Saturday, February 28, 2009

phenological events Feb 2009

phenological events

February 2009

6th- flocks of bluebirds
8th- 4 hens laying
9th- turkeys strut in the morning
20th- woodpeckers drilling
24th- porcupine still in hemlock
25th- snow cover off the garden
28th- frogs wake up

saturday morning atmosphere

This morning my coffee tasted perfect.


There were small snow flakes falling on my way to let the chickens out to range. I noticed that a frog woke up. It was a nice sight to see. There was a little space about 4 inches around, where there wasn't any ice, and the frog was catching some sun. The camera caught a little snowflake behind the frog that looked like a star. It is nice to know the frogs are waking up.


The chickens were waiting at the gate. Yesterday we had a long warm rain and some fog. It helped to eat up the snow. This morning, I smell the earth for the first time this year. The chickens run to the side lawn, eager to find something good to eat.


The tail's are up, all is right with their world.

I'm glad they are healthy after being in the run for so many days. They don't like to venture out onto the snow unless I put hay down, and I don't do that very much.


I originally took this photo with the intent of showing you what a good healthy chicken comb should look like. See how red and full it is?


When I opened the file on my computer, I noticed something odd at the bottom of the looks like a glory or a halo or something....but I just love the shape! I wish I had captured the entire thing...(ps..thanks to rurality for the link to the optics page! It was just what I was looking for!


The chicken featured in the photo is the one who always lays the humdingers. That is what we call those eggs that are larger than the rest. I think I might need to make a quiche or bake something to use up the humdingers...they are laying faster than we can use them!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


...try saying that 5 times fast!

Yesterday was Fastnacht, Shrove Tuesday and according to German and Pennsylvania Dutch folklore, if you didn't make the fastnachtlauchen, your flax crop will fail...and you might even get a few boils...

Fastnachtlauchen is a little cake made from sweet yeast dough which is fried. According to "Eastertide in Pennsylvania" by Alfred Lewis Shoemaker--fastnachtlauchen "possessed virtues beyond the nutritional".

Leaving 3 fastnachtlauchen on the windowsill to be consumed by a little man ensured good luck and apparently, if you fed fastnacht crumbs to the chickens, it would help them to lay well,and protect them from hawks.

The leftover lard (used to fry the cakes) was saved for greasing the wagons and spade --it was thought to keep the insects from the fields.

But most interesting to me, were the customs and beliefs that centered around Fastnacht and Flax. First of all, no spinning of flax on Fastnacht. It was day for dancing...and the higher a couple could leap, the higher their flax would grow.

If it froze on Shrove would be a good year for flax. If icicles on the roof were long, even better...the flax would grow long too.

And even "more complex- if the sun shines in the morning... the flax would be planted early in the year...if it didn't shine till the afternoon, it would be planted late."..humm...sounds like they are confusing that one with groundhogs day.

Not being one to destroy traditions...


I dutifully made a small batch of fastnachtlauchen...and I left 3 cakes for the little man, fed some crumbs to the chickens, saved some of the vegetable oil in a jar and stashed it in the greenhouse, did a little dance, and jumped as high as I could. It was freezing yesterday, but only a few icicles were on the eves.

I was the first one out of bed on Fastnacht, so I was known as (der has lumba- or the cleaning rag!) or (die gluck - the cluck!) or worse (der schpeel-lumba-suckler - the dishrag sucker!)..but I didn't go stand in the yard stark naked ...(that was said to prevent one from getting sick that year)...humm..standing outside in my birthday suit in 22 degrees at 6:30 AM didn't seem like a good idea, so I made fastnachtlauchen instead.

By the way, would you like some Fastnachtlauchen? They are great for dunking..


If you would like my recipe, email me and I will send it off to you.

Oh, just to be on the safe side...I didn't do any spinning, but I did do some weaving on the RH, which I finally, successfully this is for Judy, who requested a photo....

Photobucket ps... all kidding aside, it is interesting to note how the making of fastnachtlauchen used up the yeast and animal fats...both of which were to be cleaned from the house before passover....

Friday, February 20, 2009

avalanche, felled trees and ice melt

No, not a week of natural disasters...just some random signs of the changing season around the riverrim.


First...the annual egg avalanche has started due to the addition of a few more moments of sunlight each day. Evidently, it has started for Audrey's chickens also, as I found a carton of her chickens eggs on my car seat. Thanks Audrey! I had to chuckle to myself--it reminds me of summertime, when the zukes are so abundant that people leave them on your doorstep. Good neighbors are a treasure.

Onto the felled trees....


Two trees had to come down. I hate to see the trees come down. But better this way, than be surprised one day if they were to fall on the house. You think about these things when you live in the woods.


The whitetail have been enjoying the branches and come daily to feed. It is interesting to watch them navigate the rocks and logs. They are more agile than one would think.


The ice flows broke up and floated down the river all in one day. I didn't get any photographs. But the feeder streams are breaking up too. Easy to become fascinated with the contrast between the frozen ice and the fast moving water...


The water smells fresh and clean and the sound of it rushing by indicates a slight change.


It races during the day, and slows during the night when we dip down to freezing again...but the melt has started. Sure, we are still getting sleet and snow..but each day we are getting closer to spring. It is still winter...late winter...but I saw a flock of blue birds on the towpath, spring is soon to follow...

Monday, February 16, 2009


Photobucket And yes...that is snow outside the window....

A few weeks ago, whilst watering the violets...a few leaves accidentally got knocked off. Not wanting to let anything go to waste, I stuck the leaves into a water pot.


It didn't take long...soon the little leaves were popping out.


Life's little violets...ready to grow up and go out on their own.....


Into the clay pot and onto the kitchen windowsill, where I can watch. I cut the stem, they are free from their parent cutting the cord.


And not wanting to let anything go to waste, I put the leaves back into a water pot again!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

winding ways


In my garden, stacked in a pile, cut wisteria vines provide an interesting still life. As they wait to be disposed of, the vines wind around themselves and form interesting lines. They twist and turn and repeat their pattern as they grow. They provide the inspiration for a project.


This is the third project that I have completed from the blanket of Cria Violette. Violette is an Alpaca that lives at Finca Alta Vista farm in Pleasant Mount, PA. This scarf will be offered for sale via the Paco Fino online store (still under construction). I met with owner Alan C. last week when I delivered the scarf. I had a chance to see how the website is coming together. I was very impressed.

The yarn for this project was entirely hand processed. Combed (2 tine) and dizzed, and spun on the Ashford Traditional wheel, to a fingering weight of approx 14wpi.


Knit with size 10 circulars, I followed the winding trail lace knit stitch pattern to a length of 72 inches and width of approx 8 inches from point to point. The pattern was staggered in random places to break up the consistency of the lines (nature being perfect in its imperfection) The scarf weighs approx 2.75 ounces and used a little over 244 yards of the handspun yarn.


It will be interesting to see how many projects will be completed out of Violette's first shearing..I have just a small amount of fiber left to spin, so possibly one or two more projects to go.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

upsidedown valentine


Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

thresh and winnow

Remember these? Last fall I lifted the bean plants and hung them on the fence for the sun to dry the pods. These are a french-fillet or gourmet-style-bush-growing-stringless-green-bean....OK there might be a few wax beans in the bunch.


Before the snow started to fly, I picked the pods off the plants, and stored them in a washtub in the mud room, near the wood/coal stove. As late winter turns to early spring, I decide it is time to finish the job. I pour them into a large brown grocery bag, and gently step on them with my stocking feet...I hear and feel the dry pods crunching under my toes... I need the seed for this years is time to thresh and winnow...


Time to separate seed from chaff...

The wind carries off the chaff as I pour the contents of the basket into the sieve, and the contents of the sieve back into the basket. As I work, several beans bounce out of the basket and escape down the hillside...they slide on top of the ice until they find a crevice to hide in. What will become of them? Maybe a mouse will find something to nibble on...maybe they will be washed away with the spring rains...but maybe, just or two of them will take root and grow. I select 4 perfect ones to to the north, south, east, and west. I throw them as far as I can. An offering.


Time to select and sort ....


Each beans fate is decided. Only the best...nearly perfect seeds will go back into my soil to plant in the month of June...the misshapen and odd colored...the rejected or broken bean seeds will be soaked -until they sprout- and will be served up to the chickens. And those that are left will fall into the soup pot.


And the cycle is complete...or is it just starting again?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

a request

While enjoying a telephone conversation with an old friend, she reminded me that I had knit an earflap hat for her, several years ago. She went on about how much she wears it, and how much she loves it. She also reminded me of something else...the conversation went like this:
L: "You've probably forgotten what I asked you to do for me."

me: "er, um....refresh my memory and I will let you know if I forgot or if I haven't gotten around to doing it just yet"

L: "I had asked you to make one for T."

me: "oh yes! I do remember that now...I will get to it soon, I promise."

L: "I need it before his birthday, or at the latest, by Dec. 24, 2009."

me: "OK..gee, I'm sorry I haven't done it yet...I've been really swamped."

L: "remember that washcloth you made for me? well, I've used it so much that it is coming apart...could you fix it?"

me: "Yikes, I must have made that at least 5 years still have it? Throw it out, I'll make you another one."

I got busy on the earflap hat. I reached for my old stand-by pattern for the red baron hat, don't know how many of these I have made over the years...but it is a quick and fun pattern that you can add whatever mods you want.


I used some handspun Finnsheep yarn that I had in my stash...the white Finn is from Judy and the black Finn is from Grace. I'm lucky I live near Finn Farmers.


The hat was finished over the weekend. Now to pack it up and send it off with a few washcloths...I'm sure T will get some use out of the hat right away...after all...winter isn't over just yet...


Monday, February 02, 2009

spinning flax


My spinning wheel saw its shadow..six more weeks of winter.....

Spinning flax..... I find that it is easy to understand all the mystery and magic and folklore that surrounds this fiber.

With my wheel parked in the last of the January sunshine, my hands practice the draft, and pulling off the strands from the distaff. At one moment, my hands work quickly, they are efficient, confident and skillful...their timing is perfect as they dip casually into the water pot to smooth and return to the distaff to select the next strands of flax.


It is a curious thing, how the flax turns to linen at the moment it passes between the index finger and the thumb...


...just as I become relaxed in what I am doing, my hands fumble, too much flax is sucked into the zone, and suddenly I am not the master of this ancient herb. It has me bewildered and humbled once more. It snarls and snags upon itself in an instant.There is no turning back easily, as there is with other fibers. As if encountering a large knot at the base of the neck of one's own hair, it refuses to untangle, it is unforgiving.


When I get it right, I look in amazement at two strands plied together that equal the width of the letter "I" in the word "LIBERTY" on a dime. The strength of this thread will test any vacuum cleaner.


In the last stage of its labors, the spun flax thread must be softened. I boil it on the wood/coal stove...for a few hours in soapy water. Angel hair pasta...

Flax is a fantastic plant. I'm enjoying learning all I can about it. The flax featured in these photographs is not my own homegrown...I need to practice a little longer before I use what has taken me a summer to grow and a fall to process..


This spun linen will someday return to the earth from which it came...but that too is one of its qualities that enchants me.

a poem by Richard Frame
"A Paper Mill near German-Town doth stand,
So that the Flax, which first springs from the Land,
First Flax, then Yarn, and then they must begin,
To weave the same, which they took pains to spin.
Also, when on our backs it is well worn,
Some of the same remains Ragged and Torn;
Then of those Rags our Paper it is made,
Which in process of time doth waste and fade;
So what comes from the Earth, appeareth plain,
The same in Time returns to Earth again."

Printed by William Bradford in 1692 in his "A Short Description of Pennsylvania"

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