Archive for the ‘earthkeeping’ Category


CSA basket #2: eating local for dinner

   Posted by: liz

For the first time in our 7 years here, we decided to forego the big summer garden. We knew that with putting up a show this summer (more on that in a future post) we wouldn’t have the time or the energy to get get our 20×40 foot garden in this year.

So I chose to join my mom in a local CSA. We only got a half share (one every-other-week pick up) and this photo shows our 2nd basket (photo taken by my mom).

Last night, we ate almost completely from our CSA basket for dinner.

I cleaned the lettuce and made a balsamic and feta salad for our first course. Next, we steamed the sugar-snap peas and had those with some sliced sharp cheddar and leftover brats in cherry spiced mustard. It was just enough food for all of us (of course, the boys had their signature PB&J right before bed, which has become tradition for them these days).

I plan to use the zucchini in loaves of regular and gluten-free chocolate zucchini bread. I’ve never been a fan of actually eating zucchini: our first week’s zucchini still sits in our fridge waiting to be shredded for future loaves of bread.

If the strawberries last through this morning, I’ll make a pie with some of it and I’d like to try a jar of balsamic strawberry jam.

Eventually, we want to join a local meat CSA and we’ll add local pork and beef to our dinner plates.

What was in your CSA basket this week?


garden 2012

   Posted by: liz

we planted our garden this week just in time for today’s long rainy day.

  • tomatoes: large, roma, and cherry (grape tomatoes were nowhere to be found – we’re still hunting for the plants)
  • pole green beans
  • pole lima beans
  • sweet red peppers
  • a few hot pepper plants
  • cantaloupe
  • butternut squash
  • acorn squash
  • pie pumpkins
  • sugar pumpkins
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • kale
  • and the ever-present row of zinnias

you can see the bee boxes in the background. i hope they love the flowers on our garden plants this year!

i know it doesn’t look like much now, but i like to take the “first day of garden” photos to compare it when it becomes overrun with plant matter. the beans and tomatoes will no doubt get taller than our boys. we always plant the cherry tomatoes at the end of a row for easy snacking access.

we’re back to the straw-wet newspaper method that we used several years ago because it’s the quickest, cheapest, and much better method of weed prevention. (that link will take you to a cute picture of adam when he was 1, crawling around in our garden). we’ve tried black gardening paper before and it’s just expensive, hard to remove and doesn’t prevent weeds nearly as well as straw and newspaper. this was two bales of straw. we’ll be getting mroe to spread this week, as soon as the pole beans pop up from the soil.


honeybees, take 2

   Posted by: liz

our two packages of honeybees arrive at the post office this morning. at 6:35 a.m. the post office called to tell us they were in. i had been up for an hour already, and suspected we’d be hearing from them this morning.

the boys finally woke up around 8:15, and by 9:00 we were in the car, on our way to pick them up. when we arrive at the post office, the postal worker warned me that one of the packages looked a little “bad.”  this meant that there was a lot more dead bees on the bottom of that package than the other one. you can tell the difference in the two pictures above – the bottom photo is the stronger hive (less dead bees).

the boys and i sprayed the cages with sugar water every 45 minutes or so. the buzz would “hush” when they were sprayed and after 10 minutes or so, the buzzing would be loud again. our beekeeping book says, “Listen well. The humming will subside and your bees will sound more contented as they feed. Volume will change with hive conditions, but the sweet and low tone of that contented sound is a delight to the beekeeper’s ears. Try to memorize it.”

when kenny got home from work, we got our hives ready. the frames we put in already have old “drawn comb” on them (from our previous beekeeping days), and the new bees will clean them up  and open them up so the queen can lay eggs in them, the workers will feed the larvae and the hives will grow more and more bees.

the apiary from which we ordered the bees will be sending a replacement hive (we just have to pay shipping) in a few weeks. so we’ll know whether or not we have to merge it into the weaker one, or just start a whole new hive. in two weeks, we should begin to see active growth.

now, our busy work begins. i’m off to Sam’s in the morning to get a 50 lb. bag of white sugar. we’ll be making sugar syrup (one part sugar to one part water) to help the bees in their building. they’ll begin to find pollen sources, but this time of year, the beekeeper has to help the bee out. wintered bees will be busy carrying out dead bees and all of their winter excrement, and new bees (like ours) will be busy building comb and tending to the queen.

so excited to see these hives get higher and busy…and looking forward to a full harvest!




a country drive

   Posted by: liz

what a great weekend to have no plans!  we’ve been running constantly since christmas break with every single weekend being full of plans. this weekend has been open on the calendar and i’ve been fiercely protecting it so that it wouldn’t fill up with plans. last night, as we were all falling asleep kenny and i noted how nice it was going to be to have TWO FULL DAYS of no plans.

so this morning, we all slept in (yep, until 7:15!!!) and made pancakes and (turkey) bacon and eggs. then we all sat around and read, played the piano. around 9:30 kenny and i decided to take my spinning wheel to a local woodworker who specializes in antique spinning wheels. it was going to be a nice country drive, so we packed some snacks and headed out around 10:30.

on the way up north, we saw the most spectacular thing in a spring-budding tree. a bald eagle, perched directly over the road. we turned around to let the boys see it and to snap a few photos. it didn’t like us sitting right under him, so he took off right in front of us – a HUGE, lovely bird (click to enlarge).

we arrived in mercer at Nashannock Woods a few minutes later and were greeted by the friendliest, sweetest puppy-dog (and we aren’t dog people!) and a very kind woodworker named Chris. we brought in our wheel and were entertained by josie the dog while chris examined the wheel. his wood working shop was filled with antique wood – tables, chairs, spinning wheels, bowls, hutches.

after only 5 minutes of looking at the wheel he told us it was 150 years old, made in canada. it doesn’t need that much work – just a new bobbin and an adjustment to the “mother-of-all” and the pedal. spinning wheels are his specialty and his shop is full of different ones.

i’m so excited to pick it up in a few weeks and start practicing on some roving i’ve been saving up for when the wheel is fixed.

we hope to have the sheep shorn in the next few weeks and i’m getting the wool fleeces professionally cleaned (because…ewww!). i’ll card and rove them and then put the old spinning wheel to the test.

stay tuned for some more daisy-and-violet handspun skein.



   Posted by: liz

kenny ordered two “packages” of bees a few weeks ago. it’s time to get out the old hives, clean them up a bit (we actually have to clean them up a lot, with an acid solution, to kill any mites that could still be in the wood. these are deadly to the health of a hive) and get the area of our yard set up for their arrival in late april.

i celebrated by picking up my needles and casting on to knit a “honey cowl“.  i’m using bamboo yarn which is very stretchy, so this cowl will hang low around my neck.

i like to refer to it as my “honeycomb” cowl as i think the “right” side of the piece resembles the symmetry found in a honeycomb. of course, there is no symmetry in my knitting. a few mistakes here and there make it more of a wobbly hive.


the daisy and violet scarf

   Posted by: liz

daisy, our blue-faced leicester (white) and violet, our romney sheep (brown) have been shorn twice. last spring, my mom had their fleeces sent to a local fiber artist to clean and spin. after waiting 8 months, we finally received the spun wool!

mom gave me a skein of each, so i decided to make a scarf for kenny, who does the majority of the farm work around here, and who also doesn’t mind wearing wool.

the sheep are always relieved once their heavy winter coats are gone, and they are able to deal with the warming temperatures. this is daisy and violet a few hours after their shearing last spring (same day the first picture was taken!).

this past month, i spent a lot of time taking care of sick children and of myself, so i was able to pull this scarf together in no time at all for kenny. following a very basic pattern (CO 22. *K2, knit into back of next stitch, P1 *repeat until last 2 stitches, K2) this is The Daisy and Violet Scarf (click on photo to enlarge):

although i’m not a fan of wearing wool, i like to work with it. i can’t wait to see what future projects will come from our farm. one of my new year’s resolutions is to do more with the farm, do more making and creating and gifting. can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store!  thank you, daisy and violet, for your fleeces!









gratitude ~ may 9, 2011

   Posted by: liz

a vegetable garden overtaken with weeds…

a neighbor who lends you their kubota and rear tiller deserves a batch of PW’s cinnamon rolls, don’t you think?


farm update

   Posted by: liz

the lambs are growing so fast…as they always do. i am finding it harder to catch and lift them like it was so easy to do those first few days. in a few short weeks (even less!), i will no longer be able to lift them up and feel their soft little noses. they will be teenagers, bounding about the pasture without a care in the world.

it’s so fun having more than one lamb in the pasture this year (we only had one last year) as we constantly find the two lambs chasing each other, hanging out together, playing and walking together. they always find their mamas after several minutes of playing together, and then they are exhausted and settle into some straw for a quick nap.

i love that last photo: rosie is totally smiling, isn’t she?

we are still feeding all the animals hay to allow our main pasture to grow lush before putting them out on it. hopefully in the next few weeks, we will have our secondary pasture (below the pine trees that line our property) built and we’ll have a better pasture management system in place for this year and coming years. we’ve spent more money than we ever wanted to on hay this year (normally, they would be pure pasture-fed by now) and we want them out on the pasture much sooner next spring.

soon we will get our garden started. it’s been such a cold, wet, dark spring that we haven’t done much of anything out in the yard (except pick up a trillion sticks from those winter winds). i’m so eager to plant and organize the yard again.

with the heat of the sun on my back.

mom and i skirted two of our fleeces over the weekend. skirting is the gross work: picking off poop and stuck-on hay in preparation for washing. we’re taking the two fleeces to a local processing farm this year. hopefully they’ll be able to spin daisy and violet into some gorgeous yarn for my mom to work with soon! (above is violet’s fleece. she is a romney sheep).


homesteading year 4, part 1: expectations

   Posted by: liz

for the first year living up here, we did nothing except try to plant a garden (didn’t happen) and had a baby (adam!).

that was a lot for us, so we took it easy the fall and winter of our first year. but plans started picking up the following spring and we dove head-first into homesteading our little plot of land out here in the rolling hills of western pennsylvania!

that next spring, we ordered and DROVE to ohio to pick up our 15 egg-laying chicks. they were still wet when we picked them up (from hatching!) and we brought them back to our home, set them up with a warm brooder box in our laundry room and watched them for hours (kenny even got up twice in the night to check on them!).

we even had a garden that year, that was eaten to the ground by groundhog, but at least we planted and tended a lovely garden!

fast forward to this summer and we’ve found some balance to the whole “hobby-farming” endeavor. we have a new barn with an actual fenced in 1.8 acres. within that fence, barnyard politics rule…not the rules we thought to set up. the donkey is in charge of the five sheep and the two goats. the chickens keep their distance and the cat sneaks some water when the donkey isn’t looking (and then makes her way back out of the pasture fence).

the bees died out this winter and we didn’t get more, we tried to get 10 chickens in our freezer, but only consumed two (gave the rest away). the best laid plans…and all that jazz.

our garden is booming this year thanks to a very patient and green-thumbed kenny. the beans were a huge crop, the limas and edameme are just about to pop, and the tomatoes are all lovely and blight-free this year! we have a cutting garden again (zinnias!) and we had fresh lettuce and broccoli and herbs and will be picking some beautiful butternut squash (for soup!) soon. not to mention the decorative gourds for the dining room table fall decor (that i won’t be spending money on!).

we’ve been eating farm fresh eggs for years now, and i can tell you they are superior and worth the effort o keep hens just for that. last night, we had our first dinner of roasted herbed whole chicken that were raised, killed, and cooked by our own hands and it was good…but not WOW! the drumsticks were tough (probably because the donkey love to chase these chickens and they got a LOT of exercise!), and the breast meat, although large in quantity, were just as tasty as the herbed butter we cooked them in. what was satisfying was the fact that we can now, if we ever need to, raise and harvest our own chicken.

i am glad for the opportunity to learn and teach this way. i’m learning just as much as our boys are, and that is satisfying enough!


the farmer’s almanac

   Posted by: liz

i’m fascinated by the farmer’s almanac. i think i first noticed it because of its pretty cover art several years back, while standing in line at the grocery store. i might have even bought it every now and then.

i think i just might subscribe again. i read the following description of our February back at the beginning of January at

February 2010: 12th-15th. Very stormy. Blizzard New England, 1 to 2 feet snow possible. Snow also to Mid-Atlantic Coast, with 6″-12″. 16th-19th. Fair. 20th-23rd. Snowstorm sweeps in from west; heaviest accumulations in upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire. 24th-28th. Fair, then unsettled.

I can’t tell you how spot on that’s been so far. I’m not looking forward to more snow this month, but I’m glad to know that someone can predict the weather well!

In March, we’ll have milder temps and lots of rain. April brings “unseasonably warm temperatures” at the beginning of the month.

so go look up your area and what’s in store for you, weather-wise?