Boy Oh Boy!

Great news to share! So many of our readers have been wondering what we have been up to here at Seven Oaks Farm since my last blog post! Yes, it has been a while since I’ve written but each time I have the urge to make an entry, I think that with a little patience, I’d have a bit more news to share if I waited just a little bit longer. So, finally, I think it is safe to share what has been happening that will alter our lives at Seven Oaks Farm forever!

First of all, our daughter, Kate, and her husband, Jason, are expecting a baby boy this spring! YEAH! As eager as they are to become parents for the first time, we are equally delighted to get a chance to fulfill our roles as grandparents. I quickly decided that I will very aptly be referred to as ‘Nana’ from here on out and have been encouraging farmer Dave to ‘choose’ his grandparent appellation before it is chosen for him. For this I cite Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey whose granddaughter calls him ‘Donk’ – much to his dismay – after a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey took place.  Dave is still considering his options! Reader suggestions???

Although totally out of the usual blog order, an inspection of the bees in late fall showed that all 3 hives at Seven Oaks are quite strong. We gave them a sugar mash on one of the last warmish days in November so that they would have a reserve of food to help them winter over. I will attend a local day long workshop next weekend with Jurgen and Helen to learn more about beekeeping. I feel I’ve come a long way since last year at this time. I was amazed to read this recent NYTimes article about honey imports. ‘Bee’ careful whenever you buy honey in the future if it is not from Jurgen’s Bees (Missouri State Fair Finalist) or Seven Oaks Farm! Both of us will be gladly filling orders for the 2015 harvest!

Last fall I knitted Christmas stockings for the newly formed Ward family as presents. These all share some design elements such as unique snowflakes. Kate’s is predominately purple and white which are Williams College colors. Jason’s is knitted in KU Jayhawk and KC Royals blue and white. The baby’s is predominantly green and white with a space left to add his name in duplicate stitch after he arrives.  Just in case you are curious as to the scale, these are each about 21″ long and held lots of XMAS booty this year!IMG_6970 Other Christmas knitting included a special hat for Dave to match the Seven Oaks gloves that I gave to him as a gift on the first Christmas after we moved here. You might not be able to discern it, but one side is knitted with Seven Oaks Farm lettering, the other side has the year and his initials. I hope these keep him warm in the years to come and I encourage him to wear them with pleasure instead of saving them for a rainy day!IMG_6923I finally sent off my Level 3 submission for The Knitting Guild Association as I have been a candidate for a Master Hand Knitter Certificate for the last three years. This final level included demonstrating my skills with complicated knitted swatches, instructions, research papers, book reviews and other written work as well as an original sweater and hat designs along with the associated written patterns. This was my Fair Isle sweater submission which was inspired from one of our ancient oriental rugs. IMG_1736  This was the Aran Hat which I designed and knitted for submission based on the required elements. IMG_1745All were accepted by the committee of reviewers and I received word in early January that I am now a Master Knitter. Hurrah! The graduation ceremony will be held in San Diego in July and I hope to attend to receive my certificate and pin.

During this late fall/early winter period we have kept ourselves quite busy with continued farm maintenance and future planning. We resolved to find a way to bolster the tomato plant support structure in the future. We wanted to find a way to keep these fruit laden plants off the ground and to make maintenance and harvesting a bit better. To this end, we decided to install heavy duty posts to secure the plants….what better way to help with this but a tractor driven auger! Here is what we have added to our farm implements for this spring’s crop as well as fence maintenance! We love anything that is PTO driven!490216_augers_642x462Other winter chores are numerous. We realized that the protection we provided for our Portuguese Laurels during last winter’s bitter cold temps was invaluable since we saw these shrubs not only survive but actually bloom last spring. So this year we again added the posts and burlap to protect them from severe weather. Crossing fingers for the same success we had last year! IMG_7086Dave continues to work the fence lines in an effort to keep them free of the crazy under growth that threatens to creep in from all sides. We constantly read articles about the invasion of the honeysuckle vines and the local damage this creeper does to our environment. Dave continues to spend time with machine maintenance and has made sure all the implements are ready for action in the next month or so but he also works on pruning the overgrowth of the ornamental trees. He sometimes cuts with his tree saw but also enjoys getting the chain saw roaring!IMG_7123 He then loads the branches into his truck and hauls them to the local composting center. I put the chipper on the wish list every year!photo 2The excitement continued as Kate recently entertained the idea of returning to Saint Louis to teach science at a local school. We were quite excited as she progressed through this process…until the day she called to tell me that she had ordered some cockroaches to be delivered in the overnight mail. Oh geez! Apparently she intended to use these *%#$@ insects for a classroom experiment to teach a demonstration class/lab on nerve synapse and she needed us to insure their safe delivery while temperatures threatened to be in the single digits here.

We gladly received this box at our front door one freezing cold day and carefully read the instructions after bringing it safely indoors. “Specimens may seem to be in hibernating state. Place in warm conditions for several hours. Remove tape from breathing screens. Open box to inspect specimens and keep in warm, dark location until use. Food and water may be needed to maintain life.”
I’m truly the curious sort so this all fascinated me despite our years in NYC where the presence of cockroaches drove us crazy. I communicated with Kate via photos and even videos to assure her that “all was well, la de da, no problem”. I sent her updates such as this which I called ‘proof of life’.

I managed to keep most of these creatures alive long enough for her to take them to the classroom and use them to re-animate their severed legs. She was able to hook their little legs to small electrodes and make them ‘dance’ to the music vibes she had connected them to via her computer in order to illustrate the use of nerve synapse for the eager students. (For all those PETA folks worried about the poor cockroaches and their severed legs, apparently they grow back!) We enjoyed seeing her practice this experiment before sharing it with the eager students. The good news is that she has accepted a job with John Burroughs School in St. Louis and will start teaching Biology there this fall.  We are beyond thrilled with this news and the fact that we will have Kate, Jason and our grandson nearby for our future enjoyment!

We will continue to share more farm and Baby Ward news in the coming weeks!

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