September – An overabundance of blackberries

All summer long, one of the first things we did first thing in the morning was grab the colanders and hike the pasture fence line collecting wild blackberries and red wineberries.  We weighed them – out of curiosity, and calculated the haul for the day.  Most days, it was over a pound of berries.  We ate some out of hand, mixed some in the morning yogurt, ate more than our share of pies and cobblers and froze gallon bags full.  And then I decided to try to make wine.

I bought a wine making kit with everything I would need – except it came with a five gallon jug, so after a trip to find a one-gallon jug and adjusting the “recipe” I gave it a try.  I’m definitely more into immediate gratification; now I have to wait for at least six month (or even a year) to try something that my sister says is going to taste like Boone’s Farm anyway.  Cheers!

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Wild Blackberry juice – along with a fruit straining bag full of the blackberries to keep the seeds and pulp out of the juice.
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Siphoning it into a jug.
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Testing the juice/wine with a hygrometer.
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One gallon of blackberry wine with a little extra for topping off as I rack it over the next couple of months. And a plate full of “must” the seeds and pulp that have given their all to make the blackberry wine.  I wanted to feed it to the birds, but we were afraid they might get drunk!

September – A new herb garden

I can never have enough garden space.  And, we had a problem hillside that I just couldn’t  tame.  A new garden seemed like the perfect solution; but nothing is ever easy.  We planned a retaining wall made of landscape ties, some landscape fabric to suppress the weeds and a load of top soil to create a herb garden right outside the back door.  After three trips to Home Depot for extra supplies, and a full weekend of work, it finally came together.  It looks pretty good – don’t you think?!

 

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A truck load of landscape timbers – yes, the truck does come in handy.
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A mess of a hillside and it’s always full of weeds.
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It took some careful planning.
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Slowly taking shape.
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Covered in landscape fabric and filled with some decent dirt.
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And its starting to look pretty good — better than what we started with!
It filled in nicely and gave us lots of fresh herbs this summer. Now I wonder which ones will winter over.

May – A Terraced Garden

I’ve always wanted a terraced garden, and the sloping hillsides on No Rhyme or Reason Farm definitely need terracing.  A match made in heaven, I suppose, except for the sweating and sore muscles that came along with it.  My new fenced in space is now terraced for all the things that will permanently reside in the garden —  fruit trees, raspberry bushes, blueberry bushes, strawberries and asparagus.  And I have space left over in the lower part of the garden for potatoes and squash and whatever else I can shoe-horn in as the growing season gets going.

Now I just have to be patient and wait — and wait — and wait for the fruits of our labors.

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Fruit trees, raspberry bushes, blueberry bushes and strawberries.
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All sloping down hill in plain sight of the bee hives — I sure hope they know to come pollinate my garden.

 

May – MORE Chicken Drama

We moved those sweet little fluff-balls of baby chickens who had grown into noisy, smelly teen-aged chickens to the coop.  A friend had said our two remaining “old hens” would mother them.  Not so much.

The one hen was downright mean to them, and the teenagers cowered in the corner.  When we saw the mean “mother hen” pick one up and shake it by it’s wing, we knew we needed to do something.  We unrolled chicken wire inside of the chicken coop and divided the space so that the new residents have their own space, and the two crotchety, old hens have their own space.  At least for the time being.  We’re waiting for a week to ten days until we give them common space again.

In the meantime, we let the old hens out for their daily stroll where they scratch the dirt and eat the grubs and ticks and anything else they can find.  Except this time, something went wrong.  When we went to put them back in the coop – we only had one old hen.  The other disappeared.  There were no feathers, no note saying she ran away from home — nothing.  We waited until it got dark out, expecting her to return home and say she didn’t want to run away from home after all.  But she didn’t return.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if it was the mean one that went missing, but it was the other one — not that she was nice, but at least she wasn’t mean.

Then Saturday morning the chicken riddle was solved (no… not the age of old question of “why did the chicken cross the road?”, but our chicken riddle… where did the chicken go?).

We saw a FOX sitting in the yard eyeing the chicken coop, waiting for breakfast!  Now we only let our remaining hen out on supervised recess.  We’re down to getting just one egg a day until the teenagers get a bit older.

In the meantime, we took a look at our trail cam and found a good picture of our fox trotting past the bee hives.  Now that I have his picture, I think I’ll put up a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” poster for our chicken killer.

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The “teenagers” get their own section of the coop.
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Behind bars and separated from the mean hen.
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The hen out roaming in the yard — also known as Fox Food.
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The Fox – captured on our trail cam, wandering past the bee hives and looking for breakfast.

 

 

June – Rabbits, rabbits everywhere

Last summer when we were in the midst of construction, we didn’t see rabbits very often on the farm.  Maybe the construction scared them off or we disrupted their nest areas or something.  There was one rabbit that we saw frequently that seemed to have a goiter on his neck; I haven’t seen him around this year.

This year we seem to be overrun with rabbits.  They’re cute but they’re everywhere.  I don’t mind that they are everywhere, until they are in my garden.

You would think it would be impossible that they are in my garden.  My garden fence is built like Fort Knox.  It’s six feet tall with an extra bib of fencing at the bottom that is imbedded in the dirt to keep out the likes of ground hogs or anything else that might want to burrow in.  My garden is locked down tight, secure and impenetrable.

But then my Swiss Chard went missing – the whole row – gone.  And then all the bottom leaves on my Brussel Sprouts vanished.  Followed by the disappearing act of two rows of Beets that came up one day and were gone the next.  I was accusing the birds, or bugs or a rare fungus or mold issue that must be attacking my plants in my impenetrable garden.

Until I saw a baby bunny hop right through the 2” x 3” square of the fence.  Yep, hopped right in and headed for the spinach.  I headed in after it and shooed it out the other side of the garden – right through the fence on the other side of the garden.

The next day Chris wrapped the entire garden in sturdy bird netting.  Now it is impenetrable.

I replanted the beets, gave up on the Swiss Chard and I’m waiting to see if the Brussel Sprouts recover.

Pesky rabbits.

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What happened to my broccoli? It used to have leaves.
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You’d think nothing could get into this garden
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The 2″ x 3″ grids on the fence wire are just too big — baby rabbits jump right in.
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Now they can’t — with bird netting all around it.
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Buffet is closed.

 

November – The Master “Suite”

The upstairs of this house was a mess.  The carpet was filthy. Walking across it left footprints in the dirt that had rained down from the attic. The bathroom was disgusting.  The toilet had a rag stuffed in it.  The tub was falling off the wall.  The linoleum was peeling.  It wasn’t very pleasant.

As with everything else, it just took a plan.  We knocked down the wall between the two small rooms and turned it into one gracious space.  It was definitely one of the better decisions we made.  The Master Bedroom is spacious and full of light with two windows facing the front yard and two windows facing the back.  Out the front window, we watch the activity at the bird-feeder (we have Nuthatches, Cardinals, Wrens, Blue Jays, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, and squirrels who apparently think they are birds).  Out the back window we watch the deer who graze their way through the backyard at dusk every evening.  And I can use the tiny “back-stairs” to go directly from the Master Bedroom to the Kitchen, should I have a midnight snack attack — how convenient.

We reconfigured a closet that was in the bathroom and opened it up in the bedroom instead.  It wasn’t an easy task for John and his crew.  The wall was two feet thick and solid rock; it took some muscle to knock it down.  In the bathroom we converted the nasty tub into a walk-in shower, added a floor to ceiling cabinet for a linen closet and a bathroom vanity with lots of drawer space!

And then here was the tiny room at the other end of the hall.  It’s wasn’t really big enough for a bedroom.  It was a little too big for a closet (though visions of a wonderful room-sized closet did cross my mind).  It became the perfect spot for a quiet retreat and a home office.  The ceiling is low in this room.  It’s only 80″ tall (that’s 6’8″).  We bought bookcases that are 78″ tall. I held my breath as we moved them in to place, I wasn’t sure they would fit. But they did, just barely.  In fact, they look like “built-ins,” and they are the perfect place to display tchotchkes from our various trips.  It looks like it was meant to be just like this.  Not just the upstairs, but the whole house.  It was meant to be our home.

The "Master" Bedroom was two small separate rooms.  We pulled down the wall.
The “Master” Bedroom was two small separate rooms. We pulled down the wall.
A mess of a master bedroom.
A mess of a master bedroom.
The Master - spacious and clean!
The Master – spacious and clean!
We added a closet!
We added a closet!
A really disgusting bathroom.
A really disgusting bathroom.
The Master Bath - no comparison to what it looked like before!
The Master Bath – no comparison to what it looked like before!
Our walk-in shower.
Our walk-in shower.
A very cozy office.
A very cozy office.
Not much room, but it's functional - and a nice retreat.
Not much room, but it’s functional – and a nice retreat.
A great view out the office window to watch the deer.
A great view out the office window to watch the deer.
A dingy hallway.
A dingy hallway.
The upstairs hall.
Not so dingy now.

October — To Be or Not to Be?

Is it To Be or Not To Be???

That is definitely the question. Whether we will be able to move in on October 10th or not, only time will tell.

There is a lot to get done yet, but John assures us it is all doable, given no major problems – like Hurricane Joaquin, or the lack of electric, plumbing, septic, propane, heating/cooling. We have windows, doors, cabinets, counter tops and some appliances. The electrician is scheduled to finish up early next week, TV & Internet on Monday, HVAC, plumbing & the concrete patio on Tuesday, carpet on Wednesday, a double oven on Friday (to replace the one damaged in transit)… it’s a tight schedule of things to be completed. An orchestra of craftsmen, all trying to play their parts in harmony; no missed beats, no sour notes, no room for error.

We are more than tired of our time at the Homewood Suites. It’s getting cold out, and back in early July, I only packed my warm weather things. I miss my wooly socks and turtle necks. It’s time to pack away the shorts and flip-flops. Everything is in transition, in boxes, in limbo. For three months we’ve dealt with a two-burner stove (only one burner works on a regular basis), a microwave and a toaster. We’ve been relatively creative with the meals we’ve prepared, but I want to roast a chicken, bake some bread and have Arianna decorate some cookies in the new kitchen.

At the moment we still have no front steps. We can’t get front steps until we get the concrete landing, and we might not get the concrete landing if we don’t get some dry weather. We have electrical outlets and light fixtures installed, but no electricity from the pole. They are supposed to hook us up on Tuesday, unless of course they are dealing with mass outages from Joaquin. The septic probably works, given that we have a new pump, but without plumbing and electric so we can give it a test flush or two – we just don’t know.

And, moving weekend is Columbus Day weekend, which means my strong moving crew will be away. They can get a few necessities in on Friday night before they skip town (like a mattress, a TV and a couch), and help us with the rest when they get back on Monday – but in the interim we’ll just schlep boxes, one at a time, and try to unpack – maybe. Or maybe not.

The kitchen -- still a work in progress, but we have counter tops and the beginning of a back splash.
The kitchen — still a work in progress, but we have counter tops and the beginning of a back splash.
Our mud room red roof gives the look of a
Our mud room red roof gives the look of a “potting shed” — which seems fitting given all the mud that’s readily available at the back door from storm run off. If only the weather holds out and we can get the concrete poured next week.
Master Bath vanity, not quite ready.
Master Bath vanity, not quite ready.
Master closet has a clothes bar -- we must be getting close to moving in.
Master closet has a clothes bar — we must be getting close to moving in.
Still a lot of construction going on.
Still a lot of construction going on.
Repurposed half stairs to the porch.  We need something sturdier for moving day!
Repurposed half stairs to the porch. We need something sturdier for moving day!