Monday, March 27, 2017

farm update

The farm has been kind of busy the past weeks with lots of stuff going on.

It is maple sap season 

The weather is kind of sporadic so when the conditions are right, not too cold or not too warm, the sap is running.  There has been a lot of windy weather and  couple of times the wind has blown the buckets off the tree.  It is a small operation, I only have two trees, but this year I added two more buckets and taps which has doubled my capacity.  Since I have read that it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, I probably won't end up with more than a couple of pints of syrup but it is fun.

The winter greenhouse

The winter greenhouse is winding down and switching over to the spring season.  One experiment that I tried was last spring I bought a hanging basket that contained some strawberry plants.  The plan was that after spending the summer outside we would try to overwinter it in the greenhouse.  A few weeks ago I was pleased to see that it was flowering.

 and now it has one small white strawberry that is just starting to ripen.
  It doesn't look like much yet but I am encouraged to try more baskets next winter.  I have quite a bit of room for hanging baskets and some empty baskets.  Rather than buying them already planted at the nursery I will pot them up myself.

I also overwintered my rosemary and sage.  Some of my rosemary has been blooming for a while now.  These plants are two years old.  We started them from seed to be used on the tables at my daughter's and son-in-law's wedding party last summer..

The spring greenhouse

It is that time when the greenhouse gets too warm for winter greens and the plants bolt, turn bitter and go to seed.  It is also the time that the seedlings that I have started under lights in the basement are ready for transplanting from the trays that they were started in to their first pot, usually a red solo cup.  Since the bigger pots take up a lot more room as they are potted I have been gradually moving them to the greenhouse.  There have been some cold nights so I am back to running the milkhouse heater some nights but they seem to be doing well.
I started with tomatoes, peppers and herbs.  Now that more of them are moved outside I have been starting some of the other crops.  It has been damp and cloudy.  We are a ways away from the ground being ready for even early cold hardy crops much less tomatoes and peppers so they have some time to get bigger.

I am joining BNOTP for Met Monday here.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A fun project for a sad reason

My sister has been involved in a benefit for a young man who has cancer.  She is donating items for the silent auction.  The young man and his family are involved in rodeo so quite a few of the people expected to come to the benefit are 'horse folks' so she decided to do something horse related and we collected recipes for homemade horse treats.  She did the baking and I crafted  labels for her to tie onto the bags of treats.  I followed her theme and created labels that were a cowboy hat with the ingredients of the different treats listed on the back.  She made three baskets.  Here is one.
 Each basket included identical contents.  She made seven different treat recipes.  A clear bag held each treat and they were tied with a raffia bow and a cowboy hat tag was added to provide the name of the treat and a list of the ingredients used on the back.  A cute striped placemat lined the basket and a couple carrots and an apple rounded out the treats. 
The cowboy hat tag fronts and backs were cut on the cricut and assembled.  Each hat was made from six different card stocks.
She also made up baskets that held homemade cake donuts that were made by our parents.  Those baskets included two coffee cups and a selection of K cups including one called Donut Shoppe.  I also made tags for those baskets which were tied to one of the cups.  These tags resembled a disposable cup with a frosted donut along side.
Her kitties were very interested...
The benefit is raising money for a man in his early 30s who is fighting cancer for the second time.  His situation is not good and hopefully the money raised will help he and his new bride financially as well as letting them know that a concerned community is supporting them emotionally as well.

I am joining BNOTP for Met Monday here.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

a little garden start

Today I was reading that warm weather in February can mean an early spring.  We are having a mild stretch.  Yesterday and today it was 60 and I think that a few more nice days are predicted before it cools off again and there is the potential for more snow.  Our last frost date for our zone is the third week in May.  I have been slowly working into the seed starting routine.  Last year I saved some seeds and purchased larger packets of others hoping to have quite a few seed varieties that wouldn't need to be ordered new.  So before I start whole flats of different seeds I am starting small amounts of them to check on their germination potential.  Then once I know what I have that is usable I will know what I need to order.  It was good to get everything set up, the heat mat out and the lights plugged in and working.  It is a good feeling.  So far I have some baby seedlings breaking thru the soil mix surface so I am encouraged by that.

The other thing that I am doing is getting ready for my second season of maple sap collecting and syrup making.  Last year I tentatively tried tapping one of my maple trees.  To be honest, I had never considered tapping the trees until the spring before when sap was dripping from some places high in the tree where we  had had some branches cut the previous fall.  I could hear it dripping on the ground.  So I bought one tap, bucket and cover and when that worked I bought a second.  I have two large maple trees in my yard, not sugar maples but they will work for making syrup.  My trees are large enough that they are supposed to be able to handle more than one tap and so today I bought two more taps, buckets and covers so this year I will double hopefully double my yields.  There is a magic formula of certain warm daytime temperatures and certain cooler overnight temperatures that stimulate the sap to move and I am not sure if the current temperature pattern is right but if it is I will be ready. 

A picture from last year.

Farm update

The warm weather has had some definite effects that I am grateful for.  The herd's water is staying thawed and I am glad to not have to fight with that morning and evening.  My yard and especially the area that I walk to the barn has been a sheet of ice and much of that has melted so it is a little safer.

I have also not had to run the little milkhouse heaters in the winter greenhouse for over a week.  This has been kind of a disappointing season for the winter greenhouse.  The cloudy winter has really negatively impacted the growth of the greens but also the lack of sun has not helped to  warmed up the greenhouse. On a sunny day the greenhouse will warm up to over 100+ degrees and then it will cool off somewhat slowly overnight.  Most of the days this winter the greenhouse was lucky to have a daytime temp in the 60s or 70.  Then it would cool off more quickly and need supplemental heat during the night.  We have not had more than a handful of those sunny days this winter.

As an experiment we tried overwintering some potted ferns of my sister's patio and a potted ghost pepper of Cait and Robb's both of which did not make it thru a frigid spell earlier this winter when it was really cold ( I want to say -20+ for 36 straight hours but don't quote me) and the greenhouse dropped to 28 degrees and it was enough below freezing to kill them.  My other experiment, a potted strawberry plant had a lot of brown leaves but now is having some new green growth.  We will see if it flowers and produces strawberries.  My hope was that it would fruit during the winter but even if we can get earlier berries in the spring that would be great.  I think next year I will try a few more.  I have room to hang quite a few and quite a few hanging baskets so I think that I will try a few more next year.

Our deer fence took a hit.  The first snow left the poles bent in half or leaning.  The plastic mesh seems to be okay so I am hoping that we can replace those posts with wood ones and be able to rescue it.  It is a big garden so a lot of holes to dig.  At the same time it will be an opportunity to reinforce the bottom edge to keep out the rabbits who last year found their way under.  I keep hoping that the rabbits will be afraid of the big dogs that live here but so far it does not seem to be the case.  I think they guard all of the animals on the farmsite and think that the rabbits in the yard and the pheasants in the grove are to be protected as well.  And I guess that is okay.

Joining Met Monday at BNOTP here.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

a valentine table--next year

I didn't do Valentine's day.  I don't have pink or red or heart decor.  But yesterday my sister and I hit our closest Goodwill and I fell in love with and came home with some pieces that will work for next year.

I found a few pieces of a pink Fiesta.  Four dinner plates, three cereal bowls and four smaller bowls.  I have always been a fan of Fiesta but up until yesterday my only purchase was a white chop plate that a found while thrifting for $2 last year.  I have a set of my grandmother's vintage bowls that she gave to me a long time ago but I have not bought my own.  I drool over them when I see them new on display in the retail stores but this was the first that I have found this many matching ones in a thrift store. 

The square quilt was a $5 purchase at the same Goodwill.  It is beautiful and in great condition. It is greens and pinks.  The back is a green floral and there is a coordinating floral that is repeated in the borders and makes up the heart in the center.  The back has an embroidered corner stating that it was in 2001 with a couple's names and a church from across the state.  There is a casing sewn into the top edge on the back so that it can be hung on the wall.  

I am drawn to these shades of green and the pinks match the Fiesta dishes really nicely.  February 2018 I am ready. 

I am joining Tablescape Thursday at BNOTP here.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

putting Christmas away

Today I finally got the last of my Christmas down and stored.  I decided that it was time to follow up a bit on some Christmasy loose ends and then move on.

Christmas puddings

Before Christmas I shared a picture from my kitchen showing a basket of steamed pudding molds.
I had found several recipes for steamed puddings and planned to try them all, probably one each day of our celebrations and then evaluate.  In the craziness leading up to the holiday I only got one made, the figgy pudding.  It was not a great hit with our family.  My dad is the only one who is really a fan of fruitcake so he was okay with it but the rest, not so much.  I don't think that we even got a picture of it.  It worked great.  I used the center (largest) of the molds.  It is similar to a angel food tube pan in that there is a tube in the center so that when the cake is unmolded it has a hole down the center.  The mold as shown in the picture is upside down for how it is baked but then it is tipped out of the mold and rests on the plate in the same position that is it in the picture.  Figgy pudding is a cake that contains a large amount of dried figs and other dried fruits.  It also contains some liquor (brandy and rum) and when ready to serve heated brandy is poured over the cake and ignited.

Before Christmas I had purchased sufficient fruit to make two recipes and so after Christmas I used the rest of the fruit to make a different recipe for a Christmas Plum Pudding.  Unlike Figgy Pudding that actually contains figs, the plum pudding does not contain plums.  It does contain other dried fruit.  This recipe contained molasses and spices for more of a gingerbread like flavor.  Again the recipe went together well.  I again used the largest of the molds as I was not sure that the amount of cake batter that the recipe made would fit in the smaller melon shaped or round, non tube pan.  This pudding is served with a hard sauce.  Both the hard sauce and the cake contain Brandy.  I did get a picture of this cake.
It was okay.  The third pudding that I had planned to make was a chocolate one that does not contain fruit.  I still plan to make that one and I have a feeling that might be the one that ends up being the favorite.


Last week I shared a link to a post by Helen at Entertablement that included a great bar cart and shared how I had recently scored a group of decanters.  I do not yet have a bar cart but I am now on the lookout for one but in the meantime I  needed a place to display my new collection.  So right now they are on my dry sink.  This is a piece that my uncle built many years ago and until I locate a bar cart this will be a fun place for them.

I took this picture a couple of days ago.  The stockings and the wine themed tree are put away but the throw that usually hangs there is yet to be put back up.  That and the chocolate steamed pudding should happen this week.  

It  has been quite wintry here in Minnesota.  We had a cold snap, followed by an ice storm, followed by a couple of snow storms.  We have had icy roads with snow covering, blowing and drifting, and all of the travel headaches that goes along with icy roads.  Tomorrow another day of a wintry mix is forecast.  Not sure if it will be snow or rain but following that we are predicted to have several days in a row with highs in the upper 30s so hopefully it will be enough to clear the last of the ice off of the roads.  Sounds like much of the country is dealing with winter.  Stay safe.     

Joining Met Monday at BNOTP.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Thinking spring

Several things have me thinking of spring while it is the Persephone period and bitter cold in Minnesota.

The first seed catalog has arrived this week:
Two recent finds at the thrift store have a garden theme:
Set of four salad plates with an orchard theme (above) and a large pasta serving bowl with heirloom tomatoes (below).
A Christmas gift from my daughter and son-in-law will hopefully help discourage some rabbit nibbling.
We are a zone 4 so our last frost date is May 23.  A little early to begin counting down the days or starting the seedlings but not too early to start planning and dreaming.
Not even close to a tablescape but some pictures of dishes so even though it is a stretch I will join Tablescape Thursday here.

fun how things come together

This is a long story, sort of, with multiple parts.  And it is not finished yet, but it is closer.  It started over a year ago.  My daughter and then future son-in-law were planning a wedding.  They had registered for all of the usual things, fine china, flatware, crystal, stoneware and I was interested in getting them something special.  In talking with the bride she mentioned that the groom had an interest in a decanter but they hadn't found the one that they loved so it was not on their registry.  I set about searching for a vintage one, sending pictures to my daughter of the occasional one that I ran across.  None were perfect.

At the same time I had been picking up vintage glass in a pattern called Wexford.  My other daughter had bought some glasses and the pattern was pretty distinctive and I started seeing it on thrifting outings with my sister and bought the first few pieces thinking that they would supplement her collection.  I don't know if it is a midwestern thing but I started finding it everywhere, fell in love with it myself and now my collection is larger than hers.  This summer I found two of the Wexford decanters and added them to my collection.  I did break the stopper to the one decanter but it didn't fit well and it fell off when I was carrying it so I wonder now if at some point it been substituted for the correct one prior to my purchase.   

I also found this little decanter that I hoped would hold small amounts of homemade elderberry cordial that I had steeping.

Then, just recently I discovered a blog through a link party that I had not read before.  Not sure how it had evaded my radar as the archives go back several years but I am so glad to have found it. And last week Helen, the blog's author, shared a drool worthy picture of her bar cart.

Go here to check it out.

She had written about how her husband was collecting decanters.  Each of their decanters was different and I loved the look and it changed my perspective.  I no longer was only on the lookout for Wexford decanters but would instead consider any that were interesting and fun.

Now, I have to admit that the idea of a bar cart for me is probably foolish.  I live alone.  I do not entertain often.  My kids are grown and live across the state with busy lives so we get together less than I would like.  But I want one.

Then, my favorite shop, a mix of thrift store and antique store, that specializes in estates, decided to move to another town.  They were having a sale, deeply discounting their inventory.  My sister and I decided to make probably our last trip to the store before they closed.  They had lots of stuff that they were selling that had not previously made it to their sales floor.  They would box up an estate, haul it to the shop, store the boxes in the basement and unload the boxes as space allowed.  They had six decanters.  And I grabbed them up.  Some of them still had old price tags on them so I think that they were probably collected over time and then the collection ended up as part of an estate.

In the blink of an eye I was a whole bunch closer to Helen's bar cart.  Yay!

To finish up this story.  I ended up choosing a different gift as a wedding gift for the bride and groom.  I continued to share pictures of new and vintage decanters with my daughter and this fall an online catalog that I received as an email had a new decanter that they liked and purchased.  I now am going to keep my eye out for a bar cart to hold my new collection.  And plan a cocktail party next time the kids are home.


I will be joining BNOTP for Met Monday here.