Sunday, May 31, 2015

New Calf

This week Dawa gave birth to her second calf.  This munchkin is tall!  All legs.  We're not sure what it is yet, but we're happy that mom and baby are both healthy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Today we got to get our bees!  This is a project we've been talking about for years, so it's really exciting to have it finally happen.  I got Adam a beginner's beekeeping kit for Christmas, which had a starter hive and some tools to get going.  We assembled it a week or so ago, and the bees were ordered sometime in February.  We were very lucky that there's a company warehouse and storefront in Wilkes-Barre, as asking our post office to deliver a box of bees and another of baby chickens in the same week might be a bit much.

This morning we headed down to Wilkes-Barre and got in line with quite a few other people there to pick up bees.  I can't say enough good things about Mann Lake; they were really helpful and the shop has a mind blowing selection of supplies.  It was very exciting but also very nerve wracking because that's a lot of stinging insects, all at once.  And we were expecting a box.  The kind with solid sides and maybe some tape.   Or a lot of tape.   A secure bee containment facility.  And then Adam was handed this:

That is some very thin pine wood and window screen holding in three pounds of bees.  That is also the face of a man who is both thrilled and a little bit terrified to be holding three pounds of bees.  

We got them home ok, although that was one of the scariest drives ever.  While no one ever wants to be rear ended, you really, really, really don't want to be rear ended with a box of bees in the back of the SUV.  

We were really lucky that a coworker of Adam's sister had raised bees with her husband, so he came over to give us a hand and help get them settled into the hive.  Being able to get some lessons from someone with firsthand experience was priceless.
First they got into protective gear.  (You'll notice Niobe watching from the hill the whole time.  Yaks are a nosy and judgy audience.)

The the box was opened and the queen was removed and carefully placed inside.  

The bees were dumped into the hive.  Really.  Dumped.  It's a very concerning process to watch, even from far away, but our mentor did it like it was no big thing.  Pro.

The bees are brushed down into the hive so that the next layer and the food can be placed on.  Because they're starting from scratch, we have to make sure they have enough food and water to get established.

And then the lid goes on.  

There were quite a few bees still outside the hive when the lid went on, and we were convinced that they would never find the small opening in the front that they use as a door.  Our mentor kept reassuring us that they had the scent of their queen and would find their way in and sure enough, within twenty minutes everyone had gotten inside.  It's pretty incredible to watch them.  They were actually amazingly calm during the process.  Adam didn't get stung once!  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Field of (Pie) Dreams

It's finally really spring.  Not so much based on calendar date which hits sometime in heartbreakingly cold March, or temperatures- which are notoriously fickle.  It's spring in the sense that we saw our first red winged blackbird.  I know most people believe robins are the harbingers of all things warm and sunny and I did too, until I moved up here.  My husband firmly believes that robins are lying bastards.  They'll stand in three feet of snow, with more coming down, and chirp merrily to you about spring.  Lying.  Bastards.  Red winged blackbirds are a lot more reliable, at least in these parts.  So seeing one is always exciting, because it means that we start to believe that winter is finally behind us.

One of the big projects this year was putting in more fruit trees.  We have a big open space on one side of the driveway and it needed filled with something more useful than grass for the deer.  Adam has dreams about a "Field of Pie", so we added 14 new apple and peach trees, taking the space from this:

To this:

We had a little help from Schnicklefritz:

We also got two blueberry bushes planted, so it's a good start for pie.  And the tomato plants are going crazy, although I'm having much less luck with my peppers.  I'm not sure that it's warm enough, even with a grow light and heating mat.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Adam and I discovered that we have a lot of meat in the freezer.  A LOT of meat.  We've been trying to cook through most of it this winter, but there's only two of us.  Compounding that is the fact that most of the chicken and turkey we have is from birds that were butchered when they were way too mature, so they're really only good for soups that cook for a day and a half.  Or sausage.
(Turkey with marjoram, white wine, sage, and garlic)

We have quite a few sausage books and a lot of recipes that we've been meaning to get around to "someday," so this weekend we broke out the grinder and got to work making some freezer space.

  We used the Kitchenaid meat grinder attachment for part of the batches.  We discovered that we did not have the sausage stuffer attachment that we thought we had, but luckily Adam's parents had an electric grinder/stuffer and we were able to finish using that.  I have to say that while the Kitchenaid attachments do a lot of things really really well- sausage grinding is not one of their finer things.  The electric grinder/stuffer did a much better and faster job than the Kitchenaid did.  It would probably work just fine if you're only breaking it out once in awhile, but if you have any intention of making sausages on a semi-regular basis, a grinder/stuffer that is designed solely for that purpose is probably the way to go.

We found natural sausage casings at Weis, which was really lucky.  Adam had a LOT of fun playing with intestines, probably more fun than any person should have.  But he did a pretty amazing job of stuffing for his first time- hardly any air bubbles.  

Southwestern Turkey with jalapeno, chipotle pepper, and cumin.  This one was our favorite!

Up next we're also going to do an Italian turkey and a Roman chicken sausage with peppers and Romano cheese.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Too much cute

I just had to share this picture of one of my favorite signs of spring: lambs!

This gorgeous little Romney girl isn't ours but belongs to Adam's parents' farm, Wolle Bulle Romneys.  That fuzzy face!  Those ears!  It almost makes you believe spring really is on the way, rather than another 5 inches of snow.  Winter just couldn't leave without getting in a parting shot.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Garden, Day 20

We've got tiny plants!

Now, to be fair, a lot of them are weeds.  Adam used some very composted dirt from the barn floor and there were hay seeds in it, among other things.  The front tray is Romanian peppers, leeks and herbs, and we know at least the right two rows are weeded properly.  The far left we're waiting to see what else pops up before we start yanking out seedlings.  The back tray is completely peppers, but we're being cautious before we start weeding that one.

The back tray is about 32 tomatoes, with the same weed issue as the other flats.  Adam was worried that we might have issues with them (and also that 32 wouldn't be enough tomatoes) so the storage bin turned impromptu greenhouse has an additional 45 that we planted today in plain potting soil.  We should be good on tomatoes!  Also present are an annoyed Thora and Maddie, wondering why I'm playing with the dirt and they're not allowed to.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A splash of color

The weather keeps promising to warm up and then chickening out at the last second.  We got snow again today, hopefully for the last time for a bit.  But after snow storm after snow storm, the outside is looking a little... bland.  So inside the mill we started dyeing some of our new, skinnier sock yarns.

Daybreak and Rainbow Connection

The always popular Sea Glass

We've also been working on these guys:

It's really a joint project, and it's been something nice to work on during the bitterly cold days when we're struggling to get the mill's humidity high enough to keep the machines working.  Adam makes the felt out of the cleanout from both the dehairer and the carder.  I sew the bears together and he helps joint the arms and legs.  It helps keep the excess fluff out the mill, so that we have bearly any waste. We're hoping to have a bunch for the festivals this year, which seem to be approaching really fast!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Garden, Day 1

I just got some of the seeds to start our garden today!  Adam is doing some bigger raised beds in the yard for vegetables so all the planters on the deck belong to my peppers.  Which is why most of those labels are for things that ought to be lethal.  I don't even like hot peppers, but I love making salsa and giving away pickled peppers.  So this year we're going with the hottest of the hots: Ghosts, Scorpions and Carolina Reapers.  There are also a lot of herbs used in Roman cooking because we're in an SCA household with friends and I want to recreate some Roman sausage recipes for Pennsic this year.  And chickpeas and purple tomatoes and black corn, which supposedly will make blue cornmeal.

The next step is to wrap each type of pepper's seeds in a damp paper towel and then let them germinate in a ziploc bag at about 85 degrees for at least the next ten days.  Then we'll be ready to start planting in the seedling starter.  The other plants, including a ton of (non purple) tomato seeds, will be planted at the same time.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The farm side of the mill

It's just about the second anniversary of the fiber mill's open house.  It feels like yesterday.  In these two years, Adam went from part time at home to finally coming home full time last August.  It makes the mill's production schedule much easier, but it also affords us a bit more time to focus on the farm, which was the reason we did all this in the first place.

It's hard to think of sunshine and gardens when it was -28 the other day.  No lie.  -28 with the windchill.  Our furnace couldn't keep up so the house was really chilly.  Even the newfoundland didn't want to lay on the tile, the floor was so cold.  But we're trying to start planning all the things we want to do on the farm now.  Unfortunately, with Adam not being home full time until mid-August, we missed all of last spring and summer.  This year, we're starting early.  So I'm hoping to finally start updating the blog with some interesting farm-y stuff (and cute pictures of yaks, because there's some new ones out there!)  And some knitting and mill stuff too, as the new yarns for the summer festivals start coming out.

So the first farm project update is...bees!  We ordered our package of bees yesterday.  They'll be picked up in Wilkes-Barre in mid-April.  Apparently, this is a thing that people do- drive in a car with a box of bees.  It seems a little terrifying, but I haven't heard of a lot of box-of-bees induced car wrecks on the news, so I'm assuming it goes better than it sounds.  For Christmas I got Adam a complete beginners kit that had everything he needs to get started, except the bees.  Probably for the best; I'm not sure how I'd wrap the bees.  We've been home brewing mead for a long time, and beekeeping seemed like a natural next step.  This is a project he's been talking about for years, so we're really excited to finally get started on this adventure.