After two weeks of hosting volunteer groups with several very cold days, it felt great to get out and work in the soil and soak in the sunshine. The children and I planted both shell and snap peas, carrots, beets, and radishes.
This is our second season of gardening with wood chips. First we pulled back the wood chips to expose the dirt. The soil was improved from last year, darker and richer.
Two of the children discovered an earthworm to observe.
We planted the pea seeds six across each foot-and-a-quarter section.
Then we pulled the wood chips back over the seeds.
Our third child captured our daughter and I planting carrot seeds together.
In the midst of planting, our daughter discovered in the ditch what I think are frog eggs.
In January, we tapped three maple trees at the camp. We knew this would be an experimental year for us but were optimistic that we would be able to produce some maple syrup for our use. Thus far in 2017, there have been several days with weather that is conducive to a sap run which is below freezing temperatures at night with above 40 F during the day.
Of the three taps, only one has produced any sap. After consulting with friends who are more experienced, we learned that some trees produce more than others. Some trees do not produce at all, and even different locations on the same tree can produce different results.
One day, we did collect a cup or so of sap; so I decided to boil off the water just to see what the results would be. After cooking on low for several hours, about a tablespoon of syrup was left. We all enjoyed tasting a bit of the sweet stuff. I think I should have removed the pan from the heat sooner, as the syrup was pretty thick. While we may not end up with much syrup this year, it is fun to realize the potential for producing a valued product.
Gray days have been plentiful this year in Appalachia. I have to admit, unless snow covers the bare hillsides, winter is not the prettiest season here; but every once in a while I catch a glimmer of beauty that speaks of God’s goodness. On a warm day, we drove up the trail and glimpsed the majesty of the mountains.
On my Main Street walks, the classic details of the houses on the left and the way the mountain sits over the downtown catch my eye.
Today, when I came out of the office, I heard a sound like icy snow falling; but I knew it was too warm for that. When I glanced up, I was amazed to see what appeared to be hundreds of birds fluttering around a tree. The sound of their wings is what I was hearing. They fluttered and flitted, snacking on red berries from the tree. Every once in a while, the birds would fly off as a flock to a nearby tree. In a bit, they would swoop back to the tree for seconds. The creatures were a lovely gray with a bit of yellow on their heads. I think maybe they were yellow finches in their winter garb, but I am not sure. Pretty soon, a red-headed bird joined in the frolic. After about an hour of gorging themselves, the tree was stripped of all its berries; and no more birds were to be seen. On the picture it is hard to see, but this tree was covered with birds. The sight was a welcome winter diversion.
Here in the mountains of Kentucky, all in one week, the weather has swung from colder than average and snow to spring-like temperatures and rain. During the below-freezing days, we were using the woodstove to heat the house; so I decided to try my hand at cooking on it. I was amazed at how fast I was able to prepare our supper.
Using the “Autumn Vegetable Soup” recipe from Simply in Season, I sautéed onion and garlic in butter on the woodstove and then added the other ingredients which included cabbage, carrots, kale, turnips, tomatoes, black beans, barley, broth, and herbs.
Cornbread seemed like a nice complement to the soup, so I searched the Internet for instructions on how to prepare it on a woodstove. Surprisingly I did not find much information, but one person had tried it; so I gleaned some tips from her. First I melted the butter in a frying pan on the woodstove, then I added the cornbread batter and put the lid on the pan. After cooking for a few minutes, I put a cooling rack under the frying pan to keep the bottom from getting too brown.
When I returned to the house after about an hour, the aroma of soup greeted me; and the cornbread was finished. The texture of the bread was smoother than usual, and the flavor was delicious. Curiously, the taste reminded me of homemade communion bread.
The family savored simple, but hearty food on a cold evening; and I was gratified to know that, were we without power, we could still prepare a meal.
The winter that has thus far been a mild one has brought us a cold snap. The first snowfall for 2017 gently sifted down over the last three days. This morning, we awoke to a covering of white and temperatures in the teens.
My husband took the kids and dog up to the camp to tap some maple trees and for some sledding fun. Tapping maple trees is a new venture for us. As a gift, we received a starter kit with enough equipment to collect from three trees.
While I would have loved to participate, I am trying to recover from some cold symptoms; so instead, I stayed home and enjoyed the warmth of the fire. For a number of years, we have dreamed of having a wood stove; and we feel blessed to have one in our new home. The heat is certainly warmer than a heat pump. I am hoping to try a bit of cooking on the top, and the crackle and pop of the fire are cozy on a snowy, winter evening.
After avoiding the park for several weeks due to forest fires and smoke, our third child and I returned to Kingdom Come State Park today. The scenery is more stark since the leaves have fallen, but the weather was warm and perfect for a late-November hike. After taking a peek at the ducks, we walked past the water on the Lake Trail to get to the Nature Haven Trail.
The Nature Haven Trail starts out as a pleasant stroll, but suddenly veers up the mountain and continues to zigzag to the top of the ridge. We passed a massive rock outcropping and had to swing our legs over many fallen branches. There was a violent wind storm last night, which must have brought down lots of dead branches.
The Trail led us out to Scout Overlook which was a great adventure for a ten-year-old boy, but my heart was swimming in my chest as we peered over the edge. The drop was hundreds of feet to the bottom.
Continuing on, we met up with the Ivy Trail which started down the mountain. We came upon another overlook which is Knife Ridge, a sparkling, white rock formation, shown here looking down and then back up. What I find amazing is the trees and shrubs that grow in very thin layers of soil upon the rock.
This time of year, darkness creeps in quickly in the woods. As we neared the end of our hike, we witnessed a beautiful sunset.
During a much-needed rainfall this past week, most of the trees were stripped bare of their leaves. While it is a bit sad to see all the brilliant beauty gone, the view now is new and interesting. The underbrush in the forest has died, so the lay of the land can be seen. Around every turn in the trail, what was hidden by dense foliage is now visible. Rock outcroppings, the pond, fallen trees, and building are brought into the open.
The squirrels and chipmunks can be seen leaping through the leaves gathering food for the winter. Among the carpet of leaves, their movements sound like much larger creatures. The first couple times I heard them rattling the leaves, I glanced around for a deer or bear only to spy a tiny animal. After dark, we have seen deer at camp munching on the plentiful acorns that have dropped. When I was walking yesterday, I heard the call of the turkey and a reply from across the ravine. Crows “cawed”, and a flock of songbirds fluttered in the bushes.
Nature is preparing for winter. Each season has its charms.
Earlier this week, we took Oma to visit Kingdom Come State Park. We strolled around the lake on the Lake Trail, a nice, flat walk. The park is such a beautiful, peaceful place this time of year.
Saturday morning, Pake helped us move and stack the firewood into the newly constructed woodshed. It took two and a half hours, and I was quite pleased with how well the kids kept working. As you can see, when we started, the air was cool; but by the end, we were all quite warm and had shed our jackets.
Sunday afternoon, we took a drive over the mountain to visit the wild horses at Dingo.
On the way back, we stopped at the home of a blacksmith. We were intrigued by the water wheel, large anvils, hoes, and other items he has constructed.
The mountains are aflame with color: brilliant orange, deep red, and golden yellow. Leaves are falling daily which means lots of opportunity to rake them into piles before sending them down the hillside. Leaf wars, jumping in the pile, and making leaf angels have been lots of fun for the children.
My husband has hauled loads of horse manure up the mountain. The children and I worked at spreading it on the vegetable patches in preparation for next year’s gardening. I love their looks of determination. They surely worked hard that afternoon.
The hydrangea bush has taken on beautiful hues this fall.
As we drive up and down the trail, the leaves are truly a sight to see.
Once again, we spent some time at Kingdom Come State Park. The children are pictured atop Log Rock, another amazing rock formation.
It is difficult to capture the intensity of the colors, but here are some maple and tulip poplar leaves to enjoy.