clarentine: (cavalier)
Whew! Now, that was a day. I've been to a client's house to measure out the front yard for a base map - thank you, T., for your help. Bought and ate bagels. Drafted up that base map and did some preliminary work on the new circular driveway loop.

Out in the greenhouse, we got the new strawberries watered and set up ten flats of greens: Tyee spinach and Lacinato (both standard and variegated) and Red Russian kale. Screwed down some of the support frame that came unmoored in last week's tornado-y winds. Cleaned the chickens' waterer out and refilled it and their feeder. Dug up a mess of weeds from the onion and garlic bed and fed them to the chickens (who know to watch from that corner of their run when I go into the garden).

Back at the house, we refilled the kindling boxes for the woodstove and refilled the water jugs that live in the greenhouse, and finally I mixed up the latest batch of dog bikkies.

I think that's enough for one day. Don't you? :-)
clarentine: (cavalier)
The garden's doing just fine, growing quickly now that the heat's arrived...wait, I didn't say what I'd planted, did I? Okay, for the record, this year we have:

Last fall's Rocambole garlics and the potato onions which are sharing a bed because they're both all-season crops. I decided to see if the voles, which have yet to bother the garlic, could be kept away from the onions by planting garlic in rings around them, and thus far the experiment has proven successful. I also put my spring-planted shallots in the gaps between plants. They're also doing well.

(Pam Dawling recommends digging garlic three weeks after the scapes show up, which is a lot earlier than I've done it in the past. I noticed scapes today, so that means the weekend of June 14, the garlic should come up. I'm curious to see the difference if they're pulled this early. I think the onions will have a while yet. Fortunately, I don't have to disturb them.)

Purple Peacock broccoli. It's a hybrid with one of the kales, I think, something with purplish, frilly leaves (like Red Russian kale, actually). Looks nice when I pull off the insect cover to weed that bed. This one's not to be harvested until some time in the fall. I think I planted it way, way too early. This is the first time I've planted broccoli, though, so it's all a learning experience.

The spring-planted Premier kale has long since bolted, but the leaves are still nice and tender. I cooked up a mess of the greens last weekend, and will pick and cook more this coming week, before I pull all the plants. The late corn should be in there afterward, but I think it's going to see buckwheat first for some green manure.

Speaking of corn...again this year I've tried Augusta early sweet corn. Last year, in a different bed, I got poor germination. This year, I got none. Too wet and cold? Probably. So, this weekend, I've planted the first batch of midseason corn (new variety Tuxana, as a replacement for the Silver Queen I'd been planting) where I'd planted Augusta. We'll see how it comes along. It certainly doesn't have the same excuse of cold and wet!

And, at the end of this bed, the tomatillos and peppers are doing fine. They all got off to a slow start - tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos - in the seed flats. Part of that was damping off fungus, I think, but the rest...I just don't know. Not warm enough?

In the next bed is even later-planted Premier kale, doing just fine (if besieged by weeds). The cilantro and tatsoi both bolted quick when the spring warmed up; I'm waiting to collect seed for both before turning them under.

The tomatoes I planted two weeks ago are really starting to hit their stride. This year we have Pink Princess cherries, paste tomatoes Illini Gold and Black Plum, and slicers Illini Star, German Johnson, and a Virginia variety of Brandywine. I need to get the first row of Florida weave trellising up, but it's been wicked hot today. Maybe tomorrow evening.

The cucumber trellis is up and I planted out the cucumbers yesterday: Garden Oasis (a beit alpha type) and Chelsea Pride (an English-style cuke), both old seed and showing poor germination after a couple of years, and new cukes Suyo Long (an Asian) and Empereur Alexandre. I really like the beit alphas for their tender skin and juicy, sweet, never-bitter flavor, but they just don't germinate well. We'll see how the new cuke varieties handle our heat and humidity.

I'm planning on seeding out some Senposai for summer greens - it was indeed durable last year - but that hasn't happened yet. Too many weeds to clear and not enough good-weather hours in which to do so. When I finally got down to it yesterday morning, I cleared half the bed before the heat and the sun sent me indoors.

I still need to plant out beans, both my favorite green snap Grady Bailly and the limas I grow for a customer at work, but that hasn't happened yet, either.

Yesterday I also planted out my summer and winter squash: old reliables Butternut and Seminole winter squashes, and summer squashes Costata di Romanesco, Dark Green, Black Beauty, and Greyzini. Both Dark Green and Black Beauty are new varieties; one of the two is a trap crop for squash bugs, a practice recommended by Pam Dawling. I could cover the plants, but that's a pain and they'd still need to be uncovered for pollination. If the trap crop idea works out, I will be pleased. I planted a lot, deliberately; I promised the woman who coordinates the local food pantry that they'd get my extras, so this is my attempt at planting an extra row (I should also have cukes, Senposai, chard, peppers, and tomatillos, and maybe tomatoes).

(I had two more of the volunteer winter squashes turn up where they'd been grown last year. My two varieties had cross-pollinated two years before; they gave me something we were calling Butternoles last year, a nice, tasty, bell-shaped squash. I'm hoping the two volunteers are both Butternoles and have put them in the row with the deliberately sown ones. I want to save seed from them this year.)

Last year, I modified my rotation plan and planted Lemon Queen sunflowers in the middle of the winter squash bed. I thought the birds had cleaned up all the seeds, since when I pulled the plants down there was nothing left on the discs. Ha! The bed that has corn and summer squash this year bore a beautiful crop of self-sown sunflowers first. I transplanted as many of those as I could to the far side of the new winter squash bed.

Still to plant out, though I have them in pots, ready to go (or nearly): Swiss chard, both Scarlet Charlotte and Gator (which is supposed to be perennial but froze over the awful winter); tithonia, the Mexican sunflower, which turned out to be a favorite of the Monarchs headed south last fall and which are great markers for the ends of rows; Sweet Genovese basil; and borage. I sowed marigold seed, but none of it came up. Fortunately, I do have some self-sown stuff coming up where I grew them last year. Those need to be transplanted.

And that, in a long nutshell, is my garden this year.
clarentine: (cavalier)
On a farm, even a small farm like mine, there's always something needing to be done. This weekend, we wrapped up preparations for the first frost, forecast for Monday morning. This meant checking windows in the chicken house, picking the last little bits of the summer garden, and laying in a bag of wood for this year's inauguration of fire season. We finished filling the woodshed last weekend, with the help of a neighbor and his wood splitter.

As if that wasn't enough, we also set the footers for the final three pairs of posts for the greenhouse. I was warmed at first with the digging and hauling at the start of Saturday afternoon's project time. By its end a couple of hours later, my hands were chilled and I was ready to head indoors.

With all of the produce gathered late on Saturday, I needed to find something to do with a bumper crop of tomatillos. I ended up making a small batch of tomatillo salsa and canning it - fabulously tangy stuff! The tomatillos were one of my test crops this year. They've earned their spot next year. I have one last batch of tomatillos to can up, and am looking forward to sharing their goodness this winter.

And's greens season. I'll find out in the next couple of days which greens (seeded earlier this autumn) will be freeze-hardy.
clarentine: (cavalier)
…to the water hose, that is. One of the (many) things we brought back from my parents' farm last week was a large quantity of soaker hoses. Four lengths of hose are now repaired and deployed in our garden in the beds holding tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and tomatillos. It was so wonderful to turn on the water this morning and then go about the rest of my mid-day, not having to stand over the beds and drag 100 feet of hose behind me. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
clarentine: (cavalier)
If I don't put this down here, I'm going to forget it, and then I'll be mad at myself next spring, so:

2014 garden log

March 15: Sowed tomatoes and peppers in pots, two seeds per pot, four pots total each variety - Corno di Toro and Ashe County Pimento sweet peppers; jalapeño and Tiburon poblano hot peppers; Kumquat cherry tomato (selected from last season's self-sowers); Pink Princess gene pool cherry tomato; Rose cherry tomato (selected from last season's Rose tomatoes); German Johnson and Cherokee Purple, and Illini Star main crop tomatoes; and Black Plum and Illini Gold paste tomatoes. Sowed Premier kale and Georgia Southern and Champion collards in winter-killed garden beds.

April 20: Transplanted Lemon Queen sunflowers to larger pots. German Johnson tomatoes have poor germination and growth. Rose tomatoes have decent (but below average) germination, slow growth. Others at least average.

April 27: Sowed Senposai, Scarlet Charlotte swiss chard in garden bed. Sowed first patch of Silver Queen and Augusta sweet corn.

May 4: Sowed Seminole and Waltham Butternut winter squash and Tender Grey, Costata Romanesca, and Green Gourmet summer squash; Gator perpetual chard; echinacea from seed gathered in my mother's garden; Genovese basil; borage, cleome, nicotiana, and Spanish Brocade marigold in pots. Senposai is beginning to show. No sign of Scarlet Charlotte.

May 11: Planted out the sunflowers and some of the tithonia. Sweet corn germination is really awful - probably too dry.

May 13: Planted out more tithonia, the tomatoes, and the peppers. Scarlet Charlotte is starting to be noticeable. Started harvesting the Premier kale which survived the winter.

May 18: Set up fence for climbers; planted Grady Bailly "greasy" pole bean, limas King of the Garden and Violet's Multicolored, and cucumbers H-19 Little Leaf (pickling), Garden Oasis (beit alpha), and Chelsea Prize (English). Transplanted extra tomatoes and peppers in larger pots for giving away. Some of the spring-sown Premier kale has already bolted, argh.

May 24: Some of the cucumbers and beans are starting to break the ground, yay!

May 25: Planted out summer squash, winter squash, perpetual chard, and one of the flowers grown from seed (didn't mark them as to species, and now I can't remember which pot is which; mark them better next year Cleome!). Sowed in pots tomatillos Dr. Wyche's Yellow, Everona Large Green, and Purple, and cilantro, all to eventually go out into the garden. Cilantro should have been sown in the herb bed(s), but that part still needs to be cleared of lingering winter greens. Spotted first of the cabbage looper butterflies around the kale.

May 26 (plan): Clear the rest of the winter greens and plant out parsley, basil, more cilantro. Thin Senposai. Weed around Scarlet Charlotte. Plant second round of Silver Queen and Augusta corn. Put up poles for Florida weave tomato trellis.

(No plan ever survives first contact with the enemy - in this case, the heat.)

May 29: The slower cukes appear to be emerging. The new perpetual chard appears to be doing very well, as are all the planted-out squash seedlings. Tomato growth has increased exponentially, so am going to assume they're settled in well; time to get the first layer of trellis weave up, before they flop over. No further damage to the potato onions, so perhaps clearing straw away from them and using shovel to cut any vole tunnels is working?


May. 22nd, 2014 08:30 am
clarentine: (cavalier)
Another effing earthquake last night just as I was going to bed - this one was a 3.2, centered in the next county down from us. It was validating to hear the meteorologist on this morning's news remind people, when asked if this was an earthquake or "just" an aftershock, that technically they're all earthquakes. If we can feel it, it's not "just" anything, damn it.


In other news, the pole beans and cuke seeds are in the ground, the tomatoes and peppers are all doing well, the potato onions seem to be next on the voles' taste parade, and the pollen count is kicking my ass this spring.

Oh, and I appear to have written all but the epilogue on the WIP, codenamed Lynch. :-) Go me!
clarentine: (cavalier)
It feels like this whole winter has been a huge blur of cold, wet, snow, and more wet. Can't get into the garden to plant early spring stuff because it's too cold and wet. Severe cold (three nights of temperatures at 4 degrees F!) killed off almost all the kale and collards I had planted with the expectation of harvesting for the chickens over the winter and early this spring. Snow collapsed the low tunnels I'd erected over my winter greens-for-people beds not once, but twice, tearing holes in the cover. The wet killed off a lot of the winter lettuce and all of the beets. We have burned through so much wood keeping the house warm; it's a good thing we had extra stockpiled.

I rescued the low tunnels by laying plastic netting - the kind I use over the sweet potatoes to keep the deer off - over the hoops, then putting the second layer of frost blanket over top of the netting. Thus far, that's worked; where the frost blanket tore more, or tore in different places, the second layer seems to have stayed intact, and the netting kept further snows' weight from tearing more holes between the hoops.

I'm harvesting greens from the tunnels now and have replanted the tatsoi, which has already bolted, and the beets, and have reseeded the chicken kale and collards in the exposed beds. It's been so cold in the past couple of weeks, though, that I'm seeing no growth at all from the seeds.

Supposedly next week (well, beginning today, really, with yet another rain event) the weather's expected to give us temperatures more like what we should be seeing at this time of year - lows in the 40s, highs in the mid 60s. Maybe next weekend - barring more damned rain! - I might finally get to till the beds to remove the mole tunnels riddling them, and then I can get a late start on spring-plated things. Maybe.
clarentine: (cavalier)
It was a weekend full of Elements - Honda Elements, that is. We went up into the valley, to Graves Mountain Lodge and Orchard, for their fall apple festival and harvested more than a dozen Element sightings on that one single day. Are there just more Elements in the community of people who are likely to attend such a festival? I hardly see Elements anymore down in the city - which I suppose isn't all that surprising, given that Honda stopped making that model two or three years ago, but I love my Element and still find it incomprehensible that more people don't drive them. Perhaps I have finally met my people. *g*

(Apples? Oh, yes. We ended up bringing home a bushel of various varieties - Mutsu (also called Crispin), Granny Smith, Grimes Golden, a whole lot of lovely, tiny Winesaps which you cannot find hardly at all anymore, Yorks, and the best Golden Delicious I've ever had. Most of those will be apple pie/crisp filling, but the Golden Delicious are purely for eating.)

We're due for our first frost later this week. The newly sown winter greens beds are covered, as of Sunday, with a lightweight frost blanket, just enough to keep them through the worst of what our winter will bring. Here's hoping the support system for that blanket, which we fabricated ourselves, will hold up to any snow or ice we may get.

The garlic and perennial onions should go in this weekend, and the rest of the tomato vines and their trellis will come down. I have to clear the remaining beds (and hopefully sow winter ground covers), but that's waiting for frost to knock down the last of the squash and beans. The Seminole squash patch now extends at least 30 feet out from the bed where they're planted. Next year, those suckers are going on trellises. >:-)

And then I get a bit of a rest from gardening work. So looking forward to that!
clarentine: (cavalier)
Forty tomato plants - Brandywine, German Johnson, Black Plum, and Illini Gold, all paste or main crop - are now out of the seed trays and into the ground, along with eleven peppers of various persuasions. I've got a much smaller batch of cherries - my seed-saved Rose variety - and the Corno di Toro peppers coming along that will probably get planted out next weekend, when I should be able to get up a head of steam again. The annual beds are all completely straw mulched, now, too, alongside the bed with the strawberries and asparagus and garlic, leaving only the one permanent bed with the raspberries and blackberries and assorted early season beets and greens.

(If you've ever wondered why we mulch, you have only to leave one patch of ground uncovered and take note of the difference about thirty days later. Man, the weeds in that one remaining bed!)

It was a real toss-up this morning whether I'd put all this planting off yet another week. It has been cold in central Virginia this spring. Yesterday, it was 41. This morning, with some cloud cover, it was 46, with a northerly breeze that made my hands go quickly purple when I took the dog out for her walk. Tomatoes and peppers do not like the cold. But we have rain coming, a slow front that looks to bring us nice, calm, soaking rain for the first three days of the week, and I did not want to miss that free water. So, the tomatoes are in and I am tired, tired, tired. I should say we; I was not the only one out there.

This week, we took delivery of three very large loads of topsoil, which once spread will form the base for the hoop house we'll be raising as this year's major project. More and more like a farm every day. >:-)

Next up, sowing squash - summer and winter - and melons in the seed trays. It only took me three tries last year to learn that, with the crows, direct-sowing of these crops was not going to work. There are things I can direct-sow which will be going in next week (buckwheat, sorghum, corn, chard) and other things I need to start in seed trays (sunflowers, which the deer love and which, therefore, cannot be direct-sown). Unless the weather turns unexpectedly hot, however, those will wait another week, maybe two.

I picked the first spring-sown radish today. Some of the early spinach is approaching harvest size. Beets are slow, but coming along. The collards and kale which overwintered are in glorious, bee-feeding flower; once done, they're going to be the chickens' delight, and then I will have to do something else with that part of the bed. Hmm. I bet it won't be tomatoes. >:-)
clarentine: (Default)
Posted here so I can't misplace my notes. (Have you seen my desk?)

From the recipe offered by Steve Solomon in the June/July 2006 Mother Earth News [].

4 parts seed meal
1/4 part agricultural lime (powder)
1/4 part gypsum (or double the agricultural lime)
1/2 part dolomitic lime
1 part bone meal, rock phosphate, or high-phosphate guano
1/2-1 part kelp meal

Put on your dust mask and mix the ingredients together. Store dry. In spring, before crops are planted, spread four quarts of this mix per 100 ft of garden row. In addition, spread a 1/4 inch layer of finished compost or composted manure. Work into the soil.

After 3-4 weeks, reapply a thin layer of the fertilizer across the root zone of heavy feeders. Repeat until the plants no longer respond to each application with increased growth.
clarentine: (Default)
Six little cheepers now occupy the chicken house - one Australorp (black, as they all are), one black and one splash Jersey Giant, two silver Ameraucanas, and one wheaten Ameraucana. They're about four weeks old, so it will be a good long while before they begin giving us eggs, but it's nice to have one more step taken along the road to actually having the small farm we'd envisioned.

(A decent pair of shots of the babies:

Also accomplished: irrigation of a sort for the vegetable garden. After a good bit of trial and error (and three trips to Lowe's for more parts), we rigged up a 300-foot line from the tap in the front of the house to the bottom of the garden. Every other garden bed has its own spigot along that line. We'll put the system to work this afternoon, once the sun goes down a bit.

We had our first deer damage on Friday night; an entire row of tomato plants lost their tops. Saturday, all the tomatoes were promptly encased in deer fence, and the sweet potatoes (White Yam slips planted Wednesday evening) have a deer fence drape, too. Surprisingly, the deer have not yet bothered the beans. I thought deer liked beans!

The strawberry plants transplanted earlier this spring from TN have flowers, silly things. We may yet have fruit this year. The raspberries, newly transplanted, are pouting but should do fine once they settle down.

(We've already had wild strawberries - the ones I managed to get to before Kay did! - and will shortly begin enjoying the wild blueberries. Yum!)


On the writing front, I'm working my way through the second of third parts of the Bells novel, in what I kid myself will be a final pass before sending it off to my agent. I have another story nibbling away at my attention, which is nice in more ways than one; I haven't had the mental energy to generate new story ideas since February of 2010. The new characters' insistence on telling me about themselves is proof that my poor brain is recovering from the overload.


In hyperlocal news, it's hot and humid. Memorial Day weekend is a reminder of what this time of year means in central Virginia. Also, poison ivy is no fun.

clarentine: (Default)
Now here's a competition I can get behind: trophy weeding! Tired of all that good ole boy bragging about the ten point buck your neighbor shot last November? Use the calculations at Garden Rant ( to claim some bragging rights for yourself.

(What was my trophy weed, at least thus far in the growing season? Another damned oak seedling, sprouted from the multitude of fertile acorns strewn across my back yard. I used to have a dog that thought the seed balls from the sweet gum tree (Liquidambar sp.) were tasty treats and so had few gum tree sprouts in my back yard. The new yard, and the current dogs, don't seem to consider acorns akin to popcorn, which is really too bad considering the number of mature oaks on the property.)


No chickens yet. The house was not ready, so we postponed. Maybe in another week, maybe two, when the bitty chicks are old enough not to need heat - our chicken house is at some distance from the people house and does not have electricity. It does, however, have trim work around (now properly hardware cloth-screened) windows and doors, and a chicken door into the run that is both operable from outside and latchable, and a feeder indoors that can be height-adjusted from the storage portion of the house (so as not to disturb the birds). On Wednesday, we'll have the stone to finish off the lower portion of the wire protecting the run, and then the house and run will be ready for occupation.

Yeah, yeah. I'll have those new photos up some year.


The tomato plants are blooming, despite relatively cool overnight temperatures (48 this morning before the sun started to warm things up). None of the bush bean seeds have thus far sprouted; I'm hedging my bets with pole bean seeds planted in between each of the bush bean hills.

The one surviving thornless blackberry plant I brought with me from in town is installed in its row (with a slight haircut; P did not realize it wasn't a weed to be mowed). It'll throw out great arching canes this season, which will be pegged out to produce additional plants and thus populate the row. Thank dog this variety is thornless - it's incredibly prolific.

The raspberry sticks purchased at Lowe's are still sticks and have been evicted for lack of viability (no buds in two weeks; no life in the poor things, which clearly were allowed to dry out in the store). My mom and dad are sending replacements from their raspberry patch. I suppose I'll buy my son, whose project these are, some thorn gloves now as an early birthday present. *g*
clarentine: (Default)
The chicken house is finished! Well, next to finished. Roof’s on, windows and doors are in place (lacking only the exterior flap on the chicken hatch into the run), wire’s up on the inside and the interior furniture’s in place as well.

(You’d call your bed and chairs furniture, right? So, chickens have furniture, otherwise known as nesting boxes and roosts. >:-) )

We also got the fence poles in for the run and stretched out the wire to fence that in. Hopefully it’ll all be done by the time we collapse tonight. Chicken D-Day is Saturday.

(Some photos here: Many are from our trip to Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville a couple of weeks ago. I still need to download more snaps taken since then – you know, in my copious spare time.)

The veggies are in for the most part. As one might anticipate, I bought way more tomato plants than we actually needed, but selection was so weird at the nursery where we got our plants – singles of some plants, four packs of others. I could have gone to the local herb show, where I would have found a much better selection, but that was clear across town on a day when I was already swamped with things to do (see above re chicken house). Hopefully the varieties I ended up with will be worthwhile.

One of the beds is mostly filled with strawberry plants we brought back from my parents’ farm in Tennessee. They’re perking back up, poor things, and have new leaves, so I think the transplanting has thus far been a success. They’ll eventually be moved to permanent beds to one side of the vegetable area - a project for the autumn.

I still need to put in the winter squash seeds (couldn’t find starts) and wait for the sweet potato slips to arrive before tucking them in. All in all, though, the garden’s in.


I do not like these new glasses. Or maybe it’s my aging eyes. Either way, I do not like not being able to see up close.

Sure, yes, I could have gotten bifocals and had a stronger, up-close prescription put in there, but I do not like bifocals. I don’t like giving up part of my regular reading area to something I don’t always use. I’ll stick with single vision for as long as I can.


The other project that’s been completed this week is a pair of large gates for the end of the dog yard, both to give access to the area beyond the fence where I’m going to put up a clothesline and to ensure vehicular access to the dog yard, where our well is located.

The clothesline poles came in the mail, too – in the mail, because no one local carries them. I ordered wires for the lines, as well, and those should be here this weekend or early next week.


The satellite dish, and its reception of local channels, is giving us fits. A technician came today and told us that one of the trees in the front yard was blocking the signal for the local channels, which are carried on a different satellite signal than the rest of the channels. Bah. The suggestions we were given were to top the tree or remove it. Double bah! What happens when the rest of those trees out there grow more? I’m not wrecking my trees one after another.


Good things? The woods and grounds around the house are a haze of green that looks too bright to be real. Turkeys keep calling in the bottom land behind our property, and there’s a whipporwill in the woods and frogs out there somewhere, too.

I have located not just one but four Carpinus trees on the property. You may know this plant better as Ironwood, a muscular-trunked tree with small, serrated leaves and, in the spring, tiny catkins that dangle below the barely opened buds. The forms taken by the trunks are a wonder. There’s probably a hazel, too, but the deer grazed it back to twigs just after I noticed it, so I’m not really sure where it is along the road frontage. It’s been exciting watching the trees and shrubs resolve into blackhaw viburnum (I think), black gum (ditto), maples and beech – oh, the beech trees! There’s blue-eyed grass all over the fields.

The deer have thus far let the new vegetables alone. Hopefully letting Kay roam around down there in the afternoons is keeping her scent strong enough to discourage exploration...either that, or they don’t like tomatoes!
clarentine: (Default)
Well, hogs on my lawn, at any rate. Two of them, a great big white one and a smaller reddish-brown hog, have shown up to graze on my lawn, and in my garden, and under my apple trees for the past two nights. I am sincerely hopeful that their owner was located today by the animal control officer and has himself located his wayward swine, and we won't be left to stare out the windows all evening and watch them watching us.

(I have this thing about livestock that's bigger than me. (No short jokes, you!) And these buggers didn't even blink when we tried to shoo them away with sticks and brooms; the smaller hog even moved closer. (So back into the house I went, right quick.) We finally chased them off last night by firing the rifle into the air.)

And you thought life in the country was all harvest the produce, enjoy the fresh air. *g* Hogs! On my lawn!


Of course, it's not my lawn for much longer. After far too involved a saga, we became homeowners again and will be moving into the new house this weekend. In celebration of finally - finally! - being settled, I bought two new telephones, one for the kitchen and one for my office.

Well, not quite new telephones. In fact, they're actually pretty old. The one going in my office was built sometime in 1968, and the one for kitchen was built in the early 1970s. I've long wanted one of the big, solid, heavy phones of my childhood, the ones with the real ring of striker against metal bell. They're rotary dial, too; I'm looking forward to the expression on my son's face when he goes to use them the first time. I even indulged myself with a red phone. *g* Let's hear it for eBay!

My dad's come up one more time to help us move and help, too, in putting together the new dog yard and house. (Thanks, Dad!) I got smart - I bought plans for the dog house online, so there would be no arguments about what I wanted or what supplies we need.

Now just to keep everyone from killing each other this weekend. And no more hogs on the lawn!
clarentine: (Default)
We had two boatloads of prospective buyers wandering around the farm yesterday. We more or less expected them, though I had thought they'd be out there while we were at work instead of showing up around 4:30 and hanging around until 6:30. What I hadn't expected is that they'd bring a dog. And let it off-leash, even knowing we had dogs (who P. penned, thank you very much, as soon as he saw them drive up) and that their dog did not obey voice commands. I count it a miracle my two in the pen did not do each other a harm while reacting to the obnoxious loose hound pissing on everything and chasing the goose into the lake.

I had asked the Owner to ask the Buyers, one pack of whom had been out over the weekend (and stayed for three hours!) with all their children, to keep their kids away from the dog pen. The beagle barked quite a bit, and not in a "let's play!” voice, at the kids staring and shouting at her on Saturday. So what do they do? They bring a dog for the kids to chase and shout at. Oy.

So I get home, after a long day at work and a slow commute home (car fire on the interstate, making the bus 15 minutes late getting us to the park and ride), to find the "guests". One of the kids ran up to me, wanting to know where I'd been. My considered response, in my best Go Away tone, was, "Where do you think?" He persisted. I kept walking toward the house. One of the adults from the second boatload came around the house from the front yard, where they appeared to be congregating, with the same eager expression as the boy.

That's when I saw the dog.

Before he could push us into let’s-be-friends territory, I asked if that was his dog. He said no, it was the other people's and was there a problem? I think I managed not to snap something to the effect of just wondering whose dog it was running around loose. And then I escaped into the house, leaving him standing there with his mouth open.


These Buyers, the Owner tells me, hope to take possession shortly after we vacate the premises (agreed upon, now, to be some time at the end of October, to give the seller of the house we’ve got a contract on time to vacate herself). They seem to love the place, though by their very presence they destroy the main reason I like it (peace and quiet). I suppose I shall have to just grin and bear it for the next month or so, since I suspect they’ll be out again.

If Owner thinks our reception of her suggestions for how to care for her property have been frosty since she accused us of neglecting everything from the fussy flower beds to the cats and chickens, she is in for a surprise. That ain’t nothing compared to the reaction she’s going to get if she attempts to chastise us for not making the Buyers welcome.

(Which, let’s be fair, she probably won’t do. The Buyers are members of that uniquely clueless class of urbanites who think that all is well so long as we love each other, la la la. The kids really are just that earnest. The adults probably fake it well, but they win no points from me when they note, in that earnest tone, how they could never live full-time in the country, away from civilization. I doubt they understand why I might get upset about their unsupervised kids and the out of control dog. Why would they? They’re civilized.)

P. and I observed to each other, while hiding in the house waiting for the hordes to un-invade, that if Timmy fell down the well, we wouldn’t be the ones playing Lassie.

And we will be very happy to be shed of this place and Owners and Buyers. Oh, yes.


House inspection yesterday went well – a few small things we will ask to have fixed, I think. P. met the lady whose home it is, and he says she’s friendly and cooperative. P.’s much better than me at making nice, so I suspect she thinks we’re friendly and cooperative, too. *g*

While we work through the financial stuff and count down the days, I’ll content myself with plans for my new office. I’m thinking about a nice, big, stenciled flower on the wall I’m reserving for pinning drawings to. Stencils have been much on my mind of late. Apparently someone dropped a subliminal suggestion for stenciled mums into my mind one night while I slept, because I keep coming back to that image.

Maybe I’ll just go search the web for stencils. Yeah. Retail therapy to the rescue. *g*


Aug. 20th, 2010 03:53 pm
clarentine: (Default)
While browsing through a website for Masonite door products, I encountered the following text:

Masonite's ultimate goal is to add beauty and value to your home. We make our doors to the highest standards and warrant them to perform over time. When you buy a Masonite door, you are buying piece of mind. (emphasis mine)

Which is ironic, in that the reason I went looking at websites about Masonite was the fact I discovered today that, in 1996, Masonite's exterior siding product was determined via a class action suit to be defective.

Apparently, so is their grammar checker. >:-)


We have the one good property located last week, and will be looking at two other candidates this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed that one of them will be close to the ideal of what we're looking for. We would like to shoot for closing the end of September, moving in October. I should have more photos to post on Sunday evening.


This whole pack-move-unpack, pack-move-unpack thing feels so familiar. We moved a lot when I was a kid (nine schools in 12 years of public schooling).

My husband and I listed the things we're looking forward to with a new house. Top of the list? Windows with proper screens. To say that the little sliding-insert screen things don't work is putting it mildly. It's been like living in a camp for the past five months; don't turn on a light after dark unless you wanted to attract moths and other flyers, especially upstairs!

My husband and son are both cheering that the three places that are our top choices all have dishwashers. I could do without - have done so for the past 15 years - but maybe this means I won't have to be the only one really paying attention to washing up.

Yeah, right.
clarentine: (Default)
I had intended to link to these photos with yesterday's entry, but had not been able to upload the photos. (I suspect my husband's laptop is a bandwidth hog.) So, after having uploaded them in the dark of night, I offer here a teaser and a link to more pictographic goodness:


The Queen Anne's Lace wildflowers are in full bloom, delighting the tiny wasps and other insects who rely on nectar. After they bloom, the seedheads curl inward, then dry and turn brittle before shattering at the slightest touch and hurling seed everywhere. Before the meadow below the house was bushhogged two weeks ago, it was carpeted with QAL and black-eyed susans.

I also took some shots of the abundance of insects dancing around the QAL and other flowers in bloom right now, and you can find those photos and one of the resident goose on my flickr page: (Psst, [ profile] mnfaure: beetles!)
clarentine: (Default)
I have a co-worker who hums constantly as she moves through the hallways. (I observed to her once that she must live alone. She looked at me oddly and clearly did not follow my reasoning.) I tried to explain to her today, when she corrected herself and apologized for humming around me, that other people’s verbalized sounds distracted me because they intruded into my interior monologue...which got me to wondering how many other people have such a constant interior conversation going.

I’d be hell on telepaths.

I also realized, in the process, why I hate listening in to other people’s cell phone conversations, completely aside from the sheer lack of manners of holding some conversations in public. >:-) I really don’t need more distractions, folks. Trust me on this one.


If I have enough brain cells left this weekend, I intend to try making either homemade ginger ale or switchel. It’s been really hot – hot enough that I did not sleep well last night – and I think we could all use a break from the ubiquitous iced tea (decaf, of course, since the object is not to dehydrate us further). If it turns out, I’ll report the recipe I used.


Cucumbers, as I discovered two weeks ago at the end of the hottest and second-driest June ever on record locally, turn inedibly bitter without enough water. They’ve all been going to the chickens, and I’ve been watering daily to ensure the new fruit will be edible. The tzatziki sauce I made on Sunday is good, so I think the watering regimen is working – and it doesn’t hurt that we did get some rain on Friday night. And more on Monday. And on Tuesday. Yay!

I wish I’d written down the names of the tomato varieties I chose this year at the plant sale. The grape tomatoes are particularly excellent. Given that most grape tomatoes are still very much open-pollinated (e.g., not hybridized and thus producing true to seed), I should be safe just saving seeds from some of the nicer fruits.

The sunrise has visibly changed since Midsummer. At 5AM (when my alarm goes off on work days, and when my dog alarm goes off if the mechanical one doesn’t), there’s now the barest glow in the eastern sky – nothing like the don’t-need-a-light dawn we had two weeks ago. Sunset times haven’t started their slide yet, but that’s coming, and I will not complain.

And I’m reminded, by the change in daylight, that it’s time to think about fall crops. Renee’s Garden Seeds already has my order for kale, romaine lettuce, and cucumbers (for planting next year – they’re promised not to be bitter). Great seed company: I remember ordering from these folks when they still produced a paper catalog. I have never been disappointed in quality or service.
clarentine: (Default)
According to one of the characters in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams, in Greece, it’s considered bad luck to praise someone for an accomplishment. It’s the cultural equivalent of knocking on wood lest one draw unwanted attention to a triumph. Pass someone with a pretty baby? Be certain to praise the woman for her ugly child! (Truth? Misinterpretation? Made up out of whole cloth? Dunno, but it sounds good.)

In the Greek vein, then, I might observe how terribly disappointed I am that the MiFi finally is working the way it’s designed and apologize for being more available in the evenings.

That’s not to say that I’ll have more evenings to be available. We do live on a farm, after all. *g* Bad luck has nothing on unfed dogs, cats, and chickens.


I have a solution to the chocolate pound cake slumping problem that I encountered the week before last: instead of using a tube pan, I divided the batter into three regular-sized loaf pans. The texture is still dense, moister than an old-fashioned pound cake, but less brownie-like. In other words, exactly what I was after. One loaf is nearly consumed. The other two are waiting their turn in the freezer.

Up next, since the aforementioned chickens haven’t forgotten it’s spring, I’ll be baking one of the old-fashioned versions. Ten eggs in a single recipe! Both of these recipes, I might add, come from a booklet produced by the Virginia Egg Council entitled “A Collection of Virginia’s Best Pound Cake Recipes,” available by request from the Egg Council (, All of the recipes listed are winners in their various local fairs.


Tomatoes and peppers went in this weekend, in the hopes that last week’s near freezing temperatures are the last we’ll see. The heat over the weekend went a long way toward convincing me; no one should have to deal with 94 degree temperatures on the first day of May. I still need to clear out the last of the four raised beds and put in summer squash – my son has specifically requested zucchini. At least with chickens I won’t have to wonder what to do with the occasional monster zucchini.

The radishes are well up, the spinaches have broken out, and the beets are slowly peering into the world. The strawberries are all in blossom; there’ll be fruit soon. (We’ve already fenced all of the working beds to keep out marauding peacocks. I’m advised that Oberon fancies strawberries.)

I’ve noted a number of wild blueberry bushes along the lower edge of the meadow. There are two cultivated bushes up with the rest of the orchard fruits, but I think I’m going to be planting more down at the bottom of the meadow to take advantage of moister conditions. And then, once they start producing, I’ll have a cash crop I can manage by myself.


Observing the poor aesthetic of the snow fencing we’re using to keep out the fowl and fat-footed dogs who’d just as soon take a shortcut through the veggies, I frown. I think my project for mid-summer and into the winter will be to make sections of withy fencing that can be dropped into place when we need them and then removed to the shed again at the end of each season. We have a big willow tree for the withies, crazy honeysuckle vines in the rugosa roses for decorative twine, and there’s certainly enough trees to provide the frames.


What, no writing notes? Sorry. Until the work on the house we’re selling is done – please, god, this weekend – I don’t have a brain cell to spare for actual writing, though that’s not to say I’m not thinking about what to do once I do get enough time. This is an improvement over the period just before the move, when I was not only packing like a dervish but trying to plan for the move itself and arrange mortgage monies and hadn’t the energy to read, much less write.

clarentine: (Default)
We're here, and I'm online via the services of a Verizon air card attached to my computer. Next I have to figure out how to connect the air card to the router the previous occupants left for us (with which they used exactly the same kind of air card, so I know it can be done). I'm beginning to think the solution is to connect my computer directly to the router, with the air card plugged into the router as well, and walk through the set up again. Thoughts?


clarentine: (Default)

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