Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Passionflower Is Blooming!

After growing several varieties of passionflower a couple of years ago (and losing quite a few over the winter(s)), I finally had one of my blue varieties flower! Isn't is beautiful?!? There are still two other varieties that are alive - another blue and a purple. I can't wait to see the "official" passionflower bloom as well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yard Sale-ing

On the way to the birthday bash last Sunday, we randomly stopped at a yard sale in Talent. In a box of old music books (of which I had no interest), there lay a 1937 copy of American Home magazine. Interesting read, though perhaps not as much as the LIFE mags I scored previously. But it IS a fascinating look at American home decorating trends in the late 30's, as well as what "phobias" were being fed to the general public (in this case, I have noticed that the late 30's were the era of "Halitosis Fear" - EVERY magazine I come across has ad after ad toting products sure to eliminate the bad breath running rampant across the country!!). I think my favorite part of the magazine was the car advertisement on the back cover:

"But officer - when I told you I was just going to get a hat pretty enough for my new Ford, you said yourself THAT wouldn't be easy!"

I also finally got up the courage to alter that $5 vintage wedding dress I bought at a yard sale earlier this month. It seemed almost sacrilegious to alter a wedding dress...but the length was too long and awkward for me to wear it out and about. Originally, I was just going to shorten the hemline to about mid-calf length or so, but the skirt was so full that it looked rather odd at that length. Therefore, I took the hem up even more, and here's the result!



I actually rather like it at this length...

If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words...

Then this one says it all...

Many many thanks to Shawn Davis of the Great Basin Rovers for sharing this wonderful photo of Winchester that she took while staying with us in November 2009.

The Brighter Side

We are still so saddened about the passing of our llama friend on Sunday, and being overworked and overstressed hasn't helped at all! There are some positive things to think about however, and one of them (the highlight of our weekend, actually) was celebrating our friend's birthday with her!

We got all dressed up, made her a lovely Blueberry-Lavender-Lemon Verbena Cheesecake and a huge bouquet of Clary Sage/Valerian/Heirloom Roses! And now, I present you with picture-proof that we ARE (on very, very, VERY rare occasions) S-O-C-I-A-L:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Over the Rainbow Bridge...

Our old llama gelding, Winchester, passed away yesterday. He was 19-20 years old, so we were expecting it to happen sometime in the next year or so, but it was still sad and a shock for all of us. Winchester was one of the original animals we purchased shortly after moving onto the property in 2007, and he had been a likeable (albeit crusty) fixture on the farm ever since.

We had been telling him for months and months that he (along with his two pasture-mates, George & Judge) were going to be moved into a huge new pasture with lots of grass and room to run (i.e. that giant portion of our property that we just finished refencing). Well, Saturday morning we moved the boys over. The two young ones were ridiculous to get moved, but Winchester was calmly and easily haltered and walked into his new pasture. He found a lovely patch of grass near the lady llamas and the water trough, and spent the whole day munching. Later that evening, I was working in my garden (which shares a fence with their new pasture), and noticed Winchester walking slowly and stumbling a bit farther on in his new pasture. I remembered thinking that was odd - I had never seen a llama stumble like that. But he kept on walking, so I assumed everything was ok.

Ryan and I had had a labor-INTENSIVE Saturday and most of Sunday, and then we were scheduled to make a brief (and hopefully relaxing!!) appearance at a birthday party Sunday afternoon, then come home and do evening farm chores, make a lasagna together, and pass out. Well, we got home from the party and did evening farm chores, and as we were finishing, Ryan went to check on the boy llamas. He found Winchester on his side, in that patch of grass by the ladies' pen where he had spent most of Saturday. I don't think he had been dead very long, but it seemed like his passing had been peaceful. It was about 7 pm at that point, and we now had to bury a 500-lb llama in heavily compacted clay soil before dark (because we didn't want the raccoons/etc. chewing on it during the night - the poor guy deserved better than that!). Using the tractor, and our neighbor's help (I was SO thankful he volunteered to come over!), we got a hole dug that was about halfway deep enough. The soil - even after a good soaking with the hose - was still SO hard that even the tractor couldn't dig very deep. So, we put Winchester on a hastily-constructed wooden platform and attached a chain from that to the tractor in order to haul him out of the woodlot and into the makeshift grave (he was far too heavy for us to haul by hand). Then, we buried him as best as we could. There wasn't much soil over him, and I worried through the night about scavengers, but today we took a bunch of straw and hay and piled it thick and high over the grave. Last night we were simply too exhausted to do more than bury him with the pile of soil made from digging the grave. Then we put an apple branch (a symbol of life and rebirth) over his grave and said a prayer.

I am still in shock I suppose. He was SUCH a fixture on the farm, and for all his crustiness, I really liked him. I really, really miss him, and I know that his two young pasture mates are totally bereft and lost. George and Judge immediately ran over to us when we found Winchester and wanted neck rubs and love - I could tell that George especially was very upset. I don't know who will watch over those two and keep them in line now, but I guess that is part of growing up for George and Judge. You are on your own now, boys, and you are going to have to figure it out yourselves.

Sometimes I think that the hardest part about the passing of a friend or loved one is the realization that life goes on - no matter how much you think it shouldn't. Life keeps marching along, and eventually you realize that you have to keep going as well. There's nothing else you can do.

I'll miss you, Winchester.

The Elecampane is (Finally) Blooming!

For the first time in three years, my elecampane plants finally bloomed! I grew them from seed in 2009, and this year (2011) they have graced me with their sunny flowers!

Besides being just an all-around beautiful plant, elecampane has a number of uses:

(1) The root makes an awful-tasting but effective cough suppressant, & is useful in fighting upper respiratory infections
(2) The roots can also yield a blue dye

Friday, June 24, 2011

Eat Your Weeds!

Tasty Purslane! Most people treat this as a vile weed, pulling it up from their garden, and then wander over to the Farmer's Market and pay a premium price for it as a salad green. So the next time you see this wonderful little bit of green growing amongst your veggies - leave it be! Instead, pick a few leaves to add to your salad, use in soups as a thickener, or (my personal favorite) use as a delicious garnish for cold zucchini soup! The seeds can also be ground up to make a bread/baking flour.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hello, Sunshine!

Summer is here, officially by date and by temperature! Yesterday's evening high was a horrific 103 degrees! ICK! The good news is that the tomatoes, peppers, corn, grapes, and beans have been rather happy with the warmer temps (though nobody loves anything past 90 degrees), and have shown their gratitude with massive growth spurts! I'm planning to hack back the grape vines tomorrow just so that they don't completely take over, and I have been trying to figure out creative ways to cage my remaining tomatoes. I was previously using old 6"x6" grid cattle fencing, rolling it into ~1.5 foot cylinders, and placing each one over a tomato plant. It was working WONDERFULLY! Until I ran out of fencing, that is. When I wandered over to my local Grange to see about purchasing more, they told me that it was only available in 330 foot rolls, and would cost a whopping $173! OUCH!! Looking on craigslist and other classified ads revealed that most other folks had similar ideas, and there was no suitable spare fencing to be found. Sad day in Tomato Land. So, I'm just going to be staking them up with very tall and sturdily-anchored stakes. When you have 150 tomato plants, you do whatever you have to. *grin*

And now, I leave you with some early morning pictures...

As you have probably been able to tell, I am endlessly fascinated by Borage flowers!

A rare Dinkelbuhne pole bean seedling rises up to greet the morning sun!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Towers of Flowers

The Herb Garden is in full bloom right now, and no sight is more beautiful and inspiring than the statuesque towers of mullein!

These biennial plants are topping out (in my garden at least) at around 6 feet tall, and I feel like a Princess in a Magical Garden when I frolic (yes, you are never too old to frolic!) amongst them (as well as the tall stands of fragrant Clary Sage)!

My good friend Old Moss must also be included in this post, if for no other reason than its lovely "classic" heirloom rose shape. Seeing this precious pink bloom puts a smile on my face every time!

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Farm Wife is A Farm Wife

And for today's guest check-in, we are channeling "Depression-Era Farm Wife" (something that seems rather fitting some days). You see, it's not so much that I was born in the wrong era, as I am simply recreating my own version of it!

The more I look at this dress, the more I am convinced in my heart of hearts that it IS a legit late-30's/early 40's vintage feed sack dress!!

I have been in LOVE with the 1600 or so photos released by the Library of Congress documenting the effects of the Depression - WWII on rural life across America. You can check out the (COLOR!) photos here on Flickr.

Take a look at the examples of some of the 1939-1940 women's dresses - especially this one here and here and here! - and you will (I hope) also conclude that I am correct in my surmise of the date and authenticity of my own dress (shown above).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

(Nearly) Summer in the Garden...

Summer is (officially) nearly here, and we are busy-busy-busy on the farm! Soap-making has begun full force, and we just finished up our latest batch of "Creamsicle" soap on Tuesday.

It has to sit in its TOP SECRET SOAP BOX for two days before it can be removed from its mold (yes, we use a 5 quart ice cream tub as a mold...and you know what? It works GREAT!) and allowed to open-air cure for two weeks. At that point it is no longer caustic and can be used. This latest batch is scented with Sweet Dark Orange, Peppermint, Vanilla, and Balsam Peru essential oils, and also contained Vitamin E, powdered marshmallow root, and cocoa butter for extra moisturizing.

We have been harvesting buckets (literally!) of artichokes, and using them as pizza toppings (the chickens also greatly enjoy the leftover parts).

The warm weather has meant that the tomatoes and peppers are finally beginning to take off - about time too! Here is my seed crop area for Congo peppers, Ping Tung Eggplant, Litchi "Tomatoes," and Orange-Fleshed Purple Smudge & Joya de Oaxaca Tomatoes.

We have begun our first seed harvest by bringing about half of the chive pods in to finish drying. The easiest way to harvest (dry) chive seeds are to put the seed heads in a paper bag and shake thoroughly.

Everything has begun blooming, including the mullein! Soon it will be time to get my spoon out and start scooping flowers for use in wintertime cough syrups! *grin*

The honeysuckle is in full fragrant bloom across the property, but nowhere more so than outside of the Duchesse de Portland guest room window!

The figs are growing very large on our tree, and I can almost taste those succulent fruits...waiting for them to ripen is torturous!

Monday, June 13, 2011

HomeGrown Perfume Factory

The Clary Sage is blooming!!

With the exception of heirloom roses, Valerian and Clary Sage are my two favorite summer fragrances! I love picking bouquets of Clary Sage, because the entire house is perfumed with the fruity-citrus sclareol scent. The scent remains even after the plant dries, so there's no need to throw away that dried bouquet!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Once Upon Time, There Was a Little Man Who Watched Over a Magical Garden...

The previous property owners (who I am sure you've heard us cursing over repeatedly throughout the years) did not apparently pay for trash service. Nor did they feel the need to drive out to the local dump. Instead, they deemed it permissible to dump their trash (note I say "dump" and not "bury") directly behind, and in some cases next to, the house. Over the years, some measure of soil did accumulate over everything (either that or they tried to hide the evidence in order to sell the house), until a few months after we purchased it. Then we began noticing empty bottles of dish soap, asthma respirators, old cans, blankets, bits of steel, nails, etc., popping up all over the place! In the 4 years that we have lived on this property, we have managed to clean up a good portion of the mess. However, the other day, while walking on the outskirts of my Herb Garden, Ryan noticed a little surprise. Uncovered by erosion, there lay a little lost lego man. Now, both my husband and I have a soft spot for legos, and we decided that this little guy needed a proper home. So, we set him on top of Jugi's grave stone, to watch over the Herb Garden.

Think of him as a little plastic garden fairy!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

My Newest Old Hat!

Saw this lovely little 1940s chapeau on Etsy practically minutes after it was posted, and I snatched it up lickity split! Tomorrow is my 5-year wedding anniversary, and to celebrate, Ryan and I gave ourselves a small gift budget. This is my anniversary gift to myself (isn't is lovely?!?!?). He bought himself two much sought after woodworking books.

The hat is in PRISTINE condition, which is shocking for one so old and with such elaborate feathers!! It has a "bird" on the side of the brim, consisting of two real bird wings and a fake feathered head. The label reads "Germaine Montabert," but thus far I have been unable to find out anything about this hat maker.

I am wearing my 1930's estate sale score FOGA dress, which I think pairs wonderfully with my hat!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Early June & The First Seed Harvest!

The heirloom roses are currently in bloom here, and I love the beautiful colors and amazing fragrances of all of our varieties! This is one of my absolute FAVORITE times of year on the farm!

The calendula has begun flowering, and its blossoms are just begging to be dried and used in salves (I'm more than happy to oblige them).

I also finally got around to putting together a fresh herb order for a local restaurant. Now I just need to motivate myself to drive into town and deliver it!

The Valerian (or "Phu!" as it was called in Medieval times) has also started flowering, and its pungent fragrance can be smelled across the property. YUM!

Also of note: the first seed harvest is in! The kale finally finished producing seed pods, and now sits in my work room, waiting to be processed and cleaned. And so begins the HARVEST SEASON!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Ooops, Here's Another One!

Here (FINALLY!) are pictures of that G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S 1941 bridesmaid dress I purchased several months ago. This is post-drycleaning.