Saturday, November 20, 2010

Baby Hats and Salsa

Despite being more busy than normal launching our fabulous soap and craft business, Finchwald Homestead, I managed to knit a couple of little baby hats for a shower I missed last week when I had the flu.

I love these little fruit hats.

I modified the strawberry slightly so it would have white seeds rather than green. I think it looks better with the extra color. (Under the hats, you can see some knitting I am blocking for a friend who commissioned me to make a hat and scarf for her daughter. I will blog about it later on the Finchwald Homestead blog.)

And because these little hats are such a quick knit, I thought I'd go ahead and knit a second one, a dewberry. Dewberries grow wild here in southern Alabama and the purple yarn I used from my stash was perfect. The above picture shows good detail, but the color is too light. The actual hat looks more like this:

I added a band of ribbing to the bottom edge of the hat for a slightly different look.

I sure hope the new mom-to-be thinks babies with fruit heads are as cute as I think they are. I suppose it is possible some people wouldn't appreciate a fruit headed baby, though I can hardly imagine.

Meanwhile, my Fall garden has given me plenty of purple peppers and some tomatoes. The bugs always seem to get the tomatoes when they are ripe, so today I fooled them and picked the tomatoes green. I added them to the batch of salsa I mixed up today. I sure hope green tomatoes taste okay in salsa.

I also added some purple peppers (and their more dangerous red incarnation) to the salsa to make it deathly spicy. I love spicy food. After 6 weeks fermenting in my Harsch Crock, I should have some super tasty, healthy and not-for-the-faint-of-heart salsa.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Finchwald Homestead

After many years thinking about sharing our homemade food and crafts via a home-based business, we finally did it! Please come visit me at my brand new blog: Finchwald Homestead. Thanks!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


With Kurt not presently working, I thought I would finally get some projects done around the house. Today, I asked Kurt and Gregory to dig out the stump from the middle of my garden. They dug off and on throughout the day and late this afternoon, they pulled it out with our tractor. The whole thing went beautifully. Then Kurt spied a large root. He thought he would pull it out too. He didn't do any digging first.

He tipped our tractor on its end just like Mater did in the movie, "Cars." Of course, the kids thought it was the funniest thing they ever saw.

And while Kurt finally worked to dig out the root with a shovel,

The kids posed with the tractor.

Gregory wanted a picture that made it look like he had been driving when the tractor tipped.

Kurt and Mr. Chris finally managed to dig out the root - without the help of the tractor.

They also located a large fire ant mound with their feet.

And for the record, Kurt sent the kids to fetch me and the camera. HE was the one who wanted to preserve the moment in pictures.

By the way, it doesn't take much to right a tipped tractor. Kurt thought he would need to crank it back down. He tied a line to the front axle while standing in the "fall zone" and when he gave the line a little tug, the tractor came crashing down. Kurt had to jump away from the falling tractor TWICE this evening. My heart is pounding still.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Sad Times

I haven't had the heart to post to my blog for a long time now. Times have been rough on the Gulf Coast.

The largest oil spill in our nation's history pumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. That oil began washing onto the pristine Alabama shoreline shortly after my mother's visit and our early morning beach trips. Instead of sugar white shores, we now have beaches marred with oil and chemical dispersant. At times, increasingly rare beautiful white sand covers the oil and at other times, waves and wind expose the hidden, buried oil. The beaches may never recover.

If the oil wasn't bad enough, millions of gallons of hazardous chemicals have been applied to the oil to sink it out of sight. These chemicals, called Corexit, are hazardous to life and health and they fill our local waters and beaches. Corexit is more dangerous than oil in part. because it is not readily seen. Local testing has uncovered Corexit on the beaches and in the local waterways.( Testing Finds Oil and Dispersant) Local beach residents have seen planes continuing to carpet bomb local waterways with the chemical despite official statements to the contrary. (Stress of Oil Spill Still Lingers) People cough and wheeze and suffer from congestion, including my own family. No one knows whether we are suffering from chemical exposure or unusual allergies or a really bad cold season. (Covert Spraying of the Gulf) A few people, who could afford blood testing, discovered oil and chemical residues in their bodies. (Gulf Coast Crud) The rest of us, if we think about it at all, are left to wonder. The media has been banned from all clean-up operations and the government wants us to believe the crises has ended. Yet oil and toxic chemicals still bathe our shores.

Many people here are out of work and businesses are failing. Our area relies on tourism and fishing for much of it's economy. Who wants to eat poisoned seafood or vacation on a toxic beach? Some do. Those who believe the propaganda. My family won't be returning to the beach or eating seafood for many, many years. There is no joy in living in this area any longer except for the company of the few good friends we've made in the year we've lived here.

Finally, our own family is feeling the pinch of these economic times. We have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Kurt has been out of work for a couple of weeks and we are currently a zero income family hoping for unemployment insurance to kick in and relieve some of the pain. It would only cover about a third of our bills, but we are praying. We know God has a plan in all of this and He will provide. Even if we lose our home and everything else material, we know God will protect us and provide for our needs. We wait upon Him and send out resumes whenever we see something even remotely fitting. We have also sent resumes out of the area, though those are few. My dream in all of this would be to be able to move to a cooler region in the country, one unaffected by oil and dispersant. Kurt would like to be able to go to school full time and finish his degree. Finding work begins to feel like an elusive dream.

If you think about our family over the next days, weeks and months, please pray for us. Pray for our coastal communities too.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Busy Spring

Days, weeks and now months have flown by in sit com speed, though problems are certainly not resolved as quickly. And we have been busy, very busy.

My mother visited.

I even managed to finish her sweater on time.

And best of all, it fit. Note to self: Don't offer to make a sweater for someone based on a highly modified pattern, when that person lives far away.

My Mom's sweater started with the Minuette pattern and I changed the yarn and the sleeves. I love the way it turned out, but it provided hours of stress as I worried it wouldn't fit my tiny mother. I'm so glad it fits. More glad than I can possibly communicate.

My mother visited right after the Gulf Oil Spill. Praise God the oil hasn't reached us yet.

Several mornings during my Mom's visit, we awoke at dawn and hit the beach before the sun was strong enough to reduce me to a burnt pile of blisters.

We all had a blast.

We brought our breakfasts to the beach and the seagulls did their best to steal it, and often managed.

My Mom and I agreed the one legged seagull appeared to be running a scam. He made you feel so sorry for him that you could not help but share your food. Of course the kids couldn't wait to get into the water and so they happily dropped some of their food.

The kids loved the waves best of all.

Gregory rediscovered the pleasure of body surfing.

And Michael lost all fear of the water.

Gregory was absolutely fearless.

And enjoyed laying down and letting the waves carry him around.

The kids kept going out farther and farther.

And I had to keep calling them back.

Which really interfered with my knitting time.

Though I did manage to get a little sock knitting time in each morning we spent on the beach, which was very nice.

And then the kids would be right back out in the deeper water in no time.

I wouldn't mind so much but Michael can't swim.

And we saw yellow and red flags flying.

Michael also likes to chase seagulls.

And I let him chase them after one of the little terrors stole my breakfast muffin right out of my hand.

We've been processing our meat chickens over the last month. In fact, my mother had the opportunity to experience the origin of her chicken dinners twice during her visit.

We got her to pluck a couple feathers just to say she did it. We are raising turkeys too and they are growing fast.

The garden is all planted.

And the soil in our new house turns out to be not so fertile. I've been cleaning out the chicken coops as much as possible to work on that problem, but there is only so much that can be done in a first year. I'm hoping we can improve soil fertility quickly despite that we are attempting to garden on a slope.

I've had a few things, like the beets, garlic and onions, sort of fizzle, so I buried them under piles of chicken coop bedding.

We have been getting some snap beans and tiny squashes so far.

We've also had a few new potatoes. I'm harvesting them because there is a bad wilt or blight killing the plants. I suspect verticillium wilt and that is bad. Very bad. I'm not really sure what I can do, organically speaking, other than improve my soil as much as possible and raise as healthy plants as possible.

We have plenty of one thing in the garden though.

Why do we always have so many fire ants? I hate those things. We compete for the produce. We had a bit of a dry spell and the ants got right in and attacked the plants for their moisture.

The bees have been very good this year. We have pulled off probably a hundred pounds of honey.

The extractor still wobbles and we still need to find a better solution than Kurt flinging himself on it.

We are also harvesting wax and will need to figure out what to do with it.

I would like to grow some herbs and make some salves. I still need to build an herb garden.

We had the opportunity to attend the wedding of some friends back in Brewton. It was so nice to go back and see so many people very dear to us.

Gabrielle had a great time dressing up in the skirt I recently made for her and curling her hair. The wedding was a much anticipated event for us. We're a little sad it is over. We had fun looking forward to it.

We still don't have our goats. It seems every time he is off work and ready to build our fence, we get rain or bee issues.

I like all we do, but I wish we weren't so busy so we could do all the other things we want to add to what we do now.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Spring Frenzy

Spring exploded into a frenzy of activity a few weeks ago and I've barely managed to keep up with it all. For a couple of weeks our bees swarmed constantly.

We managed to rehive three swarms, so we now have seven bee hives total. Two swarms congregated on branches so high in the air we could not possibly get to them. They ended up joining the ranks of feral bees in our neighborhood and I hope they prosper for the good of all.

I don't know how many swarms we missed. A couple of our hives swarmed over and over again. The bees would pour out of the hive and then swirl into the air. Bees would climb all over themselves getting out of the hive.

The pile would grow and grow.

Until the bees would launch themselves into the air filling the sky with their buzzing.

Most of the time we would discover the swarm from the loud buzzing. Even my neighbor said she could hear it on her own property. We also witnessed a mating flight early one morning. At first we thought it was a swarm, but then the bees all went back into their hive. They swarmed for real a couple hours later.

Finally, unprepared, out of spare equipment and exhausted, Kurt opened the repeatedly swarming hives and eliminated the queen cells to give us a bit of a break. In the meantime, we've built a couple more hive boxes, frames and started our goat barn.

I don't know why, but apparently the Lord thinks we need dairy goats. We've wanted them for a long time, but something always stopped the process. That is no longer the case.

Recently, when Strider, our LPG dog kept getting out of his fence and we were so busy we prayed for the Lord to keep him inside, I told Kurt I thought the Lord was getting us ready to finally get our goats because we were learning all about building secure fencing. Literally moments later the telephone rang. Out of the blue the people from whom we always wanted to purchase goats called wanting to know if we wanted to buy some goats. We definitely wanted to get the goats, but after months of fixing our new house and building chicken coops, we were as broke as we've ever been. So we prayed.

Still feeling the Lord's leading in this we told the goat people we were going to go forward though we had no idea how. But first, we had to finish building the meat chicken coop for the chickens that had already been ordered.

As we discussed how were were going to manage the whole dairy goat thing, we considered robbing the kids' piggy banks for goat money. Then we got an anonymous gift of money so we could buy our goats. It was exactly the amount we thought we would need. God definitely provides.

As we started looking around for materials to build a goat shelter, we realized we were going to need much more money than we expected. Then someone told Kurt she and her husband had built a horse shelter on rented property and then got rid of the horses and were planning to move. They told Kurt he could have the shelter if he wanted to disassemble it. He did. God's provision continues to amaze us, though I don't know why. By now you would think we would be perfectly familiar with God's love and goodness considering our history. But we continue to be amazed anyway.

The horse shed ended up being a tremendous blessing, way better than anything we could have ever imagined for ourselves. We needed to replace the roof, but so far everything else is working.

Gregory and Kurt started assembling our new barn in the front yard, where we plan to pasture the goats.

A couple of times the Lord sent friends over to help out when we most needed the help. He is so good.

They have now finished the outer structure and we are going to have to figure out how to build the inside part next. We also need to buy fencing materials and get our pastures ready. Everything seems to take such a long time.

As we were building, I noticed the tree next to the barn has wisteria dripping from its limbs.

I love experiencing our first Spring in our new house. There are so many surprises to discover.

Yesterday, as I worked in my garden I paused to listen to the cry of the seagulls. I glanced back at the woods by the creek and noticed something different. So I went to explore.

I discovered a wall of flowers cascading down from the highest tree branches on the edge of our woods.

It was beautiful and looked like something you would find in Hawaii.

The annoying vines constantly cropping up to strangle the trees and block our access to the creek had burst into bloom.

The blooms were not only beautiful, but smelled divine.

The blossoms are fairly large and Gabrielle knew what to do immediately.

The flowers are quite delicate looking.

And they do look like a large dogwood blossom with five petals instead of four.

A friend suggested they might be wild dogwood.

I'd sure love to know what these are if anyone knows.

In the meantime, I've planted most of my garden. I've been busy taking care of our meat chickens and turkeys. I've done a bit of knitting. In fact, I finished making the fingerless gloves I promised to Asa.

He loved them and I am very glad. I hope they help keep his hands warm next winter.

I've also done some canning. A couple days ago I cooked and canned four and a half gallons of turkey soup with the turkey carcass left over from Easter.

I love stocking our pantry with homemade food. And home canned food works as fast food around here.

Today we got rain and so we are inside. But we will be back to the Spring frenzy soon with more gardening, bee chores, chicken and turkey raising and butchering and preparing for our dairy goats. I also promised my Mom I would finish her sweater by the time she visited next month. Whew! We are going to be busy for awhile still.