Thisbirdsabsurd is my partner in the Make A Friend swap. This is a three part swap whose first package must focus on the sender vs. the partner. One of the items I found in my first package was something that she thinks smells good, a vial of satsuma fragrance. I have never heard of satsuma before but agree with her, it smells fantastic! I decided when I opened it that I would use it in some way to make her something for package number two. Since we raise bees, we've got beeswax for crafting. I decided to make her some solid perfume using the satsuma fragrance. I searched online for a locket that had some sort of opening in the top so the scent would be able to escape and found this lovely filigree one. The idea is that body warmth will release the scent and it opens if she wants to apply the scent directly to her skin.
Here is the locket I selected. It came in a set, so I have others that I can play with for Christmas gifts. It will be fun to blend some scents!
There are just three ingredients in the perfume. Equal amounts of beeswax and a carrier oil. I used sweet almond oil, which I have on hand for soapmaking. I used a teaspoon of each for this project. In retrospect, it was too much (but now I have some satsuma perfume of my own)! I started with about 25 drops of the fragrance oil, tested it, and ended up adding an additional 20 or so.
A makeshift double boiler! An old pan heating water and a small glass jar to melt the ingredients. This didn't take long at all. When it was melted and scented, I just poured it into the locket and left it alone to harden. I checked on it after about an hour and it was solid.
After that, it required some basic jewelery skills to add a few charms and put it on a chain. I covered an altoid tin to send it in. If you make one, please PM me, I wanna see!
We harvested the first of our Spring honey this week. Our bees are doing very well in the little bee yard we've set up by our pond. We've seen a bear in our back yard, thankfully it's never made it down to the hives!
Here we are gathering up the honey supers to bring into our kitchen for processing. A honey super is the shallow box where bees store honey in beeswax frames of drawn honeycomb. We always leave one super per hive for the bees. It's what they eat over the winter. Anything above their super is ours.
They store honey in drawn beeswax honeycomb and cap it with beeswax when it's full. A super full of honey is very very heavy.
We use a knife to remove the beeswax cap that keeps the honey stored. The beeswax cappings get melted down. I use it for crafting candles, soap and solid perfume.
We have a small extractor, which is just fine for our operation. It's basically a plastic tank that holds two uncapped frames which are spun via a handle crank. Centrifugal force spins the honey from the frames into the bottom of the extractor.
From here, the honey is strained into a holding tank. From there, it's ladled into jars. If you look carefully, you'll see newspaper spread on our kitchen floor. It's potentially a messy job.
The best comb gets set aside for comb honey. Instead of uncapping it, we cut it into chunks to fit into a jar. Here is some cut comb waiting for honey to be added to the jar.
The finished product, ready for the Farmer's Market! We'll harvest again towards the end of the Summer. Our sourwood trees are just starting to bloom so the next batch will be sourwood honey, a local delicacy. Any questions? Ask away!
I planted English peas twice this Spring, and the deer came in and ate every single one of them. I have big plans for my garden this Summer and refuse to battle both the bugs and the deer for my plants so I started doing some research. The most promising solution I found was an invisible fence. The premise is if you stretch fishing line between posts, deer can't see it. When they walk into it, they freak out and run away. We already had T-posts just sitting around, and I raided my husband's tackle box.
Here's a close up of the fishing line in front of one of our garlic beds. Please excuse the weeds. With all the work getting our garden in, we haven't had a chance to get the weed whacker out between beds yet.
The posts are set about 15-20 feet apart, and the line stretches horizontally about a foot off the ground, again about 5 feet off the ground, then in a criss-cross pattern between posts.
Here's a wide shot showing how we've got all of our beds protected now. It's been 3 weeks since we installed this and have had no problem with the deer since. It's too late to replant the peas, but the beans and soybeans are all sprouting unmolested, and all of my transplants look great!
In anticipation of the royal wedding I made my best milking goat, Hermione, a fancy hat to wear on the day. Alas, I believe her invitation must have been lost in the mail. Poor dear! We'll just have to celebrate it here.
It's a hoop house, actually. My genius husband built it for us from a kit. It's got an interior raised bed. We've been enjoying lettuce, spinach, carrots and beets all winter.
One of my requirements when we were deciding on the size was it had to be big enough for a table. We've hosted luncheons and dinners out there. Today, the table is holding my tea, cucumber seedlings and the season's final daffodils.
I've had cut organic blue seed potatoes drying out there for a few days. They're now ready to go into our garden bed.
We supplement our raised bed gardening with a lot of potted plants. Tomatoes, hot peppers and cucumbers mostly. For those of you who don't have the ground space to garden in, try some potted plants this summer. We load our back deck with them. I make my own potting mixture. It's mostly garden soil, the kind you can get in bags at the garden center. In a large container I add in some compost, a little peat moss, a few handfuls of vermiculite and about 1/4 cup of Soil Moist crystals to help the pots hold moisture.
Today, I potted up tomatoes. To cover those drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, I put in a layer of skirting. That's the scrap fleece leftover from shearing. It acts both as a barrier and helps with fertilization. You can also cover those drainage holes with a bit of broken flower pot, fabric, packing peanuts, any number of things.
On top of the skirting I put a trowel of my potting mixture. I tear the bottom of the peat pot that my tomatoes have been growing in and set it in the pot. It's important not to touch the stem of a tomato. Just touch the peat pot or the leaves if you have to.
When you pot up a tomato plant, it's important to plant it as deep as you can. Just leave the very top leaves showing. By doing this, the plant will develop more roots along the buried stem and will give you a more vigorous plant.
We use the greenhouse as a season extender. We'll keep our potted plants in there under protection until our last frost. Then we'll use it again at the end of the growing season for our plants when the first frost is predicted.
We had our sheep shorn last weekend. Their fleece is heavy and our days are getting warmer so it was time. We raise two breeds of sheep- texel and katahdin. The katahdin are hair sheep, they don't have wool. They have coats similar to dogs. The texels are the only ones that get shorn. Beatrice is one of our texels. We put them up the night before in close quarters to keep them warm so their lanolin will flow. It makes the job easier for both the shearer and the sheep. When we first got sheep, I thought we would shear them ourselves. We purchased a how-to DVD and realized how absolutely backbreaking it looked so we decided to have a professional come do it for us. Two years ago, our sheep met up with a skunk a few days before the shearer arrived. All of our wool that year went into the garden!
The shearer usually does 80-100 sheep in a day. Can you imagine? You need to be strong, flexible and have a very good back to do this.
He's got a set pattern that he follows, and uses his elbows and knees to restrain her as he's working. He starts with the belly wool and discards it as it's inferior for spinning. The sheep are surprisingly calm during their ordeal.
Her fleece stays together in one piece. It weighs almost 7 pounds. Her wool locks are very springy with good crimp. I learned this from some local spinners. I, alas, don't spin or knit. My fleece will go with me to the farmer's market when it opens next month.
She's much happier without her winter coat and is due to lamb any day now. She's very sweet, loves to be scratched and likes to smell my face. She's my favorite, can you tell?
Beatrice finally had her lamb, a little ewe. Isn't she cute?
I participated in the altered puzzle pieces round 3 swap, my last piece arrived today. My theme was bees and I just love how it came out! I didn't mark 'up' on my pieces because I thought it would be interesting if they were crazy oriented, like bees dancing. My partners were audio, curiousfae, JillHogan, llisaredd, shylitlegoddess, sinjah & sugarsandwitch. I did the piece in the lower left corner. Thank you so much to my partners, I am thrilled to have such a beautiful collaboration!
I made a rainbow patchwork skirt for the Be Awesome Again swap. I've never made one before and couldn't find a pattern I liked so I figured it out on my own. Since I don't sew much, I don't have many fabric scraps. I purchased all of the fabric for this project. I decided to do six layers (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) with two bold fabrics per layer. Since I liked all of the fabrics I selected, I made sure I got a little bit extra to do some scrap projects with the remainder. I've already made some rainbow pet food bowl 'mug' rugs with my scraps. Here's the yardage I purchased: Reds: 1/2 yard each Oranges: 1/2 yard each Yellows: 1/2 yard each Greens: 2/3 yard each Blues: 3/4 yard each Purples: 1 yard each
Here's the pattern I worked out. The top layer is a bit longer to accommodate the waistband. It's also tapered to keep the waistband from being too bunchy. I cut an additional 2 inch wide strip of one of the reds for the drawstring casing, too. The bottom layer is the longest. This extra is to allow for the hem. Here's how many of each I cut: Reds: 5 each of the top layer pattern Oranges: 7 each of the 'all other layers' pattern Yellows: 9 each of the 'all other layers' pattern Greens: 11 each of the 'all other layers' pattern Blues: 13 each of the 'all other layers' pattern Purples: 15 each of the bottom layer pattern
The first thing I did was sew all of the like colors together in rows, alternating the squares. This gave me the tiers of the skirt. With the additional 2 inch strip I cut of one of the reds, I sewed in the drawstring casing to the very top of the skirt. This photo shows how I've folded and pinned it to prepare it for sewing to make the casing.
I pinned the second layer to the first, right sides to right sides and sewed them together, taking just 1-2 small tucks per square for the gathering. All of my seams for this project were 1/2 inch.
I used the same process to sew the next layer and so on.
Here's a close up of a few squares to show how minimal the gathering really is.
To finish it off, I hemmed it and added a drawstring embellished with a few colorful beads.
I'm guessing it would fit between a size 10-16 because of the adjustibility of the drawstring waist, and is hemmed for someone 5'6" tall. If you want to replicate this for your own measurements, just adjust the math on the pattern. You'll want the finished waist to be at least 5 inches wider than your waist measurement for the drawstring. Don't forget to include 1/2 inch seam allowances on your squares. Have fun!
If you've always wanted to start your own tomato seedlings rather than purchase plants at a nursery, here are a few pointers. We live in gardening zone 7 and have a greenhouse so are able to get a jump on seed starting for our area. Let me start by saying we grow on a largeish scale, but you should be able to downsize to fit your needs. This process works for any kind of tomatoes, but we grow only heirlooms for a few reasons; they taste so much better than hybrids, my customers at the farmer's market want them, and you can save their seeds to plant next year. Here are some of last year's harvest.
We don't have large dinner parties between New Years and Easter because our dining room becomes seed-land. We lay down shower curtain liners and set up a utility table on them. We hang shop lights both above and below the table's surface. We don't use expensive grow bulbs, just regular shop lights. They're on a 14 hour timer. We have no (zero) sun in our house thanks to a wrap around porch. If you have a sunny windowsill, that will work just fine!
We use seed starting flats and a seed starting potting mix. You can find both in lots of places including WalMart and home improvement stores. Following the instructions on your seed packet regarding the time to start your seeds and the depth to plant them, plant 2-3 seeds in each of your tray's compartment. We spritz them daily with water and keep the lids on the trays until the plants get to be about an inch tall.
See how all three seeds came up in this compartment? I take my tiny sewing scissors and cut two of the three, you only want one plant per compartment. If you try to pull the other two out, you run the risk of damaging the roots of the plant you want to keep.
When your plants have three sets of leaves, it's time to transplant them. It took five weeks from the day I planted the seeds for the plants to get this tall.
If you've planned your planting dates such that your last frost date has passed, you can put these outside either in a planter or into the ground. We're still two months from our last frost date so these are going into one cup sized peat pots. I write right on the pots with a sharpie. These are brandywine tomatoes (BW). I'm also experimenting this year with wooden swizzle stick plant markers. I'm writing on those and sealing my writing with clear nail polish. We'll see how it goes.
Before you try to remove them from their compartment cells, water thoroughly. This will hold the roots in the potting medium and make the plant easy to remove. I use a fork to remove the plant from the cell and place it into the peat pot. Never touch the stem of a plant, just the dirt and leaves if you must. For tomatoes, it's important to plant them as deep as possible. The stems will grow more roots and improve the stability of your plants. I fill the pot with a 50/50 mixture of seed starting mix and potting soil with a few Soil Moist crystals thrown in to help maintain moisture. They're hard to find and expensive but we use them. I've found them both online and in a very upscale garden center.
Here a photo of our back deck from last summer, just to show you it's possible to have tomatoes in pots! We grow about 50% in pots and 50% in raised beds. If you have any questions about our process, I'll do my best to answer.
My partner in the Pet Lovers swap, 1watermonkey, has the cutest chihuahua's EVER. Deedlit, Cosette and Loki. She sent me adorable photos of them all for crafting inspiration and I knew immediately I wanted to do something with their images as one of my swap items. I was brainstorming with Cackle and she suggested Andy Warhol portraits. I didn't know how to make it happen but knew I wanted to try. My daughter walked me through some of the features of Photoshop (this was my first time using it) and this is what I came up with. They are printed images glued onto wooden bases painted gold with wires affixed to the back for hanging on the wall. I'm in love with this craft, and plan to do a series featuring some of our sheep.