Friday, July 18, 2014

New Wood Stove

Made in the USA to be one of the greenest stoves in America, the Encore® FlexBurn™ is unlike any other wood stove on the market today. It adapts to your lifestyle, so you can choose to operate in catalytic or non-catalytic mode.I finally decided on a wood stove.    This is the one I bought.  Vermont Castings, Encore.  [photo from their site]

Yes, it was expensive. But I got a discount for buying in July.   I went with the enamel finish because we live on a gravel road and have you ever tried dusting one of the plain cast iron ones?    I have.  Never again.  So we went with the more expensive, but ultimately easier to clean and therefore less stressful enamel.

It's a flex burn, which means we can do a super efficient catalytic burn or just a plain old burn.  Either way, it's a pretty efficient stove so we could go with the smaller size of the Encore instead of the Defiant.    I chose the brown, with a matte black chimney.    It will go against slate tile about the same colors as the mat below the stove above. 

With the money I saved from the summer purchase, I was able to get a heat activated fan that sits on the stove, a nice galvanized wood holder and a nice tool set, as well as a second ash pan so we can leave one to cool completely before we need to dump it.  

Why this stove?   I haunted forums and read dozens and dozens of reviews.   There are much cheaper stoves out there and some of them are very good.   I wanted to make this decision one time.   Everyone that I read loved this stove and it received the highest marks in consumer testing.  Also, I like the way it looks.  

Still a lot of construction to go so it will be Halloween before install.   I'll keep you updated.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Peaches, Peaches

Peaches!   Yay!    We got our first bushel from Freedom Country Store in Worthington, Indiana and they are delicious!    It's been a week of peach dumplings, chutney, pies and loads and loads of peels and pits.  
Peaches can be a lot of work.    I used a vegetable peeler to get the skins off because this batch of peaches was still pretty firm.   Worked brilliantly!

I made three batches of my favorite Peach Chutney. I LOVE that stuff.   Love it.

Really, really love it.  

Really.

I still had loads and loads of peaches cut up, so I popped them in small ziplock bags, 2 cups each, and stacked them up in the freezer.   One back is the perfect size for smoothies and two bags is perfect for pies.  

What are your favorite peach recipes?  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

First Inspection - July 2014

It's been a month since we installed the nucs in the hives and we did a one-month inspection this week.  

There are a lot of bees.  

But they are not in a hurry to draw out more comb.   Both hives had only 7 frames drawn out and had not even started an 8th.   Weird.    Since they came with 5 frames, I'm unimpressed.

Lily caught a pic of them festooning as we pulled the frames apart.  Bees festoon a lot and it's interesting to see how they hold on.  Blow the pic up for a closer look; it's really cool.

Both queens looked like they were laying well and each hive had a frame or two of honey.  We put a super on each hive to encourage some growth and we're feeding sugar water and honey for the rest of the season.

I hope the queens are busy, busy, busy because I'd like to have a lot of bees in each hive before winter. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bergamot

This is Monarda didyma.   It is my all time favorite summer garden flower.  It is traditionally known as bergamot, but only because it smells like the citrus fruit, bergamot, the oil of which is used to infuse Earl Grey tea.   It's not really bergamot; it's really monarda.

I love it.  The butterflies love it.  The bees love it.   The hummingbirds love it.   The hummingbird moths love it.  It blooms the same time as the orange tigerlilies [native daylillies] and the tall purple hosta flowers.  

It smells divine - a citrusy spicy scent - and it dries beautifully.   If you cut the flowers, they'll just keep branching and blooming, so feel free to cut as many as you want for drying or bouquets.  The dried flowers are great in potpourri.  You can use the whole head or just the individual florets.

It likes damp feet, so you can find it wild around ditches and along creeks.    It's reasonably tolerant of a wide variety of soil types as long as it gets enough moisture.   It does not like dry weather or drought.   We get both the red and the lavender blooms wild around here.   I like the red ones and encourage it along the creeks.   

Friday, June 27, 2014

Black Raspberries

The wild black raspberries are on.    They're a couple of weeks late this year, but the harvest looks like a good one.

Black raspberries ripen one a time per cluster.  It's rare to find more than that, so the daily pickings are slim and to get them all, you have to keep going back.   We pick twice a week or so until they're gone or until we have enough for jam. 

We pick first thing in the morning, when it's cool and the dew is all over everything.   It's wet work, fraught with thorns and spiderwebs, but the cat and the dog keep us company and we're often serenaded by one of our Yellow Breasted Chats.   We see the occasional green snake twined around a cane.   The daddy long legs love the berries as much as we do, but they often hide when we disturb the canes.  

When the berries are fully ripe, they pull off easily.   If one resists, then you know it's not ripe enough yet.  

We make just plain black raspberry jam with them and guard each jar jealously so we can make these Raspberry White Chocolate Bars during the holidays.    Worth every spiderweb and thorn!

Here's the link to Black Raspberry Jam - full sugar version with regular pectin.
Here's the link to the low sugar version of Black Raspberry Jam.  [My favorite!]

For more jam recipes as easy as these, check out my ebook on the sidebar.  A Simple Jar of Jam: 180+ recipes & variations for jam using low sugar pectin.  Every purchase goes a long way toward supporting the blog.   Thank you!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thinning

One of the garden skills I've been working on for the past couple of years is thinning. 

I'm really good at sowing a lot of seed and then it comes up all green and beautiful and I get really excited about growing food and then I get radishes and carrots that are the size of toothpicks.  

It took a concentrated effort to actually Pull Some Up so that the others would have room to flourish.  

It's totally a life lesson for me.  

Aside from dying inside every time I have to pull up a perfectly OK start of lettuce or arugula or radishes or beets or carrots or .... everything,  I get stuck at trying to decide exactly which ones must go.   

I finally developed a system where first I figure out how much room I want between plants in the end, then I identify the best plants so I can keep them and then I pull up the extras.    Tiny greens [micro greens] can go into salads if you don't want to waste the starts, or they can go into the chickens or on the compost heap.   No waste.  

I've been doing better lately and have grown the best radishes in the history of radishes.   Also, I have a row of gorgeous parsips now.    Also carrots.    Also lettuce.    My garden is producing better produce.  

Which is why I'm sucking it up and applying the thinning lesson to other areas of my life.    It's still a struggle.   I hate to pull things up.    I have trouble deciding which things should go.   When the feeling hits me I take advantage and thin what's in front of me and try not to worry about the rest.  I think very slowly, so I figure it's OK to thin slowly, too.  

Along the way, there are people who fuss at my choices and I'm learning how to ignore them.    It's flattering to be asked to do things, but it's not always good for me or the family.    Adjustments must be made.    I'm doing my best to adjust and so must everyone else. 

In the end, the adjustments will pay off and we'll have more room to flourish.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Cardboard Nuc Boxes

The nucs I just got came in these handy dandy cardboard nuc boxes.

Unfortunately, the woman who was minding the store where I picked them up gave me wrong information, and if I had done what she said, I would have been in quite a pickle.*  Luckily, I didn't trust what I was hearing and I didn't do what she said.  I don't want the same thing to happen to someone else, so here's a quick description of what's going on with these nucs.

1.  The lids: My lids were not taped on.   If they had fallen over in the car, it would have been a problem.    I suggest a bit of tape across the tops, just in case.

2.  The small holes at the bottom of each end:  These are hive entrances.    In the pic you can see the small hole is open on the right nuc box.   Notice that there is no screen on this entrance - that's so the bees can get in and out like a regular hive.    However!   On the other end of the box, that small bottom hole is covered by white plastic mesh, so you can open the other side and they can get some air without getting out.   [Clever ones will get out anyway.]  Make sure that you know which end is which before you open the vent. 

3. Larger holes in center of each end:   Those are vent holes and the bees need those to be open when the weather is hot.    In my boxes, there was mesh covering the large holes on both ends so that either end could be open for ventilation.    That should have been explained to me and I should have been told to open the vents as soon as I got home and got the bees out of the car to rest before installing them.  

4.  The insides [Sorry no pics!]:   There is a cardboard separator on each end of the nuc box that keeps the frames in place during handling and traveling.   It's nice....except when it's time to install the nucs.   Be really careful to let the bees know which end you're starting at so the queen can get away from that first frame you take out.   It's very easy to roll the bees with that first frame.   The separators prevent you from scooting the next frame over before you lift and take it out!   I worked slowly and in both nucs, the queen was on the back side of the very last frame I removed.  Smart girls.  

5. Installation:  I received no instructions on installation from the place where I got these bees and was not told to ventilate the bees or how.*  I used common sense to get them home, out of the car and up to the site, where I put them in the shade immediately, then I followed these instructions for installation. Since I did not know where the mesh was in the boxes, I had to keep the boxes completely closed until installation and I was afraid I'd roast the bees.   I waited only 20 minutes or so to let them rest after I got them home before I installed them.   I prepped the new hives, smoked them a bit and opened the nuc.  I tapped the side and top of the frame I would be starting from and lifted the first frame out carefully.   Be careful not to roll the bees!  

Tip:  After you get that first frame out, you can sort of tilt the bottom of the next frame away from the others as you get it out.  That will help prevent rolling in those cardboard nuc boxes.    [I also have a plastic nuc box that I use as a swarm trap - it has no frame separators on the ends so it's easy to slide the frames over before you take them out.]

We checked every frame for brood, stores and the queen.   Both nucs were full of brood and the queen was marked on one of them.  I must say that the bees were nice and calm even though they'd just endured more than an hour in the car and the trundle up the hill and had been closed up completely for who knows how long.  

I did not have to return the boxes.  One of the reasons that nucs are so expensive these days is that suppliers are using more of these cardboard things and you're paying for them.   They're plenty durable for a ride home, but they're not really keepable, so I stripped out the mesh pieces and recycled the cardboard.  


*I can no longer recommend that store for bees or equipment.   The beekeeper himself is wonderful, but the store manager has lost my business forever.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Saddle Pads

This is how I've been spending the majority of my time lately.   I got a new job last year weaving saddle pads and I must say I have never enjoyed a job so much before.   It's been great to learn how to weave something completely different from what I'm used to.

Show & Tell Saddle Pads is a small, family owned company in Clay City, Indiana.   There's a lot of love and laughter in every pad. 



For information on how to get a pad like these for your very own, contact:

Show & Tell Saddle Pads
Loni Rhodes
Clay City, Indiana
812 201 0192

Friday, June 6, 2014

New Bees - Finally!

After paying for these bees in January, I was finally able to pick them up on Thursday.   The season was slow starting this year and everyone is excited to get their new bees.  

We decided to go with 2 nucs this year instead of packages, like we did at first, so we could get a head start.    I'm glad we did.  The pic at top shows bees going in the Hello Sweetie hive a few hours after Lily and I installed them.  Notice the bee flying with with pollen.   Yay!

Nuc is a clipping of the word 'nucleus' as in 'nucleus hive'.    It's a laying queen plus 5 frames of drawn out comb, brood and bees.    A reputable dealer will make sure that there are plenty of eggs and larvae and that the queen is a good layer.    I was not disappointed.   The Hello Sweetie hive had 4 1/2 frames of eggs and larvae.   The Bowtie hive had 5 full frames of eggs and brood and was looking for more space.  

I laid a leafy weed on their doorstep to help them know to re-orient when they fly out and come back to their new home.  

After an hour and a half ride home and being trundled up the hill in the wheelbarrow, these bees were making a lot of noise in the cardboard nuc boxes they came in.   We let them rest for an hour, then installed them.   I was a bit nervous with all the noise and we suited up complete with gloves, which I hardly ever wear for inspections.   I was extremely pleased to find that they are nice and calm.  

So, I finally have two hives up and running for this year.  [Bowtie on left, Hello Sweetie on right]  Whew!   

After a lot of thought about why we lost our bees during the winter [even though they had candy boards and were wrapped appropriately], I've come to the conclusion that one hive was weak from a large mite load and all three hives were just too small to weather the polar vortex.   My goal this year is to grow lots of bees in every hive.    We will feed sugar water for the entire season and try to get very large hives that can stand the variable winters here.  

I'm praying to St. Deborah and St. Gobnait, who are the patron saints of beekeepers [Could be the same person, actually] to help me out.  Help me raise lots of bees and big hives, ladies!



Monday, June 2, 2014

May Garden Harvest



May started slowly and built steam [literally] fast.   The garden has been loving the heat and I can practically hear things growing.   Here's what we harvested from the garden in May



  • Lettuce,  tons and tons and tons from the cold frame and hoop house.  Planted last fall.
  • Arugula, planted out this spring in rows, plus some that self sowed.
  • Radishes, planted out in rows this spring.
  • Strawberries
  • Peas
  • Onions - greens from sets I planted out in early April.

I made my first batches of strawberry vanilla jam from a flat of delectable berries that Eric brought home from Melton's and it was to die for.  It's Claire's favorite and she is jealously guarding every jar.

Now that jam season is in full swing, don't forget that my jam cookbook ebook is on sale for a while.  See sidebar for link and preview. 





Friday, May 30, 2014

Rush

These are soft rushes.  I like them.  They remind me of fireworks. 

Rushes.  Rush.  Rushing.   Hurry, hurry, hurry.   Because if you don't, then....fireworks.  

We've been rushing a lot for the past year or so and it's time to slow down.    I've found myself with less and less time these days and I've had to choose between doing things and writing about them.   

It's sort of a catch-22.    If I do things, I don't have time to write about them.   If I write, then I don't have time to do things to write about.   Because, trust me, you don't want to see my brain on 'stream of consciousness'. 

So, I'm taking a blog vacation for the next few weeks.  In the meantime, I invite you to check out my blog archive below in the sidebar.    I have over 1300 blog posts on here and surely you'll find some fun ones if you look through the old stuff.  

Here's the archive from spring and summer 2011, the year I started the blog.    Happy wandering!



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jam eBook Sale

Thanks to all of you who have looked at my ebook over the past year!

A Simple Jar of Jam is a collection of more than 180 jam, jelly, marmalade, glaze and chutney recipes and variations from this blog.   The vast majority of them use low sugar pectin. Click here for a preview to see the table of contents, a few recipes and the index. The ebook is an interactive pdf, best viewed using Adobe or iBook.  

To celebrate the beginning of jam season this year,  we are lowering the price from $7.95 to $4.99 for the next few weeks.  [That's a 37% savings.]  Tell your friends - Spread the news!

You don't need a coupon code or anything, just go to Rurification's Etsy Shop and buy it

Thank you so much for reading the blog and buying the ebook.  Every purchase goes a long way to help support this blog.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jack in the Pulpit

This is Jack in the Pulpit - Arisaema triphyllum - an enduring wildflower out here.

It endures probably because it's poisonous and the deer don't eat it.

The blasted deer eat everything.  

Everything.

Including every last one of the leaves on my brand new plum tree.   Which really ticked me off.   And which I took as a personal affront.  

If I ever meat meet that deer, it will be dinner.   My dinner.  And it will probably be delicious as it has been subsisting on a diet of my orchard trees.


This is one happy Jack in the Pulpit.   Normally they are 8-24 inches high, but this one was easily 3 feet high.   Notice the two leaves - and each leaf has three lobes very similar to trillium leaves.     These bloom after the trilliums.

They make gorgeous shade garden plants.   And they're pretty easy, unless you accidentally weed them out, which has never, ever happened to me.   It's just that the Jack in the pulpits in my garden mysteriously disappeared that one day after I was weeding. 

It was a coincidence, I'm sure. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hoosier Hills FIber Festival



We're getting all packed up and ready to go to this year's Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival.

Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival
Friday, June 6th: 12pm to 6pm
Saturday, June 7th: 9am to 5pm
Johnson County Fairgrounds
Franklin, Indiana

Free admission.  Free on-site parking.





This is a super fun show, great for the fiber enthusiast and novice alike.   Bring the family and see all kinds of fiber animals as well as spinning wheels, looms and more yarn than you can imagine.    Take a class and learn a new skill. 
 
We'll be there, in Scott Hall, with a booth full to bursting with hand dyed goodies like these. 


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