Ahoy There…From Seven Oaks

Hello…knock, knock…ahoy there…is anybody home at Seven Oaks??? It may seem like we abandoned ship here but fear not, we managed to survive the wettest year in Saint Louis history. A record 61.24 inches of rain landed here in 2015 making for very poor harvest results, but the 12 inches that fell the last week of the year caused record flooding with disastrous and even deadly results for many in our area. We were relatively unscathed by this other than witnessing the constant drenching as evident in the photo below showing the wild expansion of the swale in back. The strawberry field was partially underwater so despite having planted the new starts in raised berms last year, I’m not sure what I will find this spring.

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There were 108 roads closures during that week with long stretches of highways closed so many people were cut off from checking on their homes and businesses causing havoc along with heartache. We didn’t have to drive too far from the farm to see businesses with big red X marks on their front doors indicating that they had been badly flooded but checked out by the officials and cleared of any human misfortunes.

Before the December flooding began, we actually had a nice long fall harvest that has continued to amaze us as we are still eating some of the root vegetables such as carrots and turnips from the fields.

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It has been wonderful to add these to all kinds of soups and stews but also to roast in the oven for a nice wintry side dish with some added potatoes. IMG_0294

Even our cabbages were still finding a healthy spot in our meal planning in the late fall.

We are already eagerly thinking about the spring planting as the seed catalogs are beginning to arrive. My new, favorite is Seed Savers Exchange which I think should win a prize for the best catalog cover. Do check out this fabulous, non-profit company at seedsavers.org

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We have spent much of our winter planning the newest projects for the farm which we have not previously written about here so as not to jinx the reality of it. We have been very busy working with our architect friend, Tom Moore, who has been helping us design our new barn structure. Yes, finally, a wonderful barn with accommodations for chickens and a honey house to boot! There have been many twists and turns to this process but I think the construction will start very, very soon and we should be underway in the next couple of weeks. Here is a side view of one of the early concept drawings which gives just a hint of the flavor we were after.  FullSizeRender

And this is how it has evolved.Screenshot 2016-02-21 16.42.41

In support of the new construction, Dave has been working on clearing the north border to make room for the concrete trucks and is seen here chopping down a very old crab apple tree. IMG_0532

I think I may try to be creative with the lower trunk and work on a little chainsaw art for the farm. Here is what Dave has left me to work with…so check back for more on this little project!  IMG_0694

We are also planning a new blueberry structure to replace the netting system that we have outgrown over the last few seasons. I don’t have photos of that but construction will begin a week from now so this will be very exciting. Stay tuned!!!

Our most recent excitement took place today as it was time for our annual foray into the  orchard for the dormant pruning with our friendly arborist Jon Lanaghan. This year was very fun for several reasons. First, the weather more than cooperated with sunshine and nearly 60 degree temps which made for a leisurely clipping session and second, because Jon brought his wife, Connie, along for fun and she was delightful and fit right in to our happy crew. All in all, the trees are doing well and getting bigger. The damage from last year’s high winds turned out to be minimal and the trees that we so diligently righted and staked are alive and well. We did find evidence of a bit of deer scraping that was disheartening but we will find more effective ways to battle this in the future.

No one will be more excited to follow all of the spring projects here than little Coulter who is growing up before our eyes and will be fascinated with the construction equipment! I would be remiss not to share some holiday photos of him since it was very fun to share in his first Christmas! Of course we had fun shopping for Christmas trees…here he is sporting the Radish hat I knitted…

and riding in his new wagon wearing the Nordic sweater from my needles.

But he has moved on from riding…to walking everywhere as he started toddling very early. IMG_4329

I promise to get back to blog writing now that there will be lots more to write about. I hope to have lots to report on soon with barn building, chickens and bees to write about!

 

The Colors of Fall…and Alpacas!

November has been much like October…on the dry side until recently…with warmer than normal days but our nights have been cool enough to bring out the blazing colors of our Trident Maples. IMG_9669We are nearing the end of November and even the most delicate plants such as lettuces, have survived several light frosts due to Dave’s watchful eye and precautions. He has dedicated himself to putting expansive blankets of plastic sheeting over the fall gardens and it is quite a job, especially in windy weather. He wears Platex gloves with added liners (for warmth) for this chore since the plastic sheeting is invariably wet and also quite cold. He has to be careful with the timing of putting on the protection as well as taking it off so as not to let the veggies bake underneath from the daytime sunshine. So, he is out there both early and late on the days when night time frosts have been predicted.

The prediction last night was for the first hard frost (prediction was 21-23 degrees Fahrenheit but we actually awoke to 19!) so we scrambled yesterday to harvest the majority of what was still out in the fields. The day began with light snow ‘showers’ so we waited until after lunch to get started. The problem we faced was a rainfall the prior day of more than half an inch which came on top of nearly 4 inches earlier in the week. That amount of moisture would have normally kept us out of the fields but the time frame to harvest was short. The swampy condition was evidenced by the heavy mud on our boots! Luckily they are water proof but we found if we stood in one place too long, we could get a bit stuck in the mud which made it all the more difficult to move about!

IMG_9697 We started out by cutting the peas…with a lack of time to pick each one off the plant, we just cut the plant at the ground and brought it all in to pick the peas off indoors later. It was sad to see so many blooms still on the plants as they were trying to put out more peas! Dave is holding a giant IKEA bag full of broccoli which we also quickly cut and brought in for processing.

IMG_9693The broccoli looked perfect but we took only the central heads and left the newer side sprouts to see if they would get a little more growth. We are always optimistic about extending the season just a little longer!!!!

IMG_9691Here is what we brought in. Although not traditional Thanksgiving Day food, I plan to take it to my sister’s as part of the dinner celebration.

IMG_9700We continued on with lettuce and spinach harvesting. Here is what we brought in on that score.

IMG_9698Although it didn’t take too long to harvest this massive amount of leafy greens, (brrr) it did take a while to wash it all up for proper storage and I gladly volunteered for that inside job. I’m thankful for our large prep kitchen sinks. I do a two step clean up by starting out with the a sink full of water on the left side which has a garbage disposal and eats up all the dirt and debris. You can see one of three varieties of spinach taking a dip here. After a thorough dousing, I transfer it all to a clean water bath on the right side, leaving most of the dirt behind in the first sink.

IMG_9701After both rinses, they go through our spinners to dry off and then into very large plastic bags that have been marked with the product and the date and into the prep kitchen refrigerators.

We were satisfied with bringing in over 23 lbs of produce but left some of the hardier items such as kale and carrots out under the plastic cover to harvest another day. Dave is out there today as I write, bringing in more.

Outdoor chores will continue all winter and Dave has begun the list of things to do which includes fence repairs, equipment and tool maintenance, grinding tree leaves to add to the fields and trimming tree limbs. The list is actually endless as we always find things that must be done and winter is a great time for catching up on project work. I will use my extra time with some winter knitting which delights me no end.

I was most thrilled to get an e-mail from my cousin, Janice, recently informing me that her alpaca yarn was back from the mill in case I was interested in any. WOW! Janice and her husband Scott have a farm in Virginia where they raise alpacas. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of this very dear yarn! They are sending samples so that I can figure out what I want to buy and I hope to get knitting with it quickly. What great yarn it is…not only is alpaca one of the nicest of fibers for light weight and silky warmth…it will have such special meaning to be knitting yarn from Janice’s dear animals!!! She kindly sent pictures and detailed descriptions of each of the yarns which I know takes lots of time for a busy farmer. Thank you, Janice! A couple of other family members read the blog so hopefully all will enjoy what she shared. Here is a photo of the samples of her skeins. They make me swoon because I already know how soft they will feel!

IMG_0803From left to right: The Farm Blend, Cria, Stormy, Clark, Lewes, Pixie and Fiona. All are in their un-dyed, natural colors. But wait…here is the best of all…she sent pix of her alpacas on their farm so that I could easily see which animals produced which yarn as well as fall in love with all of their gorgeous faces!

Here is Stormy, the palest of all…

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Here is Clark as a baby…IMG_1473And Lewes in the foreground just after his shearing…IMG_0492

Next is Pixie in the far background with the white underside and Fiona (the darkest of all) standing just behind her cria, (which is the word for a baby alpaca) named Max…

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I promise to post pics of the projects I plan to knit from this very precious yarn.

While I await its arrival, I’m working on a Bohus style sweater from a famous designer, Kerstin Olsson, who created this design in 1958 for a knitwear company named Bohus Stickning. This pattern is aptly called “Vildapplet” or Wild Apple. It is knitted using an angora/lambswool blend of hand dyed yarn starting from the top down. Here is the colorful yoke. The fall colors have been so inspiring to knit. IMG_9510 2Coulter has been the lucky recipient of some of my knitting efforts this fall but he is outgrowing these almost as fast as I can get them finished!

‘Little’ Coulter is now on the move…his favorite activity is “walking” by holding onto the hands of his mom and dad…but sometimes he just likes to drive around!

IMG_9601He turned 7 months old today and we are rapidly baby-proofing as he is one active boy!

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!

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/20/science/a-lab-is-trying-to-keep-china-from-dodging-us-tariffs-on-honey.html

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!

It Just Dawned on Me….

Everyone is complaining about the long, cold winter we have endured across the country but I don’t really think we have much to harp about here since during all the snow, ice and subzero temperatures we have had the advantage of our electricity and a roaring fireplace (or two). Perhaps a gas fireplace doesn’t really roar, but it is quite nice to linger close by while reading or knitting and look out the glass across the back of the house and admire the day, something we rarely have time to do when we are otherwise occupied outdoors the other 3 seasons of the year.

Here are some examples of a typical dawn as we sleepily sip coffee and watch the subtle changes in the morning sky. These were taken about 3 minutes apart from our back door.IMG_0920  IMG_0929

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IMG_0948The old “red sky at morning, sailors take warning” adage was appropriate for the day as not many hours later it snowed and snowed! The best thing I can say about a nice deep snow is that we love to investigate the animal tracks that miraculously appear over night in a newly fallen snow. It certainly evokes an animal highway of sorts but the tracks can be difficult to photograph. Of course, that means that we just take all the more photos, trying for a better angle or better lighting. It is interesting to identify the various critters, but mostly we are seeing deer tracks.photo 5

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The good news is that the most recent tracks have been on the outside of the deer fence. In fact, they seem to be walking along the fence line and not attempting to cross into the orchard. Of course we had a significant break-in after my last posting when I spotted two medium sized bucks in the east side of the orchard, trying to figure out a way around the fence. The pair finally attempted to jump the “faux fence” and got caught on their way out the south side, tripping up miserably, and taking the pickets and strung wire along with them to the opposite side as I watched. One of the bucks took such a tumble that I thought he might have broken a leg! But after a moment, he was able to leap away, leaving us with quite a mess! There were 18 or so pickets down (a chain reaction) and lots of wire to reinstall, all in two degree weather!!! Ugh!

So it was with a little bit of dark fascination that I found these deer tracks interesting since I think that this fellow may be dragging something…like a leg???? I would gladly put him out of his misery! IMG_5267In other news, the composting equipment we ordered arrived at our door and is still sitting in the garage waiting for good weather before we put it together. IMG_5296

Seeds for the spring planting have been ordered as well as a couple of spare fruit trees to replace ones that look a little weak. We hope to get out and prune the orchard in the next month while the trees are still dormant and we will try apply the dormant oil spray (organic as can be!) before the first bit of green sprouts appear on the branches. Dave is continuing with the annual service on the big machinery but is doing a great job cleaning and sharpening tools with the bench grinder for the coming season. Here is his set up.IMG_5297

And here is what he has cleaned and sharpened so far. We hope to keep up with tool maintenance after this since we will be spoiled by all the sharp edges!IMG_5292

I attended a fabulous all day bee keeping workshop last weekend. It was a full day of lectures from apiary experts from all over the country with more than 200 people in attendance! I must say that I took copious notes from 8am until about 3:30pm when my eyes began to cross and I had to just listen for the rest of the day. I staggered out into the cold just after 5pm with lots of great information about bee keeping but I don’t think I could have taken in any additional details that day. The next lecture I am attending seems much more manageable since it will be only 3 hours long! Although we have been reading the bee books, the lecturers pointed out that the bees don’t read those books! One needs to develop an instinct for beekeeping so although reading and listening is enormously educational, there will be nothing quite so wonderful as learning more when the hives arrive. When that time comes, I hope we look like this
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and not this! Yes, this is called a Bee Beard, a small trick with the queen in a little box that is around this gal’s neck! Apparently, nothing to worry about since the bees are more concerned with the queen than stinging the woman!4-Full-beard

I’ve continued to keep myself busy with my last level of the Master’s Hand Knitting program and winter is a great time to work on it so I set my sites on getting all of the papers written and I have met that goal. I do make quite a mess in my office during the process but I now have 4 reports and 2 research papers, along with footnotes, outlines and bibliographies done! Yeah! Don’t get me started on all the types of fibers in out there or the Bohus Strickning Tradition! Here are the books at the foot of my desk…there was an equal pile surrounding my computer! I hope to get much of this finished up before it is time to get back in the fields this spring! Happy Valentine’s Day to All!IMG_5255

A Post Holiday Greeting and News of Bees and Trees

Post-Holiday Greetings and Happy 50th Birthday to my sister, Julie!

We have been swamped during the past month with activities on all fronts including some travel for both of us ‘hither and yon’!  The house is all quiet now – the holiday visitors dearly welcomed but now departed – leaving us with a refrigerator chocked full of overly rich leftovers from days of cooking and celebrating! So I am now finding some moments to sit and reflect on the status of the farm over the past few weeks before the New Year is upon us.

I left off at the end of the last posting with the promise of a visit from my newest acquaintances – and future bee mentors – J&H (as I will refer to them in postings). They visited the farm on a bright, sunny, afternoon several weeks ago and took a little tour of the orchard, berry patches and fields. It is always interesting to introduce our property and its intended purpose to new visitors and get their reactions. Wouldn’t you know, beekeepers ask questions of a new ilk. In admiring the European Hornbeams (allée trees – Carpinus betulus), they immediately asked, “what type of tree is this, and more importantly, does it FLOWER?!”  Oh dear, I wish I could have said definitely ‘yes’ (I think I actually said ‘no’ at the time) but the flower is so small and inconspicuous that one never really thinks of this as a flowering tree. But, research confirms that it does have tiny white flowers in early spring which we will surely take note of this year and hope that the future bees find them too! Our visitors surveyed the landscape looking for elevation, screening, water sources, noise/motion interference and much more, I’m sure. I believe their greatest source of excitement came from learning that we don’t use herbicides or pesticides in our farming practice. (See links below.)

So after a nice visit, it was decided that J&H would initially introduce their hives to the farm next spring and mentor me in the art or science (which is it?) of beekeeping.  This way, I will be learning from someone who has prior experience with the nuances of apiary science instead of starting out with the trial and error method which can be not only costly but discouraging. J&H say that there is plenty of room for me (and/or all of us for that matter) to add many more hives here in the future, but this will be a wonderful way to get started. I am very, very excited about every aspect of this adventure but mostly for the future benefits of the orchard pollination. I have been keenly following international news of bees and will begin to attend the local beekeepers’ association meetings (there are currently 3 groups in our area) as well. I have added a category to the blog for beekeeping news! Here are some links related to the current plight of bees.

http://www.vegfriend.com/forum/topics/37-million-bees-found-dead-in-elmwood-ontario-canada-after-large-

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/business/international/europe-warns-of-human-risk-from-insecticides.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

We have also been busy removing the fence posts left behind after our most recent fence project. We were not excited about the prospect of digging out these posts and our reticence was not unfounded. Dave dug and dug and finally engaged the brute force of the tractor to aid in nudging some of the posts from their spots. Please imagine this: what appeared to be four foot tall fence posts actually had and additional three feet buried and set in concrete. The resulting landscape when all posts were removed and holes filled, was quite satisfying to admire, but the effort was tremendous since many of the 4″ wide posts were also filled with concrete as well.IMG_5085

The fence post removal chores were completed in a relative warm weather snap which was unlike that in which we were planting more trees. The last of the Trident Maples were finally planted on one very cold day but Dave and I also attempted to replace some of the failed Green Giant Arborvitae that did not survive the trials of last year’s summer drought and heat. We ordered these trees to be dug from a tree farm associated with a local nursery. We picked up 6 large, balled specimens the day before a winter storm was to arrive here. We drove them directly to the back, eastern fence line and got to work immediately with a joint effort since the temps were dropping steadily and a light rain was turning into spits of sleet. IMG_5093

If we have learned nothing more, we have certainly figured out how to bundle up and work in multiple layers of warm clothing!IMG_5094

We were hurrying to get these planted before the predictions of more rainfall but the slight spits ceased as soon as we were done with the plantings so Dave hustled out with a bucket brigade of water (our orchard spigots are all tied to the irrigation system and so were unavailable for use at this point) in order to insure that the new trees were nestled in properly until our next rainfall. We look forward to the promise of up to 3 feet of growth per year on these trees!

Since then, we did get a measurable snowfall which produced at least .75 inches of liquid precipitation, according to our measurements. Image 5

Fans of Seven Oaks Farm continue to amaze us with fun gifts. Our friend, Kathy Bussmann gladly played elf this year and delivered an assortment of items…a bee embroidered bag (spot on!) a new soup ladle (after I borrowed two from her earlier this fall) and a riotous book on the 50 uses for Kale (must see photo!) Goodness knows, we still have kale in the refrigerators since it produces so long into the winter and keeps so well!IMG_5105

Our friend, Mule, recently returned some of our glass jars along with a wonderful collection of recipes from the Cooking Light magazine called the Pick Fresh Cookbook. I really like how this is organized in sections by the produce item so it is easy to see which recipes are options for a particular veggie!IMG_5107

We continue to do battle with the deer and their growing annoyance and boldness in our area, but I had to use some humor for our latest example of XMAS decor. IMG_5030

Our little Farley continues to have a great ability to heal. He had three broken teeth extracted recently and has rebounded nicely. Here he is with his mini kerchief from the vet while gingerly noshing on scrambled eggs (on my good dishes, no doubt!)IMG_5032

Here is the enlarged ‘bed’ that we made for him so that he could snuggle up with us on the couch without making a mess!IMG_5031

While trying to keep him quiet, I managed some more knitting, producing socks for Kate & IMG_5097 Peter. IMG_5027

In the meantime, here is my nephew, Jack, in the Cross Country Ski hat that I knitted him. Image 2

So as I get ready to push the “publish post” button, Dave brought in the mail, and along with it, the first batch of seed catalogs for 2014!  And to think that we are still harvesting carrots (which we served for XMAS eve dinner) and some last bits of the hardy cold season crops, bringing us to a total harvest (so far) in 2013 of 1,652.81 pounds!

Cold Snap, Trident Maples and Fair Isle Knitting

After experiencing wonderful weather last weekend when we hosted the Limestone College field hockey team, we had a significant drop in temperature along with some spits of snow late Monday night and early Tuesday morning. With all of the warnings that this was coming, we harvested heavily on Monday just in case. The Farm Report gives a YTD total now of 1,632 pounds!

IMG_4909But we have also been reading about some of the leafy greens that actually thrive  by producing more sugar as a sort of ‘antifreeze’ for the plant! To quote directly from Organic Gardening magazine, “low winter temps bring out the best in some crops. A touch of frost adds sweetness to Brussels sprouts, parsnips and kale while taking the bitter edge off of escarole and radicchio. Delicate Swiss chard leaves not only survive extreme cold but also retain their delicious flavor.”

This has been our experience so far since our temps have not dropped below 20 degrees F this year. For the most part, we are still in business in the cool season part of the field, especially true of the root vegetables as seen by wonderful turnips and carrots!IMG_4914

We gobble up the spinach as soon as it comes in indoors. Here it is cooked up on the stove with a bit of bacon and scallions and topped with fresh squeezed lemon juice. IMG_4916

We have enjoyed kale ‘chips’ baked in the oven as well but be be careful since these cook quickly!

With the drastic cold snap last week we had a sudden leaf drop from the gorgeous ginko outside of my office! I swear, all of the leaves dropped in one day! Here is the tree last Saturday when the team was enjoying lunch on the terrace.IMG_4880

Here is was after the Tuesday cold snap. IMG_4939

Now those leaves are all re-distributed into the fields since Dave has collected them and has been shredding them and transporting them to the fields where he will till them under, along with all of the other detritus left from the plants. (For some reason, Dave loves to say the word ‘detritus’ so that is why it was in my sentence.’)IMG_4956

In other farm news, all of the River Birches from the front islands have been chopped away but still need to have their stumps ground away. Jon has visited us twice this week to start eradicating the Euonymus ground cover which we are eager to see go away. Our new trees, the Trident Maples, have been dug from a local tree farm and were delivered to a local nursery last week. We decided to go and visit them. Advertised as a 3″ caliper trunk, these particular specimens surpass our expectations! Here is Dave next to our 12 trees for scale. IMG_4940

Their tags. IMG_4944

Here is his hand, trying to capture the caliper measurement. Magnificent!!IMG_4942

We are still trying to grow grass along the new driveway and it is looking pretty good since fall is the best time for seeding. The light rains we have had recently are helping in this arena.  IMG_4958

In other news that is not farm related, I finally finished my recent sweater, an example of Fair Isle knitting, in the early hours this morning. Most of you would think of early hours this morning as 1am or something. Nope, I got up with Farley around 4:30am (he is an older dog with bladder issues and cannot last thru the night) and I gladly knitted away! It fits nicely and I am quite pleased so I popped it over my head and wore it all day today. I will continue to dream on about visiting the Shetland Islands someday. If you want to see more on this, the link to it on my Ravelry page (for those of you who are not familiar with Ravelry, it is the knitting/spinning/crochet equivalent of Facebook) is here:  http://ravel.me/NancySauerhoff/d9d0o! IMG_0859

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