4 Day Weekends – Hooray!

Yummy radishes!

Well, it’s been a busy week and weekend around the farmlette.  It’s been nice to have an extra day….but, that day was solely spent doing more work.  What’s the phrase?  Oh yes….”Sleep when you’re dead.”  Lots of work to the yard, garden and chicken coop.  Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done.

On the garden front:  The last raised bed is finished!  I planted sweet potatoes, lima beans, a pumpkin, and some more tomatoes, beets, and peppers.  I finally got all of the new raspberries and blackberries in the ground as well.  They seem to be over the transplant shock and are already growing.  I finished laying down newspaper, straw and concrete aisles in the aisles of the garden and it’s starting to actually look like a garden that’s behaving itself instead of a garden-gone-wild exhibition.

The garden - new raised beds!

And our lovely new compost bin - thanks DH!

I got the potatoes squared away.  They had gotten so big and so heavy that they’d all toppled over and were laying in the walkway to the compost.  So, I put up some fencing along the edge of the bed and tied them up to it.  Since doing that, I think they’ve grown another 6 inches.  I picked the first bushel of beans (contender) and can’t wait to fry them up with some basil, garlic and butter!  I think an early row of beans followed a month later by two more rows is the perfect way to space out their bounty.  I’ll get a bunch more just when I’m ready to begin the canning season.  (Oh, I got a new pressure canner this week, too!)

Headed for the canner....

I sprayed all of the fruit trees and plants in the garden with liquid seaweed.  I staked a few more peppers and tomatoes that had gotten so big that they’d succumbed to gravity.  I’ll need to buy some bean trellises tomorrow…as they’re already up and growing.  Not sure if I’m going to end up putting the squash, etc. on trellises or just let them ramble on into the grass?? And, as soon as school is out, I’m going to work on getting some clover and grass growing down in the orchard instead of all those pokeweeds.

On the coop front:  Not going to lie, the coop has become a little frustrating.  While I really like the idea of repurposing an existing structure, it’s really difficult to know what you’re going to use and need when you tackle something like this.  I believe that WW and I have been to Lowe’s every day for the last month.  Just when we think we’re going to make some real progress we realize that we need a specific tool, piece of hardware, or other and have to truck up 29 North.  I think building a coop would have been a much quicker task if we’d purchased plans and then tried to find free wood based on the plans.  That being said, we’re stuck with what we’ve begun and progress is slow but it is happening.  We finished the foundation and put the first and second stories together.  Then, we added the side and back walls to the first floor.   Once we did this, it seemed like all the animals wanted a piece of the action….

Georgia supervising the action.

The rest of the weekend was spent painting the interior of the second story and exterior, caulking the exterior, cutting the vinyl for the second story, planning where to put the ramp and nestbox, and building the windows.  My neck is very sore from standing on a ladder and reaching through the side windows to paint the second story.  And, it still needs one more coat of paint tomorrow.  Ugh.  I hope these chickens know the pain we’re putting our bodies through for them.  Tomorrow, we’ll put up the windows and the window trim.  Then, we’ll probably only need one more month to finish the whole thing.  I wish I was being sarcastic there.

Color Me Happy!

Sweat Pea enjoying the exercise pen.

Since giving the rabbits their first clip, I’ve been procrastinating doing anything with their clipped baby coats.  I’d heard that angora rabbits first coats don’t really spin very well because they are so prone to matting or felting.  That certainly seemed true after all the mats I cut off of both of them prior to their clip!  So, I finally decided that I would use the wool for a felting project.  But what to felt…..After some preliminary research, I decided that I would try my hand at making some felted animals.  I found a fantastic website (www.woolpets.com) that had me itching to get started.  But, first things first.  To make a cute baby animal, I would need dyed wool and all I had was white and tan wool.  It was time to dye.  I’m sure that eventually I’ll try acid wash dyes.  But, the term “acid wash” doesn’t really seem all that pleasant.  So, I decided to try Kool-aid dyeing first.  Not only does it create bright, cheerful colors, but it makes your kitchen and wool smell like a delicious fruitstand.

After reading up on the subject I was even more excited.  The process seemed easy and relatively non-messy.  Because Kool-Aid is so acidic, you don’t even have to use a mordant.  Mordants are substances that are used to help the dye adhere to wool or fabric.  Disguting factoid:  In the good ol’ days, dyers used to use stale urine as a mordant.  So, I went out and bought every Kool-Aid flavor available at Kroger.  I was bummed not to find a blue color.  Apparently Kool-Aid used to make a blue flavor that created a beautiful shade of turquoise in wool but it tasted like cough medicine so they discontinued it.  Just my luck.  Then, I began the process.  First you have to wash the wool with a mild detergent.  (I skipped this step with my first batch and quick learned that if you don’t wet the wool previously to adding it to the dye, you still have lots of air pockets in the wool which prevent it from becoming fully immersed in the dye.  Thus, I ended up with a really uneven dye.)

Next, you start some water boiling in a pot and add your Kool-Aid.  As you would expect, the more Kool-Aid you add, the brighter the color.  For a more muted color, use less Kool-Aid or more water.  Then you add your wool.  Only touch the wool enough to cover it with the dye.  (I also made the mistake of stirring the first batch too much and patches of the wool felted.  Doh! )   Let the wool and dye come to a slow boil and then turn off the heat and cover the pot.  It usually takes about 15-30 minutes for the wool to absorb all of the dye.  You may need to lightly “stir” the wool while you wait to ensure coverage.

My first batch, grape, turned out pretty unevenly dyes as I said.  The second batch, cherry, was perfect.  My last batch, dark cherry, was even better.  Because I didn’t card the wool (a process where you pass raw wool back and forth between to slicker-type brushes to ensure that all of the fibers and running the same direction) first, there was no way that the wool was going to dye perfectly evenly.  But, I actually like the small variations in color.  I think it will help me to create a more realistic felted animal too because it will add shading.  Before I can make a felted animal, I still need a bigger color palette.  I still have orange Kool-Aid left to try another day.  I’m also interested in trying to dye from some natural roots, flowers, plants, etc.  I’ve also heard rumor that Kroger sells a blue powdered drink like Kool-Aid.  I’ll have to stalk the wild blueberry drink……