Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Free Photos

I've compiled a CD of my better photos.
These are pictures of the woods, mushrooms, and animals, no people, except for one of CC and me extracting honey.
If you want one, tell me. Some of you are in transit, and I need a secure address for you.
Email me at HscSusiQ at AOL dot Com

Finally Grown Up

What did I want to be when I grew up? I can only remember that I wanted to have children, and live in Chesham, England, specifically at Grove Farm! Otherwise, I was so unfocused that I tried not to think about growing into adulthood.

But it comes, whether you're ready or not.

I'm officially grown up. When you hit sixty you have to admit to being an adult.

I have created, unthinkingly, an idealized version of Grove Farm here in Virginia: No silage fermenting in the bunkers, which my nose remembers so vividly, no pigs to flee from in the big pasture which I had to cross after jumping the Haw-haw (a big ditch), no huge hay barn to climb around in, looking for bantam eggs; but here are woods to explore and get to know, tree-by-tree, a just-right-sized lake, and a huge garden to dump mountains of black riches from the local stable into and grow things. Here is meaningful work to tire me and make me sleep, worry free. Here is the wonderful man I love!

I still miss Little Grove Priory. I miss Old Norwood, and Lady Jean. I miss the rose garden and the chickens. The long walks to school, where sewing was taught by a man, and we had to take exercise in our knickers! I thought that we lived there for years, until my Mother told me it was only eight months. When we had to leave I hugged all the trees goodbye, down by the chalk pit in the woods. I cried, and still cry, for that beautiful place. Luckily we married into the Lady Jean's family, so I now have cousins who are rooted there, too.

Roots don't take long to form in rich ground.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Marvelous Day

The whole day was like this.
Sweet girls busy creating crafts and pictures.
A pot of soup bubbling and bread rising.
It was dark and stormy outside, with the rain banging against the windows.
No loud voices, whining or fusses.
Aren't they wonderful.


I went to DC and had a marvelous time with my nieces. They showed what lovely young women they will someday be. We stayed around the kitchen and made bread and a big pot of lamb vegetable soup. I haven't spent such a lovely time with children in a long time. I get to go back soon to spend a little more time with them soon. Syl is already doing experiments! Young scientist!

And that brings me to the bright cherry on the whipped cream: Felix.

His sweet personality glows on his face as he sits figuring out how his toys work. I could go on and on and on... I got to spend some hours gazing at his perfection and talking to the lucky Moms. We had a fine old time cooking and consuming a good dinner at my brother's where they'll have a Thanksgiving vacation.
These oyster mushrooms grew all up this small, doomed, oak. The mushrooms are only a symptom, not the disease. We picked as high as we could reach, but left lots to float their spores through the woods and make more mushrooms for later years. As with the Lion's mane, the heavy rains made them soggy and not as highly flavored as usual. Oyster mushrooms will appear all through the winter, spring and summer, especially after a snowy or rainy period when the temperature drops. After snows last winter they were dryer, thicker and more flavorful.
These are the Hericium Mushrooms. They're the second occurrence of this type I've found in this area. They are also called Lion's Mane and Monkey head. They grow on very old and rotting hardwood. Unmistakable for anything else.

Venison and Mushrooms

CC got his deer (not all of them) and I got my mushrooms (going to get more!)

CC got a small four pointer on the first day of the regular gun season. He'd spent all muzzleloader season stalking the property and taking shots, occasionally, at the biggest buck. I have five deer damage tags, so he knows that we can harvest all the deer he and DC, who secures the upper part of the property, can shoot.

I went out with CC and found about a gallon of oyster mushrooms and two Lion's Mane mushrooms. There had been 2.5 inches of rain the day before, so they were all soggy. I wish I had weighed the large one, it felt like 5 pounds, but most of that was water. I pressed a lot of the water out of the lion's mane after I'd sliced them. They were solid mushroom meat, with the 'spines' or 'teeth' all over the outside. Unfortunately, they were very bland. I sautéed them in olive oil, and discovered the lack of flavor (they're said to taste like lobster or seafood). So I added chopped garlic and shrimp, using the shrimp's boiling water to make a thick white sauce. We had it over fettuccine. Pretty good, but not outstanding.

CC left me half of the deer. At that age they're pretty tender. Sam really doesn't like venison, so I gave it to BG, who will return half to me in jerky and a roast or two. She makes really good jerky. So I'll end up with a quarter of the first deer, ready to eat; she'll do the work. I feel guilty. I'll be glad when the boys move the big freezer into the basement.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Do you see it? Tell me if you do.

I hope you can see the little honeybee cursor. I'm trying to find one that looks more realistic and leaves a little dotted line behind it as it moves. I saw that on a beekeeping blog, which I can't find again. I'll experiment. This little bee is courtesy of WWW.Bigoo.com. Thanks Bigoo!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Poll Worker

Yesterday I worked at the Lockett District Poll. What a lovely way to meet my neighbors. I saw folks come in straight from a hard day's work, some covered with mud, dairy farm dirt, dead tired, some in starched shirts and suits, many mothers with children in tow, several sets of teens, supporting each other in their first vote.
When I told them about our new touch screen machines, most were attentive, even some who dislike 'computer stuff'. They wanted to be sure their vote counted, and were willing to make an extra effort to do it right. We had almost 3/4 of the registered voters come out on a cold rainy day. Each of the parties (R, D, I) had groups outside in the cold all day.
No one argued, complained, or otherwise disturbed the solemn proceeding. When I thanked them for their vote they smiled and spoke of duty, pride and obligation. We had three referendums on the ballot, which many voters stood and read in detail and discussed at length to understand and vote on.
Jefferson would have been proud to see them working hard to be good voters.
I am certainly proud.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Winter it is...

Now that winter is upon us I hope to start keeping you all informed of the joys of the farm life.
We're all battened down for winter, with a full woodpile, and equipment winterized. The upper garden has been manured, plowed, disked heavily, and sown to greens, turnips and rutabagas. CC's Grandfather says we planted 5 acres of seed in a quarter acre. We'll see. We did plant late, but with the winter coming later and being milder I am pleased that the seed has germinated and seems to be doing well.
The bees are mostly bedded down too, though I still have to put pollen patties into the garden bees and about four of the driveway bee hives. I'm feeding straight corn syrup now to allow them to put it into the comb and cap it off. They probably will take wax from other parts of the hive to use, since it's too cold to secrete it.
The bee inspector came a couple weeks ago and we looked at most of them. There was no indication that there was nectar coming in from the asters. I put in pollen patties and fed this last week, but found that there was a huge amount of capped honey in the hives (I did all of the hives I split this summer). Evidently the asters, or something, started producing. Still not enough, and way too little pollen stored. There was no brood in all but one which had a tiny patch of eggs because they had superseded and had a new queen (black). She had laid multiple eggs in each cell, neatly on the bottom. I'd heard that new queens would do that. I wonder if they'll raise brood now that they have the pollen patties. I'm not worried about the hives I've yet to get to, since they are better provisioned than the summer splits.
High on the priority list is getting the tractor working so I can finish putting the garden to bed and get the ground ready to plant in the spring, bush-hog the CRP fields and drag up some more wood to be cut up. I love that tractor.
CC has drilled his left middle finger to the bone in a car-renovation accident. He and some buddies had cleared the time (i.e. no girls) to spend a Friday night working on one of their cars and instead had to make a trip to the hospital. He's out of commission for a while. Our tractor is currently in pieces, because he was in the last stages of doing some maintenance on it, changing out filters, fixing a relay that was iffy, etc. I bought the full set of maintenance manuals for it, and CC has been gleefully studying them and figuring out the inner workings.
Tuesday I get to see all the neighbors who come to the Polls to vote. Around here you can visit with everyone who lives in the district by being a Poll Officer. Most people hereabouts believe in voting. Well, most of the folks who've gotten serious about their lives. There are some organizations that also figure into that 'serious' category: Church, Volunteer Fire Department, Rescue Squad, Hunt Club, Rotary, Lions, etc. Once the kids have grown enough to get out of the house the serious ones gravitate toward the places where adults are available to mentor them. Grandparents, uncles and aunts have had their time, and the kids go out looking for other adults to explain the world to them.
It's common to find that kids, like CC, have learned how to work by helping their grandparents. He plans to get his education and do as his forbears: support his farming habit with a job. CC knows that without a good job, backed by that degree, he can't afford to run the farm. Wanting to be a farmer is his incentive to get his degree. Farming is an expensive hobby. You hope to raise a family and pass the land on. The farm life is its own reward. Profits and losses will, hopefully, even out.
Wednesday I get to go see the nieces in DC. They are coming down to the farm to spend the long weekend doing farm and field things. It's mushroom season and I hope to coordinate with the hunters so we can canvas the woods for mushrooms (lots of orange). My library of mushroom books is growing and I'm memorizing as fast as I can. So far I've only eaten the oyster mushrooms I've found, and have identified fairly conclusively some Amanitas to stay away from. Spore prints and photos have helped, and there is so much on the internet! Luckily it will be in the 70s for the whole visit.