Monday, March 31, 2014

Late March Gardening

Spring is nearly here.  Seedlings are starting to come up in the greenhouse.  Kale, pac choi, mustard and spinach have all begun germinating and are just starting to peak out of the soil.
The garlic is doing very well.
Inside, under the lights, the onion seedlings are tall enough to get their first hair cut yesterday.  Ground cherries, tomatillos, 4 o'clocks, and holly hocks seeds were planted yesterday.  Most of the bulbs outside have begun to grow.  The chives, comfrey and rhubarb have started to come up.  And today I planted two varieties of Sweet Peas. I love Sweet Peas but never seemed to get them in the ground early enough. They would begin blooming about the time it really started to get warm and the flowers would wilt in the heat. Hopefully this year I will get loads of blossoms before the real warm weather starts.
Other signs of spring are evident at our local Mennonite hardware store, Weavers.  This is the first year I have ever seen them selling chicks.  And they have quite a large selection of seed potatoes and onions.  I really can't wait to get digging in the soil again.

There is so much clean up outside yet to do.  The cinders from the road crews need to be raked back into the road.  Last year they came around and swept up the cinders on the road, but not the ones on the grass next to the road.  I wanted to have the cinders in the road when they came around, but I just missed them today. I guess I will just have to shovel them up myself.  There is major pruning needed on most of the arborvitae, especially along the stream.  And there is still clean up from Sandy. We have been working on clearing things away from the areas of the new barn and access road.
Thank goodness for pole saws!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

House Work

Working on the house is a big puzzle.  So many behind the scenes jobs need to be completed before we can start the fun things, like a new kitchen.  So, before we could make any changes to the lay out upstairs, put in the second bathroom, a new master bedroom and so on; we had to do things like jack up the house to make things level and take out the springiness and big dips in the floors. But before we could jack up the house we needed to get rid of the hot water pipes for the oil heat.  Before we could get rid of the pipes we had to run out of oil.  And so on and so on. 

Well, Alan finally started lifting up the house.
I came home from work one night last week and he asked me if I noticed anything then proceeded to tell me he jacked the house up half an inch.  Gee, and I didn't even notice until he said something!
A lot of the doors are now not latching or have started rubbing, since they were put in when the house was sagging. But our bedroom floor is no longer springy.  Before, if I was in bed and Alan walked around the bedroom the bed would shake.

One of the old supports in the basement was on old porch column.  With the extra lighting downstairs we noticed some writing on the post.
It says "The Rahn Residence 7 Acres." Mr And Mrs Rahn moved the cabin to the current property and added the majority of the additions.  Not sure why they had their name and acreage written on this post. But its a nice note from the past.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

For my other Hobby- My New Dress Dummy

I have wanted a dress dummy for years.  I used to have a duct tape dummy, but I was never happy with it.  I looked at the new dress forms available on line and at Joann's but was turned off by so many of the bad reviews.  I needed a sturdy dummy that could stand up to the heavy gowns of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Enter Dorie, my new dress form.

She must be at least 30 or 40 years old.  But she is very sturdy with a nice heavy metal base.  She also has metal adjustments inside that move with wing nuts, much sturdier than the plastic dials I saw on the new forms.  However; 17th and 18th century garments can not be made on her lovely hour glass shape.  So I got to work with some extra fabric, an old shift and an old set of stays.
She is now pretty much my size when I wear my stays.  This will make fitting garments so much easier.  Its a pain in the neck to change into a shift and stays when you are making period garments. Now Dorie will be my body double and I can stay comfortable.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ice Sled

With the snowy winter we had there was no way to get the tractor and cart back to the animals.  I began using the blue sled above on the left to haul hay bales, feed bags and firewood.  I realized other people might have the same problem and there may be a better sled.  Then I found the Viking sport sled.  This thing works great.  I can haul 2 bales of hay by myself, or three 80 pound bags of feed, or all this firewood.
I can easily get more firewood in the sled.  I just wasn't sure how much I could physically haul. But with the tow rope against my hips the power is great.  I wish I had found this sooner.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St Gertrude's Day

Yesterday I went to the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center for their first annual St Gertrude's Blessing of the Soil in their new kitchen garden. William Woys Weaver spoke first about the history of St Gertrude and soil blessing in the Pennsylvania German tradition. St. Gertrude was probably a pagan goddess of fertility and is called upon to help the garden grow.  While she is the patron saint of gardens she is also the patron saint of cats, for their help in chasing rats and mice out of the garden.

Then we went out to the kitchen garden where Patrick Donmoyer, site director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, blessed the soil with crumbs of "datsch" while reciting a traditional blessing.  I wish I had written the blessing down, but it had a lot to do with thanking the heavens for giving to the earth.  Datsch is a traditional yeast, potato bread made with spelt and barley flour, with additions to represent things you want to do well in your garden like green onions (for green things), poppy seeds (a representation of black was important to symbolize death), caraway seeds, flax seeds (as the growing of flax for linen was very important) and honey (for the bees of course.)  Crumbs of this bread would be sprinkled in the four corners of the garden, beggining in the east corner while invoking the "little people" and asking for help from the heavens.  It was also important to keep flowers growing in the corners for the little people (Hmmm, maybe there is a link to Celtic traditions.)

The above photo is from the Reading Eagle's article on the event yesterday.

So on March 17th, a Pennsylvania German gardener would bake a datsch and ask for St. Gertrude's assistance in the garden for the coming gardening season.  We were given pieces of datsch to take home so I didn't have to bake, but I did go out today and say a small blessing to the four corners of my garden.  The chickens served as an interested audience.

With the garden blessed, I planted spinach, lettuce, chard, kale, mustard and pak choi in the greenhouse.  Hopefully, St. Gertrude will send her assistance to my garden this year.  Now, can she help with chiggers and walnut tree juglone?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Signs of Spring

Spring is definitely coming! Here's proof.
My bay tree has gone crazy with new growth.

The Meyer Lemon Tree has a new flower.
And the onions seeds are up!

Deer damage

The deer have finally found us.  We didn't have any deer damage last winter, but this year is a whole other story.  We heard the deer hanging out on the hill to the north of our property, then we saw prints and a little damage to my apple trees. Then the herd moved in.

Every night at least nine deer come to nibble their way around our yard.
So far they have eaten all of the fruiting branches they could reach on the apple trees.
They have also decimated the yew bush next to the outhouse; which I thought was poisonous, but apparently not to deer.
They have nibbled the tips off this azalea.
But seem to, so far, be leaving alone my blueberries and raspberries. They are loving the arborvitae and cedar trees as well.  Must be a rough winter for them.