Thursday, July 26, 2012

Picking Blackberries

We have a crop of blackberries this year and I have been picking almost everyday.  As I go out to the arbor holding up the plants I have memories of days gone by.  Why it seems as if it was just this morning when Momma said to my sister and me, "The blackberries are ready to be picked and we have a lot of orders."  Momma sold the berries for 25 cents a quart and she rounded up her quarts.  My sister and I were paid a nickel a quart to pick them.  We loved to pick when there was a rain during the night because the berries were larger after the rain.  We had tame berries but they had thorns on them, and of course it was summer and the temperature was hot.

When you picked the blackberries, there was a dress code.  Long sleeved shirts, jeans and boots, Momma always added her kerosene rags around your ankles to keep the chiggers from getting all over you.  Hot weather, lots of clothes,  the reminder that snakes like blackberries and will be under the vines made for an interesting morning.

As I have told you before my sister is 11 years older than me so the last thing said, "Do not let anything happen to Bootsie.  You take care of her."  This was something no one needed to say to my sister, she did her best to always take care of me.  Daddy was able to cut the grass around some of the vines but the vines where some of the biggest berries grew he could not cut with the hay mower.  In would go my sister to stomp down the grass and then I would follow her and pick the berries.  I picked all of the low berries and she would pick the ones I could not reach.  Because Momma did not want the berries to pack down she would give us the quart baskets to pick in and bring the berries home.  She would go through the berries and pack the quarts for the customers to see and they would bring something to put them in.  This way we had plenty of quart baskets for picking.

My sister loved country music and she would sing when she was picking the berries that way I would always know where she was.  "Come over here, there are some really big berries."  I would trot off to find her and pick the big ones she left for me.  After all the baskets were filled we would head off to our house and get out of the hot clothes.

As we walked home with the harvest my sister would spend the money in so many ways with what she would buy.  I knew she would buy another record by Elvis or Hank Snow because she loved to hear them sing.  We always pooled our berries and if we picked 10 quarts and 50 cents was the take for the day, I would get half.  Momma taught me to save and I had to put some of the money in the bank and it would earn 2% interest.  I would put away the money I would deposit in the bank and if I was able to buy a new cut-out doll book when we went to town and that made all the hard work worthwhile.

As I am standing by our berry arbor, not to concerned about snakes as the berries are not in the pastures.  I can almost hear someone stomping down the grass.  I am overjoyed at the size of some of the berries but I can see a finger pointing to the biggest berry of the day.  I pick it and put in my basket.   After the berries are all picked, I am walking to the house and I can hear someone singing "I've Been Everywhere" a little off key.  I do feel the presence of my sister when I am picking blackberries and I surely received a whole lot more than a nickel a quart.  My memories are priceless.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Triple Creek Farm, July 21, 2012

One evening this week, Mr. Bootsie and I made our evening walk to the garden.  I had my gathering baskets and we filled them.  Our little garden is feeding us and allowing me to store for  winter usage.  Our garden is dry and I water as much as I feel safe doing.  I have put a lot of mulch in the land and now I am adding sand from the creek.  We are doing quite good retaining the moisture in the land.    


Preserving the harvesting has moved front and center.  This week I have put up blackberry syrup, blackberry jelly and Kosher dill pickles.  I had one jar of the syrup break in the hot water bath.  We are enjoying the harvest of the fresh veggies.  I made a jar of Claussen type pickles, Friday the 20th was the day I could open and taste them.  I was very pleased I will be making more of these, I can make a quart at a time and that works well for me.


Thursday evening, the tree which was damaged in one of the storms a few weeks ago decided to fall at least some of it.  Mr. Bootsie spent Saturday working fire wood from this tree,  Good hickory means lots of good heat.  Saturday night returning from the coop we could see where another part of the tree was falling.

I am growing my own compost greens and Saturday was damp and cool.  It was a wonderful day for me to pull the greens.  I pull the plants before they set flowers or seeds and I do not have to worry about what is going to come up in the compost.  I pulled 14 five gallon buckets of weed and other green material.  The compost piles are filled.  


Wednesday morning I went to the coop to feed and noticed all the chicks standing on one side of the run, not moving at all.  My first thought, SNAKE and I went into the coop and there it was.  When it saw me it went into one of the nest boxes,  I knew this guy had to be evicted.  I grabbed a shovel and rattled it about in the box and it came out and went into the straw.  Next order of business was to move the straw outside.  This seemed to work for the snake was not to be found.  The flock settled down and I have collected 2 eggs from the nesting box.

Idgie has been spending more time outside with the flock but she continues to roost in the nesting boxes.  I am seeing quite a number of feathers in the yard and coop, two of the girls are not laying, adding all of this up I figured out Feather and Blanche are molting.  Necked chickens and no eggs, we will see how many feathers they loose.  I really do not have a handle on the sex of the peeps and now others are telling me they may cluck like hens before they start crowing.  I have no idea only time will tell.

Friday, Aurora let me know it is time for her to be broody, again.  She was in one nesting box Friday night and Idgie was in another.  But Saturday night Idgie was on the roosting pole with the other girls.  Now if Aurora will forget about being broody it would be wonderful.  I have started taking the eggs away from her at night.  She was very upset with me for doing this.  I would set her again, but I think it is just too hot some days right now.  I may look at the long range forecast in a few days if she remains broody.

The egg count this week is 36.  I am glad I do not have customers counting on me for eggs.  This has been one experience.


Beetles are public enemy number 1, I have made the Fels- Naptha soap solution and I am spraying the butter beans.  I would like to defeat the beetle or get it under control.  Daily hand picking continues as I do not think the soap solution helped a lot.  Mr. Bootsie continues to pick squash bugs each night and checks for the horned tomato worm.

 Dill, the herb garden is usually loaded with huge dills plants and this year I have only one or two.  Not large ones, so I planted dill in the vegetable garden hoping to have some for pickles.  I would rather use dill heads than dill seed when making pickles.

The garden has a lot of good things coming in, Friday night Greek pizza was made for dinner.  The tomatoes, pepper and onion came from the garden.  I made pudding this week and we added the blackberry syrup to the pudding.  We are creating wonderful things with our fresh veggies.  I enjoy coming up with new ways to use the produce from the garden.  I do consider it a challenge.


My thoughts are with so many farmers who will be selling of the stock because there is no feed for them.  I am growing a small amount of corn which I can use to feed the flock.  I will have to crack the corn but we have an old tool which will do that.  I do not have enough for the year,  I will be purchasing feed for the flock so I may start making them some bread without salt and I make oatmeal for them every morning.

Just going to see a movie has changed the lives of so many.  In times like these we so often change the way we live our lives for a few days.  I think it is becoming very important to say the things you would say if you knew you would never see someone again.  Hug for a second longer, smile from the heart and say how important others are to you.  My mind has often drifted to thinking about the families involved and I am so sorry their world has changed.  May each and everyone of you be blessed in some special way.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Triple Creek Farm, July 14, 2012

All of the hard work is starting to pay off.  Sometimes everything you touch goes wrong and other days they go right.  I know in my heart of hearts everything I want to get completed will not be done.  But, I do keep on trying to put may too much on the plate and wonder why I as always running behind.  The garden is starting to come in and that adds preserving the crops to my list of daily chores.  I bake all the bread we eat, cook almost all of our meals from scratch and make a humble attempt at keeping house.  Add in laundry, taking care of our small flock and yard work, all of this fills my days completely.  I am not complaining!  When I see it written down like this I am pleased that a Grandmother is still able to do all of these things.


I have always enjoyed a "Claussen" pickle and wondered if I could find a recipe to make them.  I found a recipe which I could make as few as 1 quart and I made a quart.  I can open the jar and taste it on the 20th of July.  If they have the taste I am looking for I will make more.

Blackberries are being picked from our vines, I have frozen a number of berries and now Mr. Bootsie is making blackberry jelly and syrup.  I help him out by getting the juice prepared.

Tomatoes are starting to be plentiful and I do enjoy a bowl of tomato basil soup.  Mr. Bootsie is not a fan of tomato basil and so I will be making him cream of tomato basil soup.


Tuesday, the builder completed the basic construction on the pole barn.  By nightfall Tuesday,  I had onions spread out and drying.  I am so excited as I have always had to do things like this on my porch.  Now I have a place to do things which are farm related in a farm building.  Mr. Bootsie will be putting his own personal touch on the building finishing it off to fit our needs.

We had one compost pile that needed to be worked.  It had not been turned as much as it should have been and we started moving it into the chicken run for the girls to work.  The ducks really get into working the compost.  They work it so much it comes out of the fence and I just scoop it up.


Idgie is on and off the nest.  She is staying in the nesting box at night time.  She is coming out in the run a little but she is on the nest quite a lot.  The 4 peeps are really growing up and I still do not know if they are hens or roosters.  We are still waiting to name them.

Mr. Bootsie came in with the wire for the the covering on the duck run.  He is going to set a post in the center and put the wire up.  This is going to be different to how we did the first run so we will be learning as we go along.  I hope this works the way he thinks that it will.

The heat took toll of the girls and we really did not get a lot of eggs this week.  The egg count was 37. This summer will be a wait and see because we do not know how much hot weather we will be having.  I feel really good we did not loose any of the chickens as I am hearing about a lot of farmers loosing quite a number of chickens.

The ducks may be growing up.  There have been no eggs but we are starting to see some changes in the way they are behaving.  I am thinking that I may be able to take them to the garden with me, as they are starting to follow me around.  It would be a treat having them walk around with me.


I planted late string beans.  I did not get a good spring crop as the heat just cooked the plants and the beetles thought that I had planted the beans for them.  I do not use sprays so you do loose some crops.  I have found the Fels-Naptha soap and I am going to make a spray from that.

This week I picked blackberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, okra, pole beans and found a few butter beans.  I am having a problem with the squash but there is enough coming in to satisfy our desire for fresh squash.  There is one climbing squash plant which is loaded.  I do hope it brings us a few.

Cleaning out from the early planting and getting ready to start other things.  Our garden keeps me moving all the time.  Mr. Bootsie has been finding the tomato horned worm but he will not pick them he calls me to come and get them.  Says he doesn't want to ruin a plant.  We are still fighting the squash bug.  This year has been a little easier than last year was.  Not picking anywhere as many adults and there have not been a lot of eggs.


I see all the work we are doing and I am so pleased everything is moving forward.  I look around and yes, there is progress.  We are so lucky to be here and to be able to enjoy our farm.  My heart breaks when I hear of those who are losing their farms and I am so concerned there will be many this year as the conditions are against you if you are planning on this year's crop to save you.  The corn in Virginia is not as good as many had hoped it would be.  There is already talk animal grain will be going up.  I tried my hand at growing a small amount of the corn which would help with feed for the flock.  I think I am going to get a crop even with it being blown down.  But as I was always told, any thing we can do,  will help.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Triple Creek Farm, July 7, 2012

Our Nation's Birthday!  A day for flag waving and being proud to be an American. I stop and think how long has my family lived here in Virginia.  I can trace my roots back a long way.  My family and Mr. Bootsie's came to this country long before Ellis Island.  I am thankful I live in America and I, too, am a flag waving proud American.

A new recipe for pesto made with lemon balm and I wanted to try it.  This was a good choice, all that needed to be cooked was the pasta and I have been doing as little cooking as possible in the house.  There is a camp stove outside which I can on and this is where I do a lot of cooking during the hot weather.   I picked lemon balm and basil,  two kinds, dwarf spicy and lettuce leaf  from the herb garden.  Made the pesto and added to the cooked angel hair pasta and this was a great meal on a hot evening.


Monday, the pole barn is starting to take on the look I wanted.  This reminds me of the out buildings on my parents farm.  I am lucky as Mr. Bootsie lets me have my way about a lot of things we do here on our farm.  This is our first real storage building and it is so exciting.  I feel like we are starting to be a farm.


Idgie is still staying on the nest quite a bit.  We have seen some breaks in the action, I have no intention of having her sit on eggs at this time.  I am hoping she will get the message, and move with the flock.  The ducks know it is cooler under the coop and they want to stay in the chicken run.  I put them in the duck run about seven in the morning and bring them back to the chicken run about ten.  Everyone stays under the coop and they do not make a sound.  It is so strange to go to the run and there is nothing going on.  I had one of those oh! no! moments yesterday.  I was afraid something had gotten in there and hurt the flock.  That was short lived for as soon as they heard me open the gate they slowly came out from under the coop.

Grey and white are 2 of the peeps with momma

The little peeps have out grown Aurora and it is strange to see her with one of them as she is so tiny.  We are not sure about the sex of the peeps, two may be girls and the other two, I have no idea.  Time will tell.

The egg count this week is 43.  With all of this heat the girls did a good job laying.  On Friday there were 6 little girl eggs so that means Idgie is laying again.  Now can I figure out some way to keep her out of the nest and get her back on the roosting pole?


        TEMPERATURES in excess of 100 degrees during the day, what a week this has been.

I have been watering, and hoping that it is doing some good.  The tomato plants are loaded and I really do not want to loose them.  Peppers are starting to bloom and little eggplants are showing up.  Onions are ready to be pulled. It is time to start putting in the late garden and with the break in temperature this coming week I will be working on that.

I have been picking blackberries everyday.  I dug the blue potatoes, had a wonderful harvest.  There are more potatoes to dig but the vines are not thinking about dying.  After this hot spell, I think things will change.  Cucumbers and pole beans are starting to come in.  We are picking a few squash not nearly as many as the plants should produce.  I added some lime to some of the plants last week as they were yellowing and I do not think in was from the heat.  I believe the land needs to be sweetened.  The corn which was given first-aide is doing real good.  I would like for it to make corn but time will tell.  The cherry tomatoes are being picked daily.  It is time to pull the string bean plants and I will be doing that next week.


Every spring when you start the seeds you wonder if there will be a crop,  when the weather gets hot how will you keep your animals cool.  I am very fortunate as I do not have to leave the farm and can take my time taking care of things.  If I go away I can plan my trip and be back when I am needed.  I am wondering if there will be a good crop this year.  I was taught to always put up some of the extra because your crop may not be good next year.  This is a lesson I learned and every year I try to preserve a little more than we will need for the season.  I am hoping this hot spell will be the only one we experience this year.  It is time for me to get the canner out and prepare for the canning season.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Homemade Ice Cream

Mr. Bootsie and I purchased a small 2 quart ice cream freezer.  The other day we planned to make our first batch of ice cream.  As I was making the custard the memories of ice cream came to my mind.  Banana, peach, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate what flavor would it be when Momma and Daddy made ice cream?  They had a big old 1 gallon freezer from Richmond Cedar Works and it had been used.  The church had ice cream socials and lawn parties.  They were always serving lots of ice cream you would make the custard, bring in the can along with someone to crack the freezer and your cover for  the freezer.  This would be done in the early part of the day allowing lots of time for the ice cream to cure.  There was a big piece of canvas which covered the freezer after it was packed with ice to keep the cream frozen.

It was early on Sunday morning and Daddy was calling me.  "Bootsie, get up if you want to go with me."  I thought Sunday, Daddy is going by himself, oh my goodness, where are my clothes.  I have got to get dressed before he leaves me.  "Daddy, I am getting dressed, I want to go with you."  As I came through the kitchen Momma was busy cooking in a big pot on the stove.  "You can have your breakfast when you get back."  Smiling, I hurried to the car to ride with Daddy.  The trip took a good while and Daddy was a good driver so I could get a little shut eye on the road.  The car came to a stop and Daddy was talking with someone.  "Do you have any ice?'  "Yeas, sir.  I gots plenty of ice.  You gonna make cream for the youngin?"  Daddy just shook his head yes.  The trunk was open and the wash tub came out.  The man turned to me, "You wannta go in?'  I loved to go in the ice house.  Big blocks of ice and it was so cold in there.  Daddy chose the block of ice he wanted and it was put in the wash tub.  This was put in the trunk wrapped in newspaper and the canvas to hold the cold, off we went.

Arriving at home there was pancakes awaiting us with syrup and sliced peaches.  I knew it was going to be peach ice cream.  Momma asked Daddy, "Are you going to freeze the cream before of after church?"  After because we are running a little late.  What?  No dasher to lick before church.  How can that be?  And there will be others here after church.  We were home from church early as this was a Sunday when there was only Sunday School.

Daddy came through the door pulling off his Sunday clothes and putting on everyday clothes.  He looked at me and said, "Hurry and change your clothes.  We need to freeze the ice cream before everyone gets here."  I took off and changed my clothes, came back outside with the rock salt in my hands.  Momma was bringing the can with the custard.  Daddy had the hammer breaking up the big block of ice.  My sister was just hanging around waiting.  Momma put the can in the freezer, Daddy lined it up and hooked the latches on the handle.  Here comes Momma with a glass of water looks at me as says, "The freezer is thirsty and need a drink of water." In goes water, ice and rock salt.  Daddy motions for my sister to come and turn the handle.  Stops me from putting in the ice as I might get my hand caught in the freezer gears.  I can hardly wait.  Here come Momma with a big bowl of peaches.  Everything stops, did Momma forget to put the peaches in the can?  Carefully cleaning the ice and rock salt from the top of the freezer and taking out some of the ice, it is ready to be opened.  Momma pours in the peaches and Daddy closes the can, replaces the handle and my sister starts to turn the can again.  Quickly, she looks at Daddy and said, "It will not turn for me."  Daddy tries and he moved the can a little bit.  Once again the top of the freezer is cleaned and the top of the can lifted, Momma takes a spoon and cleans the dasher and then hands it to me.  While I am licking away on the dasher, the plug is put in the top of the can, ice and salt is packed in the freezer and on top of the can.   The freezer is moved to a place in the shade and covered with the canvas.  It in now time  to cure the ice cream.

I really do not see any need for it to cure, the cream on the dasher was wonderful.  About the peaches,  Momma did not forget, she always added her fruit after the custard had frozen some.  The fruit will be blended in more evenly was her thoughts about this.

After lunch, my cousins came from the city, Momma's sister, loved to bake, she had a pound cake she made.  Another Aunt and her family brought a freezer of vanilla ice cream.  After everyone visited, the cake was cut into lots of slices put on plates and you were asked, "Peach or vanilla?" Being a child and knowing I had to wait for all the adults to be fed first I was hoping the peach would last until I was asked.  And by the way, all of the cousins who came to visit had to have their plates before me because they were company.  When I arrived with my hand held out saying "Peach."  Momma shook her head and said, "Only vanilla."  She told me not to pout because we would make another batch of ice cream.  I took the vanilla and headed off to eat my dessert, my sister called me.  "Come over here, bring your plate."  She had a place for me to sit beside her.  She started taking my plate from me, what is going on?  Smiling, she said, "I do not like peach ice cream but the can was getting low and I knew you wanted it.  Let me have your vanilla and here is peach for you."

Later in the day everything was cleaned and stored awaiting the next Sunday when we would make ice cream.  Everyone left and I decided to play a game with my sister.  She enjoyed playing Chinese Checkers and I thought it would be nice not win every game we played.

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Triple Creek Farm, June 30, 2012

Weather,  one of the things man cannot control.  Without any warning a storm rolled down Interstate 64 in Eastern Virginia, Monday afternoon.  I heard grumbling and rumblings and decided to check the weather and the radar looked as if we may catch the bottom side of a storm.  It was just past Charlottesville and heading east.  I made a quick decision to prepare the flock for a rain storm and secure things about the farm.  By the time I returned to the house it was starting to rain.  The sky was black and the wind had picked up.  I was thankful the flock had been moved for I knew this was going to be a good one.  It rained, no, it actually poured, lots of great northern bean size hail and the wind was strong.  This did past and the sun came out.  Lots of tree damage with limbs on the ground.  Water was running everywhere and our creek was almost out of it's banks.  For our area this was a bad storm.  Richmond took quite a bit of damage and power loss.  The electric company said they were not prepared for this storm and I can understand why, neither was I.


Pizza for dinner during the summer, this week I made a spinach pizza and a pesto with fetta pizza.  I have the crusts pre-set in the freezer and the topping can be prepared in just a few minutes.  It makes for a quick late supper and not a lot of cleanup after the meal.  Fresh vegetables are on the menu, string beans with new potatoes straight from the garden.  Had a steak sandwich one evening with a real tomato.  The greenhouse plant is producing small tomatoes and they taste and smell so wonderful.


Monday morning the builder was here and progress has been made this week.  The pole barn is starting to look like something.  He was not able to be here all week but he will be back soon and finish this project.  The pasture fence has all of the corner post holes dug.  The gate post holes have been dug, also.  We will be using cedar post cut from the farm.   Friday night, another storm came through and Mr. Bootsie had to cut up a tree that was blown down.  It was across the road to some of the neighbors homes.   This job is almost complete as he saved the trunk for raised bed borders.  They still need to be moved to where we store them.


 First time on a roosting pole.
The little peeps have been where they could see my big girls and we have let them go in the chicken run in the afternoons when the big girls are out taking their afternoon stroll.  Everyday, Mr. Bootsie has been saying it is time.  I have been holding back, Monday afternoon,  I said lets give it a try.  When it was time to roost the little ones came back to the part of the coop where they have been spending the night. We carried each one and put it on the roosting pole.  We had a pole no one was using and I knew this would be the safest place.  Tuesday morning, all was well and I think the worst part of blending the flock together is over.  Tuesday afternoon, the day had been quiet and I knew there is no turning back now.  We had to put them on the roosting poles again on Tuesday night.  The largest one of the peeps has had to be helped to the roosting pole every night.

 This week 42 eggs were collected.  For the month of June 194 eggs from 10 girls, one being broody and Aurora started laying in the month of June after having set on eggs and hatched the peeps.


Monday evening some of the less damaged corn had mulch pulled up on the roots to help hold it upright.  The tops were wrung out of some of the corn and I will leave it just to see what happens.
I spent the entire day in the garden Tuesday checking on things and trying to fix as much as possible.  Some of the tomato cages were pulled out of the ground.  They were the larger 5 foot ones.  Mr. Bootsie and I did "corn first-aide" when he returned from work.  It looks pretty, but I sure do hope this works, this is the bloody butcher corn and I really do not want to loose this.
Some of the new growth on the raspberries was broken.  I cut most of that out on Tuesday and now I think things are back to normal.  Friday night's storm did not do a lot of damage to the garden.  The corn was standing and looking good on Saturday morning.

I have been picking this week:  yellow crook neck squash, raspberries, blackberries, green beans,
cucumbers.  I dug 4 small baskets of potatoes and pulled some onions.  Sun gold tomatoes just do not make it into the house.  They seem to get eaten quickly.


We had a storm, which was classified as the mildest of tornados, with some damage but there are a lot of those in our country experiencing great losses.  I as thankful we had very little damage actually next to none.  There are many who have lost their homes this week.  Folks who will be starting over.  I do not know how a farmer can reclaim their land after a fire.  We, so often, only see what is going on in our community.  With all the folks I have met thru Happy Hallow my community have grown.  There are people from all over the world staying in touch with me.  Some thru the blog and some on our Facebook page.  My thoughts are with those in the line of the fires, the floods and any other dangerous situation  some may be in.  Everyone take care of yourself and make good decisions.  May each and everyone be blessed in their own special way.

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