Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Parsnip Paradise

Three weeks ago it was still 30 degrees, cold and rainy, but I could smell the soil as the rainwater melted the snow and hopefully the 4 feet of ice under the soil.

After 3 days of rain I grabbed my digging tools and ventured out to the area where I had planted parsnips last summer.

With dozens of storms this winter, I was lucky that the plow driver missed my parsnip row by a few feet.       I wasn't so lucky the first winter I lived here.  He plowed over my row markers and dug up 80% of my crop.

I now mark my parsnip row both with tall posts and rocks.

Anyhow, I quickly found the tiny little green leaves barely showing in the ground and dug up a few short parsnips and smelled the damp earth coming alive after a very very long winter.

The larger, longer parsnips proved harder to dig up as the ground was still frozen 8 inches below the surface.

The flock tried to help get them out of the ground.

Soon, it was like doing an archiological dig.
I had to carefully scrape away the dirt , frozen layer by frozen layer, and try to remove the delicate vegetable from a block of ice that did not want to let it go.

Eventually I won, but it took time and patience.

There were plenty more for the next week, so I knew it would be easier as the ground defrosted to dig up the rest.     I planned on sharing this wonderful harvest.

Here is what I am having for supper and probably for tomorrows lunch too.

SWEEEEET!    I never knew parsnips could be so delicious.  Especially if they stay in the ground through the winter.   Carrots are sweeter too if you overwinter them.

Last year I was digging them up in March, since there was hardly any snow. This year we are all a month behind.  I am glad the parsnips waited for me.

Mrs Howell likes to check on the crocus garden ever few hours.

These purple beautires came up today.   Nice surprise.

Here are my parsnips all cleaned up and ready to be parboiled and then sliced and put in a cast iron frying pan with some butter and rolled around until they are fork tender.

I had dig up so many by the weekend that I put a few parsnips in little brown paper bags on Sunday and handed them out at church when the service was over.

As I handed them out at the exit door, I said " Parsnips Be With You!"

(instead of Peace be with you...)       Vermont Veggie humor....

Hope you are either planning your gardens, planting your gardens or sending photos of your growing gardens!   What stage are you in ?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cold Fram'n and Nest Box'n

Its been a very challenging winter, but we survived it.  
I have never experienced so much snow, ice, water, flooding and winds.  The driveway was a skating rink for 3 weeks at a time, several times.  Plows stuck, trucks stuck, cars stuck, hens stuck in snowdrifts, garage doors frozen shut and a cowdog with perpetually snowy cold paws..
 It was crazy.   
I have many photos to post and lots of stories to tell. I am months behind and have much to do.  Thankfully, Spring has recently started here. 2 cute Crocus started coming up yesterday and I heard a few peepers last night.  Everything is about one month late.

In January, between blizzards, my brother Chip came up and brought me a cold frame he made and several nest boxes.

He drives a tiny Honda Fit and it always amazes me how much stuff he can fit IN it AND carry ON it.  He had the top of the coldframe inside the car, along with other long gifts.

This cold frame was very heavy.

He had a plan on how we were going to get it off.

It sounded good.....

Until he started to slide it off and it tilted to the right side and was about to crash off.

I had to jump into the fray to hold it up. We were both suspended in time, not knowing what to do next.

We eventually got it down to the ground, walked it to a place that was well out of the way of the snow plow, then he started to put the top on.

Its big.

He also made me a fancy tall perch for my birds, but he doesn't understand about hens not wanting to perch outside in full view of predators. It doesn't fit in my coop so I will probably gift it to the next person who builds a coop.

The flock came in to check out the 2 new nest boxes before they were placed on the wall.

There were 2 hens already crammed into the favored milk crate. Hopefully these 2 larger boxes will take some pressure off of the traffic jam that has been going on for the past several months.

I don't have much wall space, but we put the nest boxes where we could, with one lower and one as high as it could go.

As it got colder, we cleaned up all the tools and parts.

And covered the coldframe with a new tarp, which he also brought.

The hens were suspicious of the new boxes.

They would come in and stare at them.

They continued to lay all their eggs in the milk crate.

But on the 11th day they all started laying in the nest above the back door.

20 days after selecting the lower box they all moved to the upper nest box and have been using that faithfully for the past 2 months. I now have 10 large nest boxes for 12 hens to use and they all choose the same one.   THANK YOU CHIP!

To see what prompted the new nest box building, here is the original posting

How are your flocks, gardens and herds doing ?

Ready for spring ?

Today it has rained cows and collies ALL day and many rivers and streams have flooded.   I was going to dig up my parsnips today, but will wait til tomorrow when the ground will be looser and easier to pull those sweet veggies up. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snow Insanity

3 major snowstorms in 10 days.     People are getting a little slap happy up here in Vermont.

Here are some "signs of the times..."

When Mother Nature gives you snow..... we build snowmen and DRESS THEM UP!!
(at the Ryegate winter festival)

An appropriate license plate.........

There is so much ice under all this snow, that many snowplows are getting stuck on top of snowpiles and can't get any traction to get out becasue of the thick ice under their tires.

Here is whay transpired in my own driveway.

Plow truck stuck on top of 5 foot snowbank while pushing snow out of driveway.

Plow driver digging out, to no avail.

 I phoned my neighbor and he came down, got stuck on ice, turned his truck around and gave one big pull to get plow truck out.  A third truck was waiting near me by the street, if we needed more horsepower.   Never a dull moment!

How are you spending your snow days ?

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Amongst this freezing Arctic weather we have been having, I discovered this lovely peacock wreath at the home of a fellow singer during our weekly practices.

Such color and vibrancy in the middle of a deep freeze Thursday!

My photos don't do it justice.

After seeing this very creative art, it got me to thinking:
that somewhere in Vermont there is a naked peacock.....

There was also an original painting of a barn on one of the walls in the singing room as well.

Ironically, I have a photo, somewhere, of the same barn.

Have a great day and where ever you are, try to smile and make it a great day.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Holiday Festival CELEBRATION

 Note: This blog post is photo heavy. Please give it time to load.

On December 14th the nearby town of Newbury Vermont held their last BIG 250th event outside at their common and inside their elementary school.
I just had to go.    I have attended almost all of the events all year and have greatly enjoyed them all.
Almost every resident of the town has volunteered at the well planned events and many out-of-towners have also lent their support, equipment and time.

As I drove into the parking lot early that morning I noticed 2 things:   It was only 2 degrees and there was a magnificent handmade wagon waiting for some horses.
It was going to be a challenge to stay warm.
It was going to be a challenge to keep my hands off the horses.

There were plenty of folks already parked and setting up the exhibits when I arrived. Of course we had a dusting of snow the night before so the entire Common was turned into the perfect winter wonderland.

Warmly dressed volunteers were putting up signs and greeting each other with big hugs and cold cheeks.
Even the dogs had sweaters.

Men were putting up the "warming " tent.      Great idea...but....
Its gonna take more than a tent to warm up anyone here.....

Yep, here is where I wanna be.  Several cords of wood were being chopped to make a community bonfire to keep the attendees warm and toasty. This will work.
This woodsman volunteered to saw up full logs and then chop and split enough wood to burn for the entire day.   THANK YOU!

These hardy people volunteered to keep the hot cider and hot chocolate warming on the grill.
I made multiple trips during the day to keep the frost off me.

Did I mention it was only 2 degrees, And every volunteer, and participant, had a big smile on their face ?  Here is the proof.

When the piano arrived by truck,  I knew there would be some good music! 

Exhibitors were carrying in their equipment, logs and crafts.

Primitive toys were very popular with the kids... and the adults.

Wood turners were giving instruction to anyone that was interested.
I love watching bowls, plates and spoons coming out of blocks of wood.

This primitive set up was for a manual powered pole lathe.   It took time to get it all inside the building and put together, but boy! did it make nice bowls and wood items.  Free instruction.

Bead crafter extraordinaire.

Primitive tools to make wooden houses the old way.

Spinning wool.  Some people have all the talent.

This wonderful woman raises her own alpacas and sheep, spins her own wool and knits it into wearable and warm clothing.

And instruction is FREE.

Her yarn was so pretty and colorful that it was hard for me to walk away.

See what I mean ?

I was imagining a woolen vest made from a few of the different colors.

 One of the most popular exhibits was a beam and a 200 year old peg drill.

Have you heard of peg and beam construction ?   They do not use nails, its all pegs holding all the beams together.

This peg driller is manual.

It keeps advancing on the beam to make large slits to slide other pieces of wood in and it makes holes for pegs.

You sit on the beam and peddle your arms while the drill makes the hole.
It takes awhile and its a real workout!
Here the principal of this school happily makes peg holes the old fashioned way.

Another primitive exhibit was the Spoon Maker, Evan Perkins.
He had the kids mesmerized (and me too) making smooth spoons out of rough wood with his bare hands.
First he takes his ax and chops a block of wood.



Then he takes his special whittling tool and starts trimming it down and shaping it.

He got to this point in about 15 minutes.


 Finished product.

I kick myself for not making one or buying one!

There was just too much going on, and of course I had to experience it all.


A creative couple, Brad and Linda.   Linda's mom made her outfit from scratch. This is how the early pioneers dressed when they came and built this town. Linda is the Master of Ceremonies today and will lead the singing both inside and outside.
Brad makes lots of usual wooden items.  They built a straw house, have a trellised garden,plus a Conestoga wagon chicken tractor and were on our coop tour in August.
They adopted their new dog Homer (in the red sweater). Mavis likes him.

Using a manual foot pedal, Brad makes a wooden candle holder on the wood turner.

 The legendary North Country Singers sang several times during the day.
Voices of angels.

They are use to seeing me stalking them with my camera....

Outside on the common people were sledding, skating and cross country skiing.

The wagon was hitched to 2 handsome Belgian horses and I think Santa was getting a ride to his special chair on the Common.

The fire was warm and inviting. I defrosted my toes several times as I walked around the Common.

The old seminary church is a landmark in this town.
Its also where the hot cider and hot chocolate were.
The horses stopped here to let people off to warm up.

Meet Mike & Cody.    They volunteered to transport event attendees around to different events AND to escort Santa to his special chair.

They got lots of loving attention and were eager to make the rounds to the different venues.

Santa & the Elves were front and center on the Common.
Every child visited the jolly man and made their requests.
I again asked for a pony.....

Local photographer for the local newspaper, Janice had a good time trying to get around to all the exhibits and demonstrations.

Of course I had to take the ride.

It got colder as the sun started to set and a hot cup of cider was exactly what I needed.

Everyone needed it.

Dedicated elves kept the fires going, and volunteers kept them plied with hot chocolate.

A few brave dogs came out in the cold with their best friends.
( I hinted about a dog jacket to this owner..)

Some pups came dressed to have fun.

This is my 15th cup of hot chocolate. They saw me walking across the Common and had a cup waiting for me.  Its amazing how different people look when they are all bundled up. Two of these women go to my church, but I did not recognize them!

The horses came to get me.

I headed back inside the school to see what else was going on and had to get a photo of Sue the Elf and Linda.
 Then I walked around to see the other crafts.

HAND CRAFTED Braided Rugs by Delsie Hoyt.

Amazingly creative, her rugs are now in museums and collections.

She is a fourth generation rug braider!

Take a look at her website and colorful designs HERE.

Candle dipping got my attention.

Another unusual use for milk crates....

Kate & Steve Davie sang rowdy Irish songs and kept us entertained.

The children made objects out of clay.

The pottery wheel was running all day.

The Mischievous Musketeers had their photo taken and then went off to create chaos and holiday cheer.

Linda added a shawl to her olde outfit, so I had to take another photo.

 Just as I was about to go back outside I saw this cow sweater....

Before I could barter it off her back, she jumped on the beam and started drilling a peg hole.

The wood chips were flying out of the beam. This woman was the fastest driller of the day.

Lots of souvenirs were available.

Mugs, buttons, magnets, shirts and

Tree ornaments and The book!

Lots of grandmothers brought their grandchildren.
They just glow with happiness... and exhaustion. Lisa is the chairman of this wonderful event. What a tremendous amount of time and energy went into the planning for it all.

The wood turners were busy making wood items and giving lessons.

Throughout the gym there was laughter and happy noise.

 and the sound of wood being made into beautiful usable pieces of art.

The Elf took a turn drilling the beam.

John Nininger, owner of the Wooden House Company making peg and beam construction the old fashioned way.   As you have seen in the photos, he had lots of interested folks drilling holes with his antique peg hole makers.  It was just like riding a bike

To see an amazing portfolio of the kinds of houses he builds, click HERE

 He attached corner arches to the beams using only pegs.

I checked out his website and saw just how all the drilling, trimming and arches looked when they would be assembled.

 John had a wooden peg holder on his belt.  He made it himself.

There was a storytelling session almost ready to start so I headed to the classroom.

Lots of children and adults listened attentively to the storyteller, Hope.

All was going well until she read the part about the chicken and I saw the page with the fox carrying the hen away.              This was too visual for me, having lost a hen in September... probably to a fox.
I just shook my head, rolled my eyes and went up and took a photo of the page when the story was over.
The other stories were great and everyone in the room enjoyed them.

More North County Chorus.  

More lathe work with a young student.

Lessons in making pottery.

Singers from six different churches came to sing and led us through lots of wonderful holiday songs.

Outside the crowds were enjoying the fire and conversation.

Living rurally means not seeing your friends and neighbors much during the tough winters so having this great event where we could see people we hadn't seen since October was a real treat.

 We got caught up with all the news.

Sledding was popular and there were groups on all the nearby hills.

When Linda showed up at the fire, I knew we would be singing soon.

As I walked to another area, I saw this memorial by the school flagpole.

Vermonters don't forget.

 On the other side of the flagpole was this:

The singing began as the fire jumped higher.

The sun went down quickly.

The candles came on in the old church.

And more voices joined us at the warm, cackling fire.

 After the sing-a-long we all headed down to the school cafeteria for a potluck supper.

People had been cooking for days.

The food tables went the width of the entire cafeteria.

The dynamic kitchen crew put the food on the tables, and kept it coming!

Dozens of choices and all the food was HOT and delicious!

Every person in this town brought food, ready to eat, plus beverages and delectable desserts.

I need to change the last sentence on this sticker.

LOTS happens in Vermont and we invite EVERYONE to participate!

The dessert table went the entire length of the cafeteria.

There were some desserts that I had never experienced before, so I had to try them all.

In the end, it was the most colorful that attracted me.

As if great food and conversation wasn't enough, promptly at 5 pm the cafeteria emptied out quickly.
There was a small stampede of folks heading to the bonfire to watch the fabulous FIREWORKS!!!

Several hundred people, with children, grandchildren, friends, family and neighbors tilted their heads up to the sky to take in the amazing sights and sounds.

My camera was partially frozen and stopped taking photos, but you get the idea.    They were spectacular and the loud noise and colors could be seen up and down the Connecticut River.

It was the perfect ending to the perfect day.

I hated leaving the warm fire and the new friends I had made, but I had a long ride home and the heater in my vehicle doesn't work very well...

There were many good-byes heard through the crowd as people gathered their families and headed home.   Tired, well fed and happy.

So many wonderful 250th celebrations took place this year in Newbury and surrounding towns and villages.
I thank EVERYONE who volunteered and donated time, money, equipment, muscle, supplies, food, ideas, and support.
My only regret is that this unique family event, as well as several other fun 250th events, will not be continued next year.     
Hopefully, someone will suggest that new traditions need to start here and that energetic volunteers will again turn a wonderful idea into a joyous winter day for all.