Boo!…Happy Halloween!

So the weather prediction was correct about the first hard frost of 2013 which occurred over night on October 24th and continued as temps dropped even further the next morning. We were not able to save the last of the ‘hangers on’ of the summer crops such as Eggplant, Tomatoes, Peppers, Okra and Green Beans. I hate to say it but enough already?!?!  The good news is that our cool weather crops of Spinach, Swiss Chard, Pak Choi, (or Bok Choi…we see this spelled several ways) Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale and a variety of Lettuces, survived the snap and are still thriving. This means that even after the large over-harvesting that we did in fear of losing all that was out in the field, we are still able to bring in the dark leafy stuff that is so good for us! I’m serving the leafy stuff nightly along with some other tasty morsels! Last night we had thinly sliced pork loin chops in a Dijon Mustard sauce (divine – e-mail me for the recipe!) along with pasta served in our tomato sauce along with sauteed Swiss Chard. IMG_4812

We are currently getting a nice, gentle rain which isn’t so nice for the Halloween folks, but it is helping the new grass that we have planted in the edges of the new driveway and elsewhere. Before the rain started, we had thick fog yesterday which was interesting to observe but difficult to photograph. IMG_4805

The trees are starting to turn beautiful shades of red. As I take my daily walk thru Kirkwood, I have been avidly looking for the Trident Maple specimen that we will be planting in front this fall. I have found several to admire and even stopped to photograph their lovely fall leaf color on a recent walk. IMG_4808

Perhaps these colors have inspired some of my recent knitting. I am still working on my final year of the Master Hand Knitting program and have quite a few items to compete before I will be able to send off my submission. One of those items will be a sweater of my own design in the tradition of Fair Isle Knitting. I won’t bore you with the details of this now (but will promise to later when there is less to report about this farm this winter!), but it is safe to say that this is a large undertaking which will take me months to complete in my spare time. I am currently at the stage of collecting the groupings of yarns to make progressions of color values. I have begun this project with the inspiration from one of our antique oriental rugs that is in our entry foyer. IMG_4779

In the midst of all of this design work, here is what my desk looked like this afternoon!IMG_4831

Other news to report: we have been trying to find a location to recycle the Styrofoam in our area. This is really tricky since the weekly trash collectors prohibit the disposal in the regular trash and our local Kirkwood recycling does not take it either. After quizzing several of my brightest, ecological minded friends, they didn’t have a suggestion either. So, as the volume began to grow in our garage, I did a search on line and found a company in Earth City that would take it for free. So we loaded up my car this week and made a disposal run. Not only was my rear cargo full but so was my back seats! After going thru this ordeal, I’m now much more sensitized to companies that continue to ship stuff to us with Styrofoam packaging and will be refusing to buy any store goods that are packaged that way! IMG_4803

Pick a Peck of Pickled Peppers…

There is a hard frost warning for tonight so we have been harvesting like crazy the last two days in order to preserve as much of the cool season crops (and the last of the summer produce) as possible. It is not so unusual to have a frost at this point in the fall but we had such a long run last year without a frost that we got spoiled with the harvest lasting well into November. We clearly remember still picking spinach the week before Thanksgiving since we enjoyed it so much! So Dave has been out in the fields harvesting for hours and I’ve been washing and putting it all away as fast as I can. Since there is still so much out there to try to protect tonight, he is devising some “blankets” and we just installed our portable cold frame for the more delicate plants. Things like the carrots and turnips won’t be affected much but most of the leafy veggies will not be happy. IMG_4777

Here is what we brought in today and we did nearly the same yesterday. IMG_4775

The good news to report is that we will surely be over 1600 lbs of produce for 2013 after these last two days. Although the tomatoes will still ripen (very slowly and without as much flavor), we may be stirring up some fried green tomatoes in the next couple of days!

I spent the morning clearing out the potted annuals that were on the back terrace. I do this with mixed feelings since by this time of year I’m tired of watering and caring for them but it seems as if we lose all the color that we enjoy so much. I often include various sweet potato vines in my plantings so it is always fun to uncover the ‘potatoes’ produced by the plants. Here is the out come from one of this year’s pots. What an interesting mix of shapes and colors.IMG_4770

Other fun things have been happening in the last couple of days at Seven Oaks. The last driveway pour was completed last week and the crew acid washed it and have now sealed it as well. It should be drive-able tomorrow! It was good that they did this since the leaves (and acorns) are beginning to fall and it becomes a bit trickier to get this just right with all of the debris plus the chilly temps we are currently experiencing. We are waiting to have the edging stones that need to be re-placed to be put into their spots around the beds. We will cheer when this gets done! In fact, here is an advance cheer if it helps….YEAH! They plan to be out tomorrow to do this final work.

Since most of the concrete/masonry construction is finished, we are now in the midst of planning the new planting beds at the rear of the back terrace which will flank the new steps and out door kitchen. I met with our horticulturist, Mary Ellen, and the arborist, Jon, yesterday afternoon to review the plans and keep this part of the project going forward. We met during the slightest bit of a chilly rain sprinkle and wouldn’t you know, we were greeted by another wonderful rainbow that I just had to capture with my camera.IMG_4749

The other fun thing that happened yesterday was the final installation of the outdoor gas grill. Our very favorite plumber/friend Mule,  arrived first thing yesterday morning to hook up the gas to the grill. In addition to brewing his own craft beer, he also knows a thing or two about grilling so he was able to help me through some of the set up details with our grill. I asked him if he would pose for a pic and he was okay with that. So here he is lighting the first round of flames! Thanks, Mike/Mule!IMG_4753

He and his family like the veggies we grow so I made sure he was laden with some goodies before he left! He has been one of our pickle testers, so I added a jar of pickles to his sack for both his family and his mother, Joyce. I will look forward to feedback on those!

So with the new outdoor grilling area up and running (the electricians came after Mike and finished up their end of things) so we were hot on the trail of something to grill last night. Dave made a run to Sam’s for some shrimp to use with our favorite shrimp recipe and I marinated it all day and put it on the ‘barbie’ last night along with some of our eggplant. Here it is cooking away. It was yummy and there is plenty left for another taste tonight!

Harvest Moon

Last week marked our third year of moving into Seven Oaks. A recent post reported on the date we closed on the property and started construction, but the date we moved out of Frontenac Estates and officially moved here was October 14th of 2010. Here are pics of our last evening at Frontenac Estates…we were camping out there with lawn chairs in the living room as well as eating our dinner in the basement. IMG_0645 Empty shelves and our faithful Farly in the background. I’m sure he was wondering what was up with this!IMG_0644

Seven Oaks changed from a construction site to our home at that point and there were ups and downs along the way as we were challenged to make sense out of the house and grounds in every way. I needed to get a feel for the interior and exterior spaces in order to figure out how to make these spaces work for our future plans. Big changes continued in both arenas. Here is Dave who gladly uses his chainsaw whenever needed. The overgrowth was overwhelming in the back as well as the front.  IMG_0848 IMG_0847
If you are familiar with the current allee view, this last photo will remind you of what the rear view of the same view of the property looked like 3 years ago.

Of course the work continued in other areas we could attack at that point as well. The rear area of my office was rotted away and needed immediate attention. We knew that we had an infestation of several termite colonies when we bought the place and my office exterior was one of their favorite places! The contractors loved the challenge of rebuilding this part of the house. IMG_0753

In the meantime, we are loving the fall harvest and using it in our evening meals. We regularly use the Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale, and Bok Choi in our evening recipes. I start with a bit of good olive oil to the pan, add a small amount of diced meat such as bacon or hard sausage for flavor. IMG_4714  When the pan is very hot, I quickly add the greens and they cook within minutes. To this I add some lemon juice and feta if I have it on hand and a good grinding of pepper. Yummy!IMG_4720

We continue to enjoy a myriad of veggie combinations that seem to take advantage of our produce. After a couple of nights in a row of this, Dave is keen to keep it on a roll! IMG_4722

The Hetenyis have been fans of these veggies and have welcomed several deliveries of greens recently, now that they have a new kitchen! Here is what they received yesterday morning. We know they put it to good use! IMG_4724

As the weather has turned cooler and and the daylight hours are shorter, I’ve allowed myself some extra knitting time. Here is my newest sweater, knitted with a 5ply Gansey wool called ‘Scottish Fleet’ by Alice Starmore. It is no longer available in this lovely green color which I had tucked away in my knitting stash for a couple of years now. My mother came over this weekend to help me select the buttons to use. We had fun rooting through my button collection and settled on these fine pewter ones that I had gotten from a local pewter crafter. IMG_4733It is chilly enough today that I think I will wear this sweater today!

What a joy to have a harvest moon to admire recently! IMG_8618

We also greet the day with some fabulous sunrises that are visible from our back view. IMG_8385

Rock, Paper, Scissors?

No paper or scissors, in fact, nothing but rocks. Or as some may say, stones. This weekend was dedicated to moving the stones/rock that edged the old driveway. We decided not to put them back in place since they didn’t really ‘go’ with the new driveway style. So, we have been carrying them from the front driveway to pallets in the rear of the back driveway since they will make nice dry stack stone wall material for the future rear garden beds. IMG_4665

The majority of this work has been done by Dave but I helped. Kind of like Scout, in To Kill A Mockingbird, whose emphatic voice I hear when I say, “I helped”! But not nearly enough since someone had to sit with Farley, right!?! 😉

The last concrete pour on the driveway is scheduled for tomorrow. We are eager to get this underway and I suppose the crew is too since it gets tiresome for them too. They are all set for the last pour.IMG_4672

We have the burden of filling in the gap between the grass the the new driveway. Dave started this challenge this weekend but I’m afraid it will take many more weeks to complete this task.IMG_4679

The roses we planted in the front are blooming like crazy despite the disruption of the driveway project and having the edging stones at their feet. IMG_4680

There are many other areas that will be turned from hardscape into landscape areas. This little spot will be turned into my future herb garden since it is right out side of the back door. Much work necessary to make this happen still! IMG_4681

We have been fortunate to have a the opportunity to run all of the downspouts and other drainage under the new driveway. Water is certainly a blessing but also our enemy. Managing the water is the key to success in all areas of the Farm. IMG_4670

So tomorrow, we are expecting the last of the concrete pours, the masons to come and clean up their left over mess (ugh, enough already with the mess!), and the grass guys to come and aerate and seed the affected areas. We are hoping that everyone plays nicely! All of us, especially Farley, are eager for the project to be behind us! IMG_4667

In the meantime, we are enjoying the fall crops which provide much of a leafy matter for our table. The lettuces, spinach, bok choi, kale, swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, radishes, kohlrabi and turnips are flourishing.IMG_4682

We have high hopes for some rain tomorrow night and Tuesday! Wouldn’t that be nice!


Things Have Been Very BUZZY Lately at the Farm!

The buzz around here these days is a repeat of last fall when I got swarmed by yellow jackets. Yes, they are back, but this time, they were after the concrete guys and not me! Luckily, no one got hurt! yellow jackey

We had noticed some recent yellow jacket activity at one of the ‘islands’ of river birches out near the street. This is where we had activity last year, but they had moved to a new location after being exterminated almost exactly a year ago. Apparently they get rather agitated and mean when this time of year. We warned the concrete crew to be aware of them as their work approached that part of the driveway.

The concrete guys attempted to get rid of the nest using an old remedy. They came very early in the morning (when the flying activity is at its lowest) and poured gasoline down the entrance to their nest, and then plugged it with a rag. This didn’t work for very long since yellow jackets often have a rear exit to their nest and this was no exception. So they flew out the other way and were just mad as hell. They responded poorly to the vibration and sawing noise of the crew as they worked on the last sections of driveway preparation and so the crew had to pull off until we could get an exterminator out to do the job with heavy duty chemicals.

We called the same company that helped out last year and they were out within a couple of hours to help us eliminate this nest. What excitement! Here is Chuck, posing by his truck. IMG_4645

He sprayed the nest from both entries and then all around the general area. He was in his full ‘swarm’ regalia and asked me to stand back and away by at least 30 feet while he did his work. After he doused the area thoroughly with his spray, I crept back to see the end result. He pointed out the queen to me who had dragged herself out of the nest and was floundering around as she tried to escape. The queen is about twice the size of the rest of the bees. The chemical takes 24 hours to kill them all thoroughly, but they were rather dazed and silly as they sauntered out of their nest and tried to figure out what had happened to them.

We hope the concrete crew can return safely to do the final pour at the mouth of the south end of the driveway! In the meantime Scott worked on acid washing and sealing the part that had been poured last week so progress continued despite the ‘buzziness’.

The fall crops are enjoying the cool nights and In the last few days I’ve been attacking the mounds of green beans, green peppers and hot peppers as well as the eggplants in order to keep processing the bounty from the farm. As of yesterday, the total harvest year to date is just over 1,545 pounds! Tomatoes finally climbed to the top of the list (topping the cucumbers)! That is a lot of tomatoes, but remember that 15-16 pounds reduces to about 5-6 jars of sauce, and even fewer jars of ketchup. Here are the weights (in pounds) of the top ten items of 2013:

  1.  Tomatoes           320.859
  2.  Cucumbers        319.641
  3.  Cantaloupe        243.266
  4.  Strawberries      159.234
  5.  Eggplant             148.750
  6.  Potatoes               83.016
  7.  Watermelon        78.813
  8.  Pumpkins             51.313
  9.  Green Peppers    42.813
  10.  Green Beans        19.203

We are still enjoying the watermelons since they keep well in the refrigerator and taste wonderful, especially when someone cuts them up and has them all ready to eat!IMG_5185

I froze 5 pounds of green beans, IMG_46334 pounds of green peppers IMG_4637and have used a pile of eggplants in several dinner dishes as well as in some pasta sauce that I currently have cooking on the stove. The hot peppers were turned into 3 more batches of Sriracha sauce. IMG_4574

The STL newspaper had an article about Sriracha sauce in the recent food section. Although they did not indicate how to make the sauce, (too bad) they had a couple of interesting recipes that use it as an ingredient. I might try using it the next time I make chicken wings. I have gifted a jar or two to those whom I think would be appreciative and it is getting good reviews so far which gives me confidence to continue to make more.

Farley has finished off all of his steroids and muscle relaxers and is doing well on just the pain meds and seizure meds. Crossing fingers and paws that he continues in this direction!

Taos Knitting Getaway and Farley on the Mend

Thank You, Thank You! I received an outpouring of messages from concerned friends, family (and even strangers who read my blog) since my last post about Farley’s health issues. I wish I had more time to write a post before now to give an update on his status but as you will read, I’ve been a bit distracted.

We have had pretty positive news to report since Farley does appear to be on the mend, thanks to the prescribed rest regime as well as a huge number of meds from the vet. Thankfully, the vet modified his meds at one point to lessen his agitated/anxious state which is typical in the combination of steroids and pain meds. He is much more comfortable in this photo. IMG_4570

Here is one of the cute cards that a friend sent over which I love! Thank you, Kathy Waldemer! IMG_4627

I was scheduled to travel to Taos, NM for a 3 day knitting workshop last week but I was not sure if I should go due to Farley’s health status. In the end, we hired our Joyce to help out with some dog sitting time for two of the days so that Dave could continue with his obligations at the farm and I kept to my travel schedule.

It is not easy to get from here to there. I flew to Albuquerque via Dallas, then drove to Taos thru Santa Fe and after leaving very early on Tuesday morning, I arrived late that afternoon. The drive time in New Mexico was delightful. One of my favorite road signs was this one, which depicts the warning of a cow crossing as well as a UFO in the same image. Seriously, these were every couple of miles and I thought they were fabulous! crossing

I stayed in an old inn called the Hotel La Fonda which was conveniently located on the plaza in the old part of town.Taos_plaza_la_fonda

The hotel worked great for me since it was in walking distance of the Convention Center – where the classes were held – but the age of the hotel meant that the walls were thin and I could hear every sound from the couple/guests next to me.

After the first night of listening to their ugly banter, I nearly knocked on their door to suggest some marriage counseling!  Perhaps I should have made some innocent noises on my side of the wall so that they would have better understood the dynamics of the sound barrier – or lack there of!

The best part of the trip was the time I spent in the workshops, both led by Janine Bajus, aka, who is a wonderful and wise knitter and color theory guide. She did her best to share her knowledge of Fair Isle knitting and color work to a group of eager, relatively experienced knitters. So the first day, I arrived about 30 minutes early as did just about everyone else taking the class.

As we all congregated and plopped down our knitting gear, I realized that I was among my people. Comfy foot wear and clothing was one common denominator. Another was our casual hair styles…I was not the only greying, 50 something, gal in the room who was not about to disguise any aspect of my age or appearance! The knitting was the focus for all of us and continued to be so for 3 days as I spent my lunch breaks and evenings addressing the challenges of the class work!  Janine shared with us all of the colors available from the Jamieson Spin Drift wool line for our experimentation. This she called the play pen!IMG_4612

The two day process was evident in the outcome. I will continue to work on my inspiration from this class as I develop my swatches for the knitted project I will create for my Master Hand Knitting Level 3 submission.IMG_4603

Arriving home on Friday night, I met up with Kate who was coming in for a wedding. We shared a late night cab from the airport and then talked and giggled into the early morning. Dave had the farm report ready for me which took on a new format while I was away….he created a computerized version….which revealed to be 1500+ lbs of produce harvested YTD.  We celebrated a little bit of rain this weekend but it was not enough to make up for the drought! We continue to harvest the last of the summer crop as well as the latest of the fall crop.

Here is a pic of the fall planting…we have plenty of several varieties of lettuces, radishes, turnips, carrots, bok choi, kale, kohlrabi, swiss chard, spinach, broccoli. IMG_4623

We continue to harvest and enjoy the fresh veggies. I have several pounds of green beans to freeze but here are some more goodies for us to use in future meals! IMG_4576

IMG_4625The driveway and other hard/land-scaping continues forward. We believe that there are only 2-3 more pours of concrete to finish out the driveway. The north side of the driveway became accessible in the last couple of days so we were able to return our cars to the shelter of the garage.

Rain totals here this weekend were just shy of .25 inches. Better than nothing, but not enough to make up the lack of water during the last few months!