Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What's a Girl to do

Peony, photo taken at Monticello by me.
My two favorite Charlottesville events occur in September. 

Not to be missed!

Sept 5 - Monday - Meet Yer Eats, Labor Day, 10-5.  $15.00 a car load - if you register by Sept 1, otherwise it's $25.00.  Twenty farms are participating in the third annual Market Central Farm Tour.  We visited 8 farms last year and that was all we could squish in.  It was loads of fun and along the route we encountered farms animals, beautiful scenery, plants, and homemade cheese and jellies.  Last year we headed north and this year we'll go south.

Anthony took this photo my cousins wedding - I enhanced it.
Sept 17 - Saturday - Heritage Harvest Festival, 9-4. $8.00 - if you pre-register, otherwise it's $10.00.  The festival is on the grounds of Monticello.  You must take a shuttle up from 2 designated locations otherwise you are charged the full house tour fee.  If you want to go to exclusive lectures the day prior, it's pricey, the featured speaker is P. Allen Smith.  Many free lectures and also additional fee lectures.  It's really not necessary to pay for lectures, there is plenty to do for the base $8.00 price!  Food venders, demonstrations, taste testing of produce, seed exchange, seeds and plants for sale, and strolling the grounds of Monticello -- the only reason I go there anyway!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Turk Mountain Shenandoah National Park

Friday my husband decided to go "camping" in the Shenandoah National Park.  The closest entry point is only 25 miles away from Forsythia Hill.  He departed with camping gear but ended up sleeping on a bed of rocks on top of Turk Mountain.

Along the path, nearing the summit.
Anthony wanted to show me his "boulder bed" so we decided to make a trek up Turk Mountain yesterday.  A 4.8 mile climb (round trip) that has a few challenges but is surmountable. Fairly gradual elevation until you get near to the top and it becomes increasingly steeper and more rocky but certainly passable.  It was a relaxing comfortable hike at 70 degrees.

A little bee enjoying Joe Pye Weed.
When you enter the Shenandoah National Park you do pay a $15.00 fee, good for 5 days, or you can purchase a year pass for $30.00.  Driving through the park, we began to see native flowers in bloom.  Pink-purple Joe Pye Weed, sprays of Goldenrod, and splashes of orange Touch Me Nots.  I could see long bloomed out remnants of summer blooming  Black Cohosh, Mountain Laurel, and Milkweed.  Once on the trail we enjoyed a path lined with brilliant green moss and dotted with ferns and mushrooms.

The Appalachian Trail weaves in and our of the Shenandoah National Park.  Partly because it was a Monday, we encountered only three hikers.  Two were enjoying the summit and had made the trip over from Richmond because their office was closed due to Hurricane Irene.  The other hiker was loaded up with gear and a dog so we concluded he was hiking the Appalachian Trail which shares the lower part of the Turk Mountain Trail.       

Anthony and The Summit.
After an leisurely hour stroll stopping along the way to watch Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers and listening to the elusive Pileated Woodpecker call in the woods, we climbed over boulders to reach the summit.  To steady yourself on the summit it is nice to have a buddy to hang on to.  It's quite amazing to walk through the deep forest and suddenly the world opens up to you on top of the mountain.  A truly beautiful view encompassing the rolling green hills of the Shenandoah Valley, Waynesboro, and the village of Crimora, Virginia.

While enjoying lunch on the summit, Swallows swooped and played all around us.  They must have been dining on the little nearly invisible bugs that were nipping at us - the only negative.  I had so wished I had remembered my binoculars and lavender oil bug repellent.  My husband had it right when he "camped", leaving all conveniences in the car, totally enjoying nature.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Tasty and Free Yard Apples

A little critter munch - can be easily cut out!
It's that time of year when the fruit is plentiful in Virginia.  I'm amazed at what can be found around our house.  My all time favorite fruit, Black Raspberries, began coming in first.  Surprisingly, a patch of native wild Raspberries that we didn't mow down this year started bearing fruit.  Our Peaches bear heavy one year and then light the next.  Sadly this was the low volume year.  Right on its heals are the "Yard Apples".  It's an old fashioned term that you don't hear much that often but it certainly describes what's tumbling around yards this summer.  Fruit trees can bear at differing times of the year depending upon the variety.  We no longer have any "baking apples" in our yard and I certainly miss them.  There are plenty of the "garden variety" (unknown) apples dropping from three huge trees on Forsythia Hill.

My neighbors that moved to Hawaii had mature Blueberry shrubs that had millions of perfectly beautiful berries ripe for the picking.  I've been harvesting for a good month, freezing some and eating most, and they are finally ending their profuse production cycle.
Another neighbor never harvests apples from their mature trees.  At least the deer and their new babies enjoy the bounty.  It is sad that not even one apple is taken inside to be made into applesauce, cake, or just eaten fresh!  Our apples are eatin' apples and are not the best for cooking but with some experimentation I've discovered in what recipes they work best.

Below the imperfection is the beautiful fruit.
Don't let those imperfect apples go to waste.  It saves money and often they are better than store bought. 

Apples are one of the most heavily sprayed fruits on the market if not organic and most likely if there is a neglected tree in your neighborhood they have not gone to the expense of spraying pesticides.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Earthquake Hits 50 Miles East

Earthquake hits 50 miles East of our house in Charlottesville in the next county over.  - Wow -
I was in the basement on a concrete slab and I had this sensation that the walls were moving and heard the walls and objects rattling.  Our washing machine gets out of balance easily and I heard it rumbling so thought it was against the wall and shaking the house!

I ran to the adjoining room and stopped the machine before the house fell in and the house kept shaking!  I ran upstairs and the dog was barking and I scared him and one of our three cats (the other two were hiding somewhere).  I went back downstairs and opened the basement door and heard total silence.  The chickens were very still.  At this point I thought may be a bomb had been dropped on Charlottesville!  It all happened in about 20 seconds.

My husbands company was evacuated, Crutchfield, Inc.  A coworkers husband was at home 5 miles from the epicenter and pictures fell off the walls!

I just felt an after shock - not as significant, but the house swayed and rumbled. 

This is my second earthquake.  I felt one while sleeping on the floor in a friends apartment on Long Beach near the San Andreas fault.  This was much more significant.

A friend called from Radford, Virginia and her cubicle was moving.  The dresser drawer pulls were a rockin' in Roanoke, Virginia on the 2nd floor of my parents townhouse.  They felt it loud and clear.

I get nervous when it's so close to two nuclear reactors - darn those reactors.  Wish they were not so close. I just pounded down what was left of a bag of Cinnamon Goldfish Grahams - I deserved it!  Wow, those are good.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Amazing Pollinators

It's amazing what is going on all around us that we don't even notice.  Nature is very busy trying to keep the Earth alive.  Take the time to listen, watch, and appreciate!  This will "wow" you.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

What's a Girl to do

It's hard to believe that fall is almost here.  Before you know it the winter snow will be covering the ground, so get your star gazing and nature look-see while you can!

Little 2" Buckeye Butterfly enjoying my Peppermint.

9 PM - 11 PM - McCormick Observatory star viewing night.  Weather permitting.


9 AM: For early risers, The Ivy Creek Foundation is offering a FREE Wildflower walk at the Ivy Creek Natural Area.

9:30 AM: Monticello is offering a  $15 Fern walk at Tufton Farm which is around the corner from Monticello.  Get driving directions before you leave.

Have fun outside this weekend as it's a bit cooler!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Saving your Dollars

SAVED 100% in a WEEK

 Harris Teeter Doubles

Store Trip #1 - SPENT $55.00 SAVED $55.00
Until Tuesday, it's SUPER DOUBLES at Harris Teeter. Any coupon up to 1.99 is doubled in value!

>>  Another great deal this week was 300 FREE address labels at Staples.

At Harris Teeter: Presented 17 coupons, all between $.50 - $1.50 in value.

A few of the Harris Teeter Deals and what I paid for each: 

Purina Cat Chow- $1.50, Party Mix Cat Treats- $.50, 
Hunts Ketchup - $.50, Deboles Pasta - .99, Silk Almond Milk - 1.00,
Athenos Feta Cheese - $.50.

FREE - Athenos Greek Yogurt, Goldfish Grahams,
7th Generation Paper Towels.

As you can see, I also purchased lots of healthy fruit and veggies in which coupons are hard to find.  I would love to hear about a deal you found this week - leave a comment!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grocery Store Humor

I could have written this video.  Putting a bag inside of a bag drives me nuts - such as putting a loaf of bagged bread into a BAG or a hunking load of toilet paper already bagged in a BAG into a BAG.

The first time I handed over my recycled grocery bag in Pulaski, VA they looked at me as if I had two heads.  I remember them wondering what to do and putting the groceries in THEIR bag first and then their bag inside my recycle bag!  I still have trouble with clerks not filling up my recycle bag and trying to put groceries in THEIR bag.



Monday, August 8, 2011

My Chickens are Molting

As a new chicken caregiver, there are many unfamiliar terms associated with "hen handling".  I've heard of molting and broody hens but was not exactly familiar with the details as to what occurs.  Ones first thought when they see a chicken molting is that they are ill or mite infested or even dying.  These thoughts ran through my mind several days ago as I noticed the white feathers accumulating in the grass and one chicken acting skittish.  Wanting to be left alone, pulling out some feathers, and strange holes on her pink neck all made me become fearful. 

Digging a deep hole underneath the chicken coop didn't help matters.  Initially Rainbow, the White Leghorn, appeared to be making a nest, complete with a rock as a fake egg.  I thought possibly she was becoming a broody hen, a hen that wants to sit on an egg and not get off the nest.  A broody hen can be a problem as they can not want to eat or drink water.  Even dying from thirst or starvation.  Fortunately, Rainbow does come out of her hole and has fairly normal chicken behavior; scratching, eating and drinking.  So I am guessing that she is just trying to hide not brood a baby chick (from her rock).

Quills growing back in, the "porcupine look".
Confirmations of molting:
No mites present.
No other hens attacking her.
No rooster on premises to cause feather pulling.
The quills are growing back in (the porcupine look).
She is eating and drinking.
She is hiding at times and skittish.
Egg laying has halted.

Rainbow b4 the molting began.
It takes a lot of energy to molt feathers.  I'm hoping this is a half-molt in that only the neck and tail feathers will drop.  So far, so good.  You do not want to handle or scare a molting chicken.  I've read that when the quills come back in, it can be painful, making for a cranky chicken.  I'm trying to direct black sunflower seeds to her specifically for nutrition but this is always a challenge with other "piggie" chickens nearby.

Pretty chicken feathers on one of our Comet breed hens.
Molting is a normal chicken process, renewing feathers for the winter.  It typically happens when the days shorten after summer but can be stress induced.  I am sure the transport to our coop almost a month ago didn't help matters and imagine that is what switched the molt process on.  There is another Leghorn that has begun molting and that would make sense since we're short two eggs each day - two birds at a minimum will go through this process, may be the entire flock.  Our three comets are not showing any signs as of yet and their feathers look lovely, so far...


Friday, August 5, 2011

Homemade Tomato Sauce from the Garden

The limb that snapped off, covered in ivy.
My "What's a Girl to do" post is going to consist of home bound activities.  Our poor yard still has four trees down from the micro burst that hit our yard a month ago.  Adding insult to injury, another monster limb crashed down a few weeks ago.  I've been mulching beds trying to use up what my husband has chipped and shredded.  We've left a poor dogwood standing that was hammered by the monster pine that fell, to see if it has a chance to recover.

It's harvest time in the yard!  An annual tradition for me is to make tomato sauce from the garden bounty.  It seemed like just yesterday my little tomato plant seedlings were sprouting and growing in the basement.

"Juliet" Tomatoes and Basil from my garden.
Wow, now it's time to make sauce, something I must have made for the last 15 years.  Last years batch was not very good.  I decided to make a rush batch because it was so horribly hot in the kitchen.  We love having the A/C off and the doors and windows wide open.  This year, it is way too humid to have a door even cracked.  So at least my cooking is more comfortable and the sauce might just be good this year.  You have to be very patient and allow the sauce to cook down.  I'm going on 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  It smells divine.  Garlic, onion, sweet pepper and mushrooms so far in the pot leaving basil, oregano, and thyme to drop in last.  My secret ingredient has just been added - sugar.  To reduce some of that acidic tang from the tomatoes and make it SMOOTH.  I've gotten away from using sugar these days but there is not a good substitute for my sauce.  I've tried Stevia, it's fair, but will only use it 1/2 with sugar.  I really like Agave Nectar for most things but it's not great in sauces and requires a lot of it.  I don't so anything time consuming like remove peelings so I do have to cook it down for about an hour to make it all meld together.

Only the mushrooms are store bought.
May be you will be inspired this weekend to make something from fresh produce.  Many growers would be happy to sell you a box load of paste tomatoes at a reduced price.  Using dried herbs works nearly as well as fresh, just use less than you would with fresh because it is more concentrated.

Happy weekend.



Thursday, August 4, 2011

Life Pledge #2

My first Life Pledge posted several months ago, was to purchase only free range, organic chicken eggs.  Getting my own chickens last week has certainly made this lifetime commitment easier to uphold.

My second Life Pledge is to purchase only Toilet Paper made from recycled paper.  I've not yet committed to purchasing only recycled Paper Towels and Office Paper because I use those paper goods much less often but I do try to buy recycled whenever possible.  Using cloth to wipe up spills and clean with is even BETTER than using any manufactured paper product.  I reuse the backs of used office paper to print my online coupons.  Each year I use one pack of 500 sheets of paper, buying office paper when it goes on sale during the annual fall "back to school" sales.  It's not that common to find recycled paper discounted but when it is, that is the paper to buy.

This is not the first time I have blogged about buying recycled Toilet Paper.  It's so funny, when I mention it to people, the first thought is that somehow the paper you flush ends up being recycled into a new roll.  Yes, when you flush it goes right into a factory that spins it on a roll -- NOT.  Recycled tissue product is made from recovered office paper!  It goes through a heavy duty process and ends up looking just like that other stuff you buy that contains virgin chopped down trees.  Oh wow, I'm now rethinking my Office Paper purchase, if I would have purchase recycled Office Paper, then I would have made a double recycle.

The "eco-toilet brush" plant - ha ha
You may not realize it, but it is very possible that the toilet paper you are buying actually contains some recycled content.  Because of the ridiculous stigma that people have manufactured in their brains, some companies don't want to advertise the fact that their "rear end wipes" are made from recycled paper.    

Toilet Paper has been around since 1913, don't you think it's time to save a tree and purchase a recycled product?  The Natural Resources Defense Council has published an excellent guide to get you motivated to make the switch.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Oddities in Nature

I don't typically reblog posts but this was too weird to not share.  Fascinating.  -Rebecca

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