that there wasn't anything near by for the emerged butterfly to grab, if it indeed needed anything. Maybe not, but I put up a small branch just in case.
When I stepped outside before breakfast today I saw an oval spot of monarch wing color and pattern on the side of the chrysalis. Today was the magical day! After breakfast I carefully opened the door to find the fully emerged beautiful butterfly holding onto its thin (but strong!) empty case. Wow!! It was a cloudy and windy day. I'd often watched butterflies in the garden sitting on a plant in the sun slowly working their new wings but there was no sun today. Maybe later. But it wasn't time to work those wings yet. Thankfully it was warm.
I checked on her often during the morning as I cut up tomatoes to can. It appeared she was trying to get a better hold as the wind rocked her back and forth but the metal trough didn't give any purchase. So I carefully clamped a soft plant stem beside her. She wrapped a leg around it and settled back down. I went back inside. It was taking a long time to get the tomatoes cut up.
Finally, tomatoes done and on the stove, I headed out to the garden to pick lunch. Came back to find her on the wooden door frame, gently rocked by the wind and carefully opening and closing those new wings. Being overly concerned I saw some spider web strands nearby and carefully removed them, getting too close for comfort I'd guess. So off she flew, several small low circles then one large sweep above the house and yard, and into the nearby trees. Away from the gusty wind and away from the meddlesome woman. Wow!! doesn't quite describe it but I was so thankful to be there to watch her first flight. Maybe in celebration I'll pick up another late blooming on-sale plant somewhere. A possible little treat for our beautiful flying resident(s).
August 25, 2018 - Dory sailing rig project is done!
rowing dory now has the option of going sailing. I took my time on this
project, working through the design and then building of the various
elements of the sailing rig. I have detailed the process
here but to sum it up, I
feel that the project was a reasonable success. The first few times
sailing were as much learning to sail as testing the rig. My sailing
experience was limited to a dozen or so adventures on a wooden Sailfish
back in the late 50's and owning but infrequently sailing a Hobie 16 in
the 60's. 45 years ago!
August 18, 2018 - Wildlife Co-workers
Conversations with other gardeners tend often to veer at some point towards the 'wildlife bandits and outlaws' -- those creatures whose desire and search for a good meal (or maybe just a good time!) are often in conflict with the gardener's own desires for a good harvest. Over the years I've come to terms with all the varied wildlife we share this part of the world with, and generally enjoy them (a good fence helps!). They get some of ours, we get some of theirs, and overall it's a peaceful co-existence. But this year was a bit more of a challenge, thanks to the over-abundance (in our opinion) of voles. When the snow melted this spring we had the most amazing network of runs in the grass that I've ever seen (or ever hope to see again!). And I understood why we had a Barred Owl move in and stay around all winter. It saw it often in the garden and orchard. I thought it was because of the logging around us. But I'm pretty sure now that it was because of the great food supply.
Thankfully, most of my trees and bushes had hardware cloth barriers so my losses due to vole damage wasn't as bad as it could have been, and many things have recovered/regrown over the summer. The wild shrubs, trees, brambles - anything that could be chewed and eaten - had a great deal of 'thinning out', too. I bought more hardware cloth and set in to make sure ALL of my plantings are protected for this winter. I wasn't concerned about summer months because the voles pretty much are eating grass and such, not bark.
But then about every time I went out to the compost pile I had a vole or two run in or out of it, almost across my feet. That was just going too far. It was obvious they had set up a vole housing complex in my compost pile. So I got out some wooden mouse live traps Steve had made many years ago, and started catching voles - one almost every morning, and I'd take what became a routine walk to a far section of our property and release them. I certainly didn't mind the walk, but after several months the three traps (made for indoor use) were looking pretty rough, and I was getting tired of transporting voles (and cleaning the traps). Plus they were eating my red ripe peppers and cherry tomatoes. It was time to get serious about clearing this community out. I knew I wouldn't get all voles out of the garden/orchard area (there are plenty of fields around for new ones to move in from) but I needed to get this population down. So soon I had 6 new purchased plastic vole/mouse live traps in place, baited with the the best (well, cheapest) peanut butter. I was ready.
First morning - no voles. Second morning - no voles. Third, fourth. Well this was irritating. I supposed I could have gotten them all, though somehow I didn't think so. Maybe the didn't like the peanut butter. Maybe they didn't like the traps. Then the fifth day I was making my rounds checking the traps and there in the middle of the path, near one of the traps was a small scat. Mmmm. Could it be? I came in, looked up in our "Animal Tracks" book (which includes scat drawings), and yep, there it was -- a weasel. A weasel had moved in and cleared out the voles. This wasn't too much of a surprise - there had been weasel tracks this past winter by the compost pile (along with owl wing prints). It had simply come back for some more good eating. I hope it sticks around this winter.
I picked up my new traps and put them away. The weasel is much better at vole control than I am.
August 2, 2018 - Abundance!
Life is so wonderfully full, especially in the summer! There is so much going on to share with you and so little time to do the sharing. I know we'll catch up come winter and I expect your lives are equally full so just a few photos and words to let you know we're still here and enjoying the abundance of summer. Food certainly, and the garden is feeding us very well! But there is so much more.
Populations rise and fall naturally with the years and usually adjust themselves without any attention from us but we do tend to mostly notice the extremes of the peaks and valleys. Here on the homestead this past year has been a record high for voles (and I'm sincerely hoping they are on the downswing now -- at least in the garden and orchard. But I'm sure there are those who are happy with the abundance, such as the resident Barred owl, weasel, coyotes, fox, and our own LilliB.) Equally noticeable has been the unusually low population of flying insects, which means a low population of birds who depend on those insects for food. We miss having so many birds -- but we haven't missed AT ALL the usual abundance of black flys and mosquitoes. We do have birds, just not as many. Some, like the trees swallows, simply came, checked things out, and went elsewhere where the food was more plentiful (I'm guessing), though they stayed around long enough to harass the bluebirds for awhile. Some just didn't show up, like the sparrows and juncoes. Others it seems we have just one family instead of several families - robins, bluebirds, hummingbirds, gold finches, wrens, chickadees, indigo buntings, catbirds, cedar waxwings, and the hard working friendly co-gardeners Chipping Sparrows. And others. Life wouldn't be much without the birds. I don't even mind sharing some fruit with them (well, within reason!) (my reason, of course, not theirs).
But the other big absence has been pollinators -- the many kinds of bees, wasps, hornets, others. And butterflies, too. Since their numbers are so down it's a special joy to see them busily supping at the variety of flowers this time of year. I'm happy that what I'm growing in the garden and orchard is popular, from dill flowers to catnip, each with their own admirers. And with much sharing between species, like the fritillary and bee on the echinacea. Now, personally, I think the Campfire Rose (above) is much more attractive and catches my eye every time I walk in the garden, but I don't often see insects on those flowers. While the very understated small hardly noticably flowered (but prolific and quickly overgrown!) catnip is always humming with many busy bumbles the moment the first flowers appear and is never without attendance. So I allow too many to grow in the garden, brush by carefully as it grows with abandon into the paths, and weed out the many progeny.
But there are also many flowers that both the pollinators and us enjoy and I'm having a good time adding to the mix. Most are wildflowers such as the Purple Coneflower, and some are imports that wouldn't survive without the gardener's help. We all enjoy them each in our own way and every time I see a "bee" working diligently on flowers tiny or large I marvel at their ways. It makes the flowering time of year so very special.
June 28, 2018 - Then suddenly another month has gone by...
Those beautiful blossoms below have turned into steadily growing little fruitlets -- those in the large tree becoming 1" cute (but inedible) mini-pears, to be thrown over the fence for the deer. The smaller tree on the right, a Stacey Pear, has set a full crop - its first - a great cause for celebration! The fruit is very good (we've had a few small harvests previously) and I'm sure looking forward to harvest time. There is so much anticipation this time of year; so much to imagine, look forward to, and appreciate. It's great just to step outside, which we're doing a great deal of now. Steve is just about done cutting hay and I'm well on the way to transferring said hay to the garden and orchard trees, helping to keep what moisture we have in the ground for the growing plants. It's been rather on the dry side here, especially compared to the extra wet season last year. But no matter what weather we get we all settle into it and do well one way or another. It's always interesting, and things always grow.
One, of many, joys of early summer for me is watching our current season grafts for signs of life - that wonderful little bit of green in the scion buds that says "there's hope!". Slowly, growing and unfolding, there's a small leaflet - "there's a good chance now!". A few more leaves, more buds popping - "Yes! It's likely a take!". This is where we are now - 46 grafts at all stages - apples, pears, plums, cherries - including some that haven't shown signs of life yet (but there's still hope). There are a lot of variables involved in grafting. As with all young things, the first months, and years, are very undecided. Some stay for the long haul, some don't make it past the first year, but the beginnings are all so very sweet and exciting.
Earlier in the month I looked out the front window to see a beautiful doe step carefully out of the brush and brambles into our mowed front path, looking back and I thought about ready to maybe scratch or lick a back leg or something. Then the brush wiggled and out emerged the smallest fawn I've ever seen, stumbling a bit over the growth. It had to be very young but it was mobile! Mom and baby soon disappeared back into the safety of the brush. A special moment. A few days ago I was walking through the area north of the garden, stopping to pick up a branch in my way and casually tossing it aside. Up jumped a larger fawn, leaping away from this woman throwing branches at it! I apologized. I also know it didn't go far. A reminder to watch our steps this time of year. Was it the same fawn? I don't know, it was well able to jump through the underbrush so my guess it's an older one. We often have several does with their fawns sharing our homestead, though we don't see them much. There's room for all of us. And a wonderful welcome to summer they are.
May 25, 2018 - Summer Already?? What Happened to Spring?
Winter was reluctant to let go but the first half of May had some nice warmer weather along with some low 20's freezes to keep us in our place. It appeared it was just going to be one of those years when planting would be later rather than earlier. That was OK, we enjoyed the leisurely slide into spring. Then Mother Nature must have heard some of the grumblings about how slow things were to warm up, so decided to fast forward to summer, might as well skip spring. Suddenly we had day temperatures in the upper 70's (this is hot for us even in the summer let alone in May!) and nights in the 50's, dry with no spring rains. Things started leafing and blooming one after the other with hardly room to admire one before the next was on stage, birds and insects returning on each others heels, every moment an explosion of something new and fresh. And these winter-white Yoopers have been soaking up every moment possible, reluctant to come inside, reveling in the expanded hours.
You could say we've been working hard, but we know we've just been thoroughly enjoying life on the homestead. Steve's just finished a long and large clearing project, trying to reclaim a bit of open land from the enthusiastic white pines and wild black cherries. At the same time (well, in between times) working long hours on the boat project -- designing and building to turn our row boat into a sail boat. It's coming along so I need to find a rainy day to make that sail very soon. And the orchard and garden has claimed me for their own, with no complaints from me. The greenhouse is now cleared out, we're eating fresh greens and rhubarb from the garden, the weeds are receding as seeds and plants take their place. The orchard is greening and blooming and we'll be grafting next week. And we got some well appreciated rain today -- hurray!
Other life continues as well. We've had two fun weeks playing music at the summer Manistique Farmers Market already (where temperatures are at least 10 deg cooler there on the Lake than here inland), the local Lake Effect Art Gallery starts summer hours tomorrow with their annual Spring Open House, and the first of three Fur & Feather Swaps in Trenary is tomorrow where we'll be playing music with our friends Sharon and Tom and enjoying the people, the event and the many animals. Summer has begun!
April 22, 2018 - Spring! Once Again
Beautiful warm (almost 50!) sunny weather has melted the newest snow and is fast working on the old. More ground is emerging every time we look, and crocus gems popping out here and there with little bursts of color. Lilli now comes inside only for a quick bite and a nap, then out she goes to do her duty keeping rodents under control. She's one happy cat! We changed boots for tennies for a walk down the bare road (ahhhh) (though it was still boots and snowshoes to get up to the road out of our snowy valley). It'll be awhile before we're driving down to the house but meantime we're enjoying the emerging world and will be working outdoors soon.
April 20, 2018 - Happy Nasturtiums
The greenhouse nasturtiums don't care what is happening outside - they are celebrating spring and going all out to make their, and our, indoor world bright and colorful. What great companions they are in the greenhouse (and the outdoor garden, too!
April 17, 2018 - A Week Later...
Maybe it's not time to start planting in the garden after all, now, but it's beautiful! We had a gentle time with this storm, nestled in our valley in the woods, protected from the winds. Saturday was looking like spring with even more bare ground than a few days before. LilliB made good use of almost every minute, exploring and hunting and walking on every inch of bare ground. She didn't take her usual, many, nap breaks. Maybe she knew what the next few days would bring. It wasn't a blizzard for us, it just snowed. And snowed. And snowed. Final count - 10" of new wet white. LilliB spent almost all day Sunday sleeping (ignoring the snow?), and now spends many hours staring out the window, keeping entertained by a lone hardy Junco who arrived yesterday, both waiting patiently for this newest (and the oldest) snow to melt.
Above Freezing! - April 11, 2018
It was a beautiful sunny day today and we finally made it into the upper 30's! I'm sure it was low 40's in the sun (and out of the wind). It had that smell of spring coming. Even though there are predictions for more snow this week it will land on the ever expanding, warming, bare ground so won't likely last long. All of us were in and out often just to savor the day. Lilli in particular has been thoroughly checking out every new patch of snow-free habitat, and enjoying it just as thoroughly.
In the greenhouse the nasturtiums helped the celebration by opening more bright cheery blooms. This was a little remnant I'd transplanted from the garden last fall. It held on through the short, cloudy days to go all out this spring. I also stuck some seed in the bed and those have been growing enthusiastically, too. So much so I had to put some bamboo poles in to keep them from pulling down and covering up everything else! They appear to love the indoor climate.
Bread Time! - April 6, 2018
It’s April, we’re still getting snow, temperature lows often diving down to
zero and highs are having a hard time getting above freezing. Might as well bake
some bread! Well, I bake bread almost every week but having the wood cookstove
going and the smells of baking bread seem most welcome when winter is reluctant
to give way to spring.
This year my mix became more multi-grained with additions to the above of
oats, millet, quinoa, corn, and always a few tablespoons of fennel. The
smell of fennel fills the air when the mix is grinding! Maybe I got a little
carried away when I ordered the grains, but we like the resulting flavor and
April 1, 2018
One has to love the Upper Midwest weather humor. Snow of 8" and temps below zero this morning. A reasonable welcome to April and Spring I'd say. But I planted my tomato seeds yesterday and they're comfortably cozy warm by the woodstove, knowing, as we do, that it won't be long before the ground is bare and green things growing.
So, Happy Easter and Happy April to all!
Sailing Dory is now a Project - March 29, 2018
Carved Black Cherry Bowl - Progress Report - March 24, 2018
Treadle Lathe Video - March 22, 2018
Prius 200,000 - March 21, 2018
Happy Equinox! - March 20, 2018
Almost Spring! - March 10, 2018
Sewing Leggings - March 3, 2018
leggings are quite simple to sew up, once you get used to the stretchy
fabric. If I’m not sure of the fit I use a wider seam allowance and sew the
first seam stitches with slightly different color thread - just enough
contrast that it’ll be easy enough to see if you have to take the stitches
out. But not such a contrast that it’ll glare out loudly if the main
stitches give out and this second row is on the line. I know, seam stitches
aren’t supposed to show but with stretchy fabric like leggings are made of
they tend to show a bit where the fit is tight. When I’ve decided the
leggins I’m working on do indeed fit, then I sew the second seam line just
inside the first with thread that matches the fabric closely. I use a narrow
.5 width zigzag stitch. Real nice, sharp, quality, silk pins are especially
appreciated with this fabric. If I’ve used a 3/8” seam allowance I trim near
to the stitching to reduce bulk. Normally I just use a 1/4” seam allowance
to avoid having to trim. I also leave extra material at the top and cuffs.
Starting Seeds - February 26, 2018
Beautiful Day - February 26, 2018
Plus a few not so little. One quite good sized cherry limb came down by the shop, unfortunately onto and wiping out the framework of our summer garage! So Steve got the do a little chainsawing and dismantling, salvaging the pieces to someday be something else. We had talked about building a more sturdy garage someday, and it looks like now that may be sooner than later. It was still a beautiful day.
Scions Arriving! - February 25, 2018
This year I ordered some scions of varieties I couldn't find elsewhere from the US National Plant Germplasm System. It's an incredible resource, underfunded and understaffed with very dedicated people who cut and send out hundreds of cuttings from their vast collections of trees for those who want to trial (or breed) different varieties. For me, it's finding apple and pear varieties that will grow well in this area but aren't common here (often from Canada). And they are very generous with the amount of wood they send. Most sources send one or two 6" pieces (which actually is plenty) but not these folks. They want to make sure you have what you need. And they are excellent cuttings.
Scions have to be cut when the tree is dormant and kept in that state until ready to graft. But one doesn't graft until trees start to grow in the spring. So you keep them well wrapped (so they don't dry out) and cool until then. Sometimes all I do is triple wrap them in plastic bags and store in the root cellar. But this year I decided to wax them now before storing. This keeps the scion from drying both now and after they're grafted. Plus it's fun. So today was the day to sort, admire, cut to length, wax, label and carefully wrap and store all the sticks I have so far. Since I had so much extra wood I also prepared pieces of each variety and potted them to try rooting them to grow on their own roots (instead of grafting). It's rare to be successful at this but that's all the more reason to try! So the main waxed scions are securely stored in the root cellar and a collection of adventurous cuttings are warmly hanging out and hopefully thinking of rooting in pots by the woodstove. A good day for all.
Carved Cherry Bowl - Progress Report - February 15, 2018
First Bloom of the Season! Happy Valentine's Day!
Carving time, again - February 8, 2018
Carrots! - January 21, 2018
Fingerweaving - January 16, 2018
There are times, though, when I have need of something to work on in public, whether at a particular historical event or while working at the Lake Effect Art Gallery. Painting for me is a private affair (as in, don't expect any interaction with me when I'm painting!), and carving with its tools and chips is often not appropriate. But fingerweaving is. It's portable, compact, not messy, fairly easy to do with an audience, and usually interesting to folks who have never seen it. It is one of the "forgotten arts". So I still occasionally enjoy this craft-of-my-past. Since it's a now and then affair, and fingerweaving is a slow process (which is why loom weaving is so much more popular and common) my output is pretty few and far between. But today I finished a sash that has been in-progress for several years and it was fun to see the finished product, complete and ready for a fur trade era reenactor or native american dancer, or someone with an eye for something a little different!
More info on the fingerweaving page (click here).
Snow! - January 15, 2018
I must say, though, that Lilli did not agree with our enthusiasm for the snow. She waited until absolutely the very last minute to make her trip out, with a fair amount of pacing and hemming and hawing (in a cat way) before making the blitz. Can't say as I blame her considering that the banks along the path are now over her head.
Dory cabin: dreaming & drawing – January 12, 2018
Cheers for a New Year!
New projects were begun immediately and while I went on to other things Steve began and finished one that has been waiting for its turn since winter and short days began -- a second LED light strip in the greenhouse. This one for over the bed that is against the house, giving those plants a boost, being on for a few hours morning and evening. And on the very cold, cloudy days when the insulating curtain and side panels are left in place for warmth the lights can be on all day, promoting growth of the green plants and allowing us more salad greens mid-winter. This was a great new year's project.
Steve is now on to making and installing some new drawers in the front shop, so some of the smaller dust catching tools which were on shelves can be stored away. Another step towards a more organized, and neater, house. Of course, as these things go, en route to finishing the drawers there were, and are, many other small projects that come up. Distractions some folks might call them. I just think they're a normal part of the homestead life. Happy 2018!