Friday, May 28, 2010

Jack's magic beans

Or in this case, Joe's magic beans.  This week at work we had a potluck, and one of the dishes, green beans, potatoes and ham (one of my favorites) tasted just like my grandmother used to make!  When I make them, they never taste right.     Co-worker Joe told me he made them with home-canned "Greasy Grit" pole beans.  A former client gave him some beans as seed.   He asked me if I wanted him to bring me a bean.  A bean.    ONE bean.  Actually, he brought me 4.  They may not be magic, but might as well be gold, so I will baby them and see if I can get them to grow.

I am really getting into some of the more interesting aspects of my Appalachian heritage, including these 'heritage' beans.  I already had a link down the side of my blog to a man in Berea who has worked to save heritage crops - I think it is really interesting.

The rest of the crops are getting bigger every day:

This eggplant has proven to be as decorative as it is fruitful.  The stems and leaf veins are dark velvety purple, the new leaves are deep purple and change to green as they grow (it doesn't show up here) and the blossoms are a more intense purple than this shows.  Very pretty.

another view

When I mentioned the limas 'exploding' out of the ground in my last post, I wasn't kidding: 


The soil cracked and heaved up, and you could almost hear them burst out of the ground.  In about 10 days, I had this: 

I do some thinning, but plants grown in pots can be more crowded than in garden soil, because you can control the nutrients and water more closely. 

On the other side of the house....... 


Is it a purple Christmas tree?   No, it's my clematis this year. 

The yellowed leaves began 3 years ago.  At different times I've tried epsom salts and more nitrogen fertilizer, but it still yellows significantly.   It doesn't seem to be effecting what is otherwise a very vigorous plant, so I just keep an eye on it. 

So for now, things are looking really good.  I just won't think about the Japanese beetles and other bugs, the heat, and maybe drought of high summer still to come.  

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A First for Wren Cottage

AGES ago, Michelle at Boulderneigh  sent me an award!  What with travelling to other states to get rabbits, preparing for and participating in our fiber festival, and a super-busy 2 weeks at work, I hadn't even acknowledged it, much less thanked her for it!  (hangs her head in shame)

So now I do - thank you, Michelle for this award, and I hope it will inspire me to always remember the good things in life!

The award came with the following questions to answer:   I'm lousy at these things.  (Life is good. Life is good,  Life is GOOD!)  So here goes:

1. What would your perfect day consist of?
     Today ranks right up there - cool, clear sunny, all the May blossoms bursting, a day off from work, no schedules or obligations, plenty of time to play with my cats and rabbits and do all the gardening I want to.

2. How would you describe yourself if you were an item of clothing?
    A hand-spun, hand-dyed, hand-knit shawl:   A craftperson who loves to do things in the old ways, 
    colorful (I hope), warm, snuggly and comforting when things get chilly.

3. What hobbies are you currently working on?
     It's more like what hobbies am I choosing not to do, because I have so many already!   Hand -
     processing wool and other fibers for spinning, the spinning itself, knitting (way too little), beading and
      jewelry-making, gardening, and enjoying lots of other folk's blogs.

4. Walking in the woods in wellies or barefoot on the beach?
     I'll have to get some Wellies, but it's definitely the woods.

5. Have you ever hugged or sung to a tree?   But I certainly enjoy and appreciate them and all the creations in nature God put here for our
    pleasure.   I love the sound of wind through leaves, love their colors all times of the year, and love looking
    up at the sky through their branches.

6. Growing your own veggies or nipping to the supermarket?
    Growing as many as I can, but not self-sufficient (yet)

7. Have you found anyone exciting in your family tree?
    Oh yes, and also our share of not-so-nice things too.  Like most people, we have both the good and
    bad, but since I like history, and it made for a fascinating read.

8. Slap up meal in a posh restaurant or fish ‘n’ chips from the wrapper?
      I'm not a posh restaurant kind of girl.   Snooty folks serving you three little bits of something on a plate,
      drizzled with a 'reduction,' and charging you $50....not my thing.   I don't know about the greasy batter-
      loaded fish and chips, but I do like casual restaurants with good food (especially ethnic) and good
      atmosphere.  The friends I have with me sharing the meal is the most important element.

9. Which element do you most resonate with, Earth, Wind, Fire or Water?
     I love R&B.....oh, you didn't mean that kind of Earth Wind & Fire.  I'm not so much a beach
      person, and I love to garden, so I would say earth.

10. Do you believe in fairies?
      No, life is whimsical enough without them.  (sorry Tink)      

I think I'm supposed to pass this on to three other bloggers, but I'll have to think about that one.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Urban Chickens

No, I haven't 'fallen off the wagon' and brought home more critters. 

(the photo above is of a few of 'The Adventure Chickens,' at Equinox Farm.   I took the photo while I was attending an open house there last fall.  They aren't urban chickens at all, but decidedly rural!) 

Last night I attended a class given by the Fayette Co. Cooperative Extension Service on how to buy, care for and feed backyard chickens.  As an 'Urban Farmer,' I would love to have a few hens for eggs, but my townhome association would never stand for it.  I wanted to take the class anyway, just for the info.  It was terrific, and so well attended they had to move it to a larger room.  This urban farming thing is really catching on!  

The container/and tiny garden is doing well.  I finally got seeds going on everything but the eggplant.  I broke down and bought some plants.   I 'top-dressed' most everything with bunny 'pellets,'  a 'cold' manure you can put right on the plants without having to compost it first.  I had been throwing it on the garden all winter, and really saw a huge difference when the perennials came up this Spring.   I would like to see more growth on the chard, and think it would do better in the garden than in a container.  As spring things die back in the garden I will transplant some there, and see how they do. 


turnips - butterhead lettuce - radishes (already past prime) and mint - all loving the cool, wet weather 

Abraham Darby rose - just for pretty, with sugar snap peas peeking out from 

3 eggplant plants

I may put a little potting soil over the bunny poo.  It is a little off-putting to city folks! 

The lima beans 'exploded' their shoots out of the ground last weekend.   I was so busy I didn't get the green beans (bush) in, but they will be planted this weekend, along with a container of pattypan squash.  The potatoes (growing in a tall trash can) are high enough to get another layer of soil put on them.   Besides the tomato seedlings I had trouble with getting transplanted, and some more herbs - tarragon, dill, and flax, that's about it!  At some point I plan to make a list of everything edible that I am growing this year. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival

It's all over but the shoutin'.   By all accounts the first annual KY Sheep and Fiber Festival was a rousing success.   There were lots of vendors (over 60, I'm told) and we had good weather on Saturday - low humidity and not too hot.  The rain held off until after we were done for the day.  Sunday weather was chilly and drizzly, but we still had good traffic until it got serious about raining later in the afternoon.  All the vendors I talked to were planning to return next year.  There were a few glitches, but what event does not have those?   

This is my booth for UARC (United Angora Rabbit Club), as we opened on Saturday.  Holly is in a carrier on the table at the left, and Truffle was in his carrier on the ground on the right. 


this shows the few samples of skeins and garments I brought for people to see and feel. 

Truffle was a real trooper.  He calmly let hundreds of people pet him, and was one bushed bunny by the end of the day.  Holly (the Diva) did surprisingly well too. She loved the fresh air and cool breeze, and tolerated petting most of the day, but by late afternoon she got fed up and turned her behind to everyone. (bunny body language for 'leave me alone').  Niko came with me the second day, and did equally well.  Holly came back again (Ivy just didn't have long enough coat to be a good representation) and was none too happy about it.  She pouted almost all day, so I had to be a little more cautious about letting people pet her.   

The kids were crazy over the bunnies - especially the little ones.  I guess because they were smaller than the other livestock there and non-threatening.  Some families came by time and again because the little one wanted to 'see bunny, Mommy.'  The adults were only slightly less fascinated.  I really had LOTS of people stop to talk about them.      

There were a surprising number of people who had pet rabbits at some point, and a few who have Angoras now - but because they don't show, they were flying under the radar.  I think I achieved what I set out to do with the booth - get people thinking about Angoras as a fiber source, especially those who live in town, who will never have a farm. 

(For more photos, the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber festival has a page on Facebook, and are encouraging anyone who attended to submit photos.  They already have some good ones)   

Personally, it was a fun time, and of course I spent too much money, but with all those goodies, who wouldn't!?!   I was exhausted by the end though.  Truffle and Niko got haircuts on Monday, Holly and Ivy will get their bib and belly wool cut tonight.  I bought some Romney and Cormo locks in natural white, some Romney cross dyed roving, and some dyed alpaca locks.  It will be fun to see what I can do with that, and maybe blend agora with some of it. 

It will be nice to turn my attention back to the garden now.   

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Arrivals

This is Spang's Truffle - an almost 10 month old French Angora buck.   I drove to West Virginia this past Saturday to pick him up.  This is his "school picture," taken by his breeder after she had beautifully groomed and posed him. So far Truffle has been a sweet, very laid-back boy, and his coat is so dense I can't find his skin. He is my 4th French Angora, and the last for a while, unless I can get some folks interested in raising French Angoras themselves - then I could breed him.  I have now gone to three states (IN - OH - WV) to bring these buns into KY, and have some of the best bloodlines available for our foundation stock.  I am very grateful to Somerhill Farm, Spang's Angoras and Angora Eden for this opportunity.  BUT, even if I never breed them, and they stay precious pets providing me with luscious fiber, I'll be happy. 

The reason for going to WV was to meet up with the 'relay' person - a lady who was bringing him from the breeder, who lives in New England to hand him off to me.  She was there for a rabbit show.  Here is a picture of some of the Angora judging:  


The rabbit in the picture was astounding.  It had wool about 4 inches long!  It won it's breed class and also Best in Show in the UARC Angora Specialty show. 

There weren't just Angoras there - there were all sorts of breeds, so I browsed around to see what was there, and to learn more about rabbits.  There were a LOT of the two smallest breeds, Mini Rex, and Netherland Dwarf, being shown, and nearly everyone had some for sale.  Then I found this: 

She is a baby Mini-Rex, 6 weeks old.  She has short fur, and her color is called "Lilac" - a silvery or dove gray, which in some light has an almost taupe or light milk chocolate cast.   She is was the only MR I saw at the show of that color, either for sale or being shown.  There were 3 others in the same cage, and it was very hard to choose. They were all SO cute, and had pretty colors.  She seemed very comfortable being held, and even peed on me, so everyone agreed that was a 'sign,' and she was the one I brought home.  She will be called 'Luna' for her silvery-gray moonlight color.   Luna is so tiny she fits in my palms - probably a 1/2 pound or less - and will be 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds at maturity.  She will live in one of my transport carriers for a while. 

So much for my big talk about 'no more pets' unless they produce something (like fiber for spinning) to earn their keep!   (In case anyone is counting, that is 9 - 4 cats and 5 rabbits)   Enough!