...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


beautiful creepy crawly things

Sometimes creepy crawly things just seem... 
creepy crawly.

But sometimes creepy crawly things can really take your breath away,
especially if happen to stumble upon them
at the right moment.

Here's an assortment of a few different beautiful things I've seen 
in and around the gardens lately.

Each "discovery" has been from uncovering something.  
Under a tarp.
Under a mat.
Under some greenhouse plastic.
You get the idea.
 limax maximus, i.e. giant garden slug
next to a freshly laid cluster of eggs

Even my very best camera lens could not do these justice...
They were absolutely luminous and ethereal,
so beautiful I nearly cried.

I'm not sure what kind of pupa this is...  maybe a moth of some sort...
but I love the weaving and the hair-like quality around the outside... 

Today I stumbled upon this bright orange beauty, 
while getting ready to plant our garlic crop.

The brightness of it startled me.
I think it's a marbled orb-weaver spider.

Look at those amazing silks...!
The ways they're pinned in so many layers and directions...
and the Rorschach-like pattern on the spider itself...!!!


Take a gander through your garden this fall,
you might find some beautiful treasures hiding in those nooks and crannies!


the blueberry patch

Normally, I would not be thinking (or blogging) about blueberries in mid-October.
And certainly not this weekend, after some really chilly temperatures and hail / light snow.

Typically I'd be thinking about...

snuggling up,
a warm fire,
or having a hot bowl or mug of something...

like soup or chili or
or using one of Hollenbeck's hot, fresh donuts 
as an edible handwarmer.



So why in the world am I thinking and blogging about blueberries? 

Well, besides the fact that I enjoy mentally living in a state of perpetual summer whenever possible,
the real reason is that we just finished weeding and mulching our blueberry patch.
It had gotten very overgrown.
And it was a very big task.
We knew we had to do it.  Like in July we knew we had to do it.
And we just kept doing other things.
But we finally did it.

So we're standing back and looking at the fruits (or potential fruits) of our labor.


It's exciting to imagine what will happen next year 
and the next
and the next
and on and on after that.

Going into the fall and winter, it feels really amazing
to know that we should have berries
just waiting for us 
when we tilt back towards the sun.

Blue Crop berries, early summer 2015.
I have dreamed of having a blueberry patch for quite awhile now.
Probably since we started picking blueberries out in Richford,
and since I got more interested in homesteading and sustainability.

I love blueberries.
I really do.

Did you know that if you plant an assortment of different varieties 
that bloom throughout the season,
you can actually be flush with berries
from June until mid-September?!  

Right on!!!


In the spring of 2014, we planted 4 blueberry plants.
They were three-year-old plants, to give us a head start.
 And then I went a little crazy this spring...
And we planted 16 more plants (one-year-olds).
And then we planted 2 more (2-year-olds)
because I found two that I couldn't resist at a local sale.
Typical me.

And now we're done.
We're feeling mighty happy with our 22 little bushes,
and all the promise that they hold.

It's a fantastic feeling to look at a patch of land
and know that it will potentially help feed you for most of the rest of your life!
(blueberry plants can live 40-50 years!) 

This year was the first year we got some berries.
We ate everything while out in the field,
except these two slightly heart-shaped berries
which I brought inside to show my sweetie. 

Altogether, maybe we got a quart out of our older plants.
Not much, but still exciting!


In my blueberry daydreams,
I imagine going down to our patch 
to pick fresh bloobs for breakfast...

I would either just pop them straight into my mouth
or take a bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese with a spoon down to the field,
add some blueberries to the top,
sit in one of our rickety old Adirondack chairs,
and enjoy it all.

The taste...
The view...
And the satisfaction of this little gentlewoman's farm.

In my imagination, sometimes I carry a fresh picked quart
back up to the house to share,
and just add a handful to the side of my breakfast plate
alongside fresh eggs from our girls...

Talk about satisfaction.


Besides just eating them fresh,
there are muffins and pancakes
and all sorts of other delectables...

The desserts!
From pies and cobblers and strudels and streusels
 to fools and slumps and grunts.
(Yes, those last three are all real dessert names.)
Here's a great recipe from Saveur for blueberry slump.
You make it right in a cast iron skillet!


Planting blueberries isn't that hard, but it does involve a little more site preparation.
Blueberries produce best in well-draining acid soil,
which we did not have.  

We initially followed soil-less planting instructions at Backyard Berry Plants.
It worked great, no complaints.

But then we discovered that a great local soil producer makes a "blueberry mix" soil blend.
Check them out:  Green Tree Garden Supply
So far, so good with their blueberry mix, too.
One of the benefits of their blueberry mix is that it does not use peat moss.
Here's a link to What's Wrong With Peat?


We got some of our plants locally, from Twisted Tree Farm.
Twisted Tree is a really special permaculture nursery out in Spencer, NY.

I also got some plants from Baker's Acres in Lansing, NY.  

The original four plants we got of 3-year old bushes were from True Vine Ranch.
They're an organic blueberry nursery in Kansas.

And I got a bunch from Stark Brothers
Not organic, but we'll grow them using only organic methods,
and I feel fine about that. 


We're growing these varieties:
Blue Crop
Blue Gold 
Blue Ray
North Blue
North Country

Most of these are high-chill / high-bush types that are supposed to thrive in the Northeast,
but a few of them are low-chill types that are generally better in warmer places,
but are *supposed* to be hardy to zone 5/6.  
If they do well, they would ripen on the early side, 
which would extend our harvest season even more.
We'll see how they do!

If you want to plan the longest harvest window possible for your growing zone,
here's a helpful visual ripening chart of many of the most popular varieties from Fall Creek nursery.

We probably won't get up into a full swing production for a few more years yet,
but we should do well with so many different varieties and cross-pollination
thanks to our honeybee friends who live right next to our blueberry patch.

At their peak, most of these varieties produce anywhere from 10-20 pounds per bush,
and some in the 5-10 pound range...  

Plenty to share with the songbirds.
And the chickens.
And our family and friends.
And strangers on the street.

Random acts of blueberries.

Blueberries are so good for you.
They're a plant of oh-so-many-virtues,
which maybe I'll go into another time.   

Back from the perpetual summer of my mind,
to the present reality of mid-October: 
This time of year we're really appreciating 
the beautiful foliage of the blueberry plants.
They put on a stunning display!

Every day, the blushing of colors is just a little bit different...
The red seems to slowly creep in from the outside,
spreading to the center and last, the stem.


laundry on the line

There's something about laundry on the line that I just love.

I love the colors.
I love watching everything move in the breeze. 
I love seeing the fabrics that we use in our day-to-day lives 
in a different context.

Laundry has an intimacy to it.


Sometimes I look at the line and think
it looks like
a temporary art installation
of wacky prayer flags.

And sometimes if you look at just the right angle (see above!)
the spring-style clothespins look like
 a bunch of birds with very big beaks,
perching on top of the line.


When I was a girl, one of my favorite things to do 
was run between the sheets on sheet day.

Sometimes I would stand inside the sheets
and wait for a breeze to ruffle through.
Or I would dance inside the sheets,
flapping my arms 
and moving the sheets like big wings
all the while with that wonderful smell of fresh air and sunlight
wafting all around me.

The laundry line we've been using for a bunch of years
is right off of our back deck --
next to the woods, which isn't ideal,
but it's convenient, with easy access. 
It gets decent sunlight, and it won't bother any of the neighbors.

(Still, the more I think about it,
I really have a hankering to run between sheets again...!
Once we move on from our latest chicken coop project,
we might just have to rig up another laundry line...)

It'd be great to have one somewhere that it's easier to run barefoot
without getting all scratched up by the comfrey patch.

A girl can dream, right?


Until we install another line,
sometimes we just drape wet laundry 
especially heavier things like big towels
on the deck or picnic table or chairs.

It's a different configuration each time.
No laundry day is ever exactly the same...


A good basket is really worth it,
and lasts for decades.

I got these handmade baskets for my sweetie 
as a thank-you for all of the laundry she does
(which is like 99% of it.)

You can find them on Etsy at Baskets By Emily.
(though her shop is currently closed until the New Year...)

This one was stained with a dye the weaver made from pecan shells.
The basket is so sturdy, yet flexes really nicely,
and the handles are built-in.

We keep our clothespins in a little bag.
They're easy to grab.

Currently the 3 Laundry Muses are watching over them,
assuring that our laundry dries nicely and smells divine.

If the laundry is too stiff, it helps to toss it in the dryer
for just a couple of minutes and that softens it right up.

You can put a laundry line just about anywhere.  
It hardly costs anything.

It's good for the environment 
because machine dryers use electricity and/or gas.
Plus the fresh smell...
I know I keep going on about the smell, 
but there's just nothing like it.


When I started doing a little research online,
I discovered that you actually can't put a laundry line just anywhere.
There are states that have BANNED laundry lines.
That is so messed up!!!

Here are some links you can check out if you're interested in learning more
about the right-to-dry movement
and about how great it is to dry on the line
(and how bad it is to use dryers all the time!)

Have fun drying!