December 25th, 2010 §
So I woke this morning and stepped out on my front porch to find this:
I opened the card:
Moonshine! What a perfect surprise for Christmas morning! And the great mystery is that I have no idea who my secret santa is!
We’re back on track for another snowstorm tonight and tomorrow, but I can rest easy knowing I am well-provisioned for any eventuality—including snake or spider bite—thanks to this fantastic gift. Merry Christmas from Bonafide Farm!
December 21st, 2010 §
All of my weekends in October and November were devoted to putting in the front landscaping, a job that was so tiring that I am just now getting around to writing about it. Obviously these photos are a few months old, since everything now is covered in snow and ice! The fun began by ordering a few dumptrucks full of materials: topsoil, compost and mulch. Then my dad tilled the compost and topsoil into the front yard area while I graded and moved piles of dirt around with a shovel. Then the real fun began as I started planting shrubs and ornamentals that I’d been collecting for a long time—some of which I’d had so long that I had temporarily stashed them in a pit in the field over the summer.
I envision an untraditional front landscape for my house. I want to use this space as a dynamic garden that changes through the seasons, instead of typical landscaping which I view as as bunch of boring evergreens lined up underneath the windows. Thus, I chose only a few evergreens that I hope will fill in and provide masses of color and texture that will anchor more ephemeral annual and perennial material. The centerpiece of the garden is a small ornamental evergreen, the Horstmann Blue Atlas Cedar, which I chose because it won’t get too big nor will it block my view from the porch to the garage/guinea coop. This small tree has an intriguingly architectural shape and a blue gray color that reflects my trim and porch colors. In fact, I chose several blue gray evergreens, including Grey Owl Juniper, to reinforce this color palette.
In between drifts of Juniper, which also include the beautiful Gold Lace variety, I did a swath of Nandina ‘Chardonnay Pearls,’ which is a modern chartreuse that I hope will brighten the garden, particularly in spring when the plant sports tiny white flowers. Other shrubs include Albelia ‘Rose Creek,’ which I enjoy for its vintage cottage look and flower clusters that continue to provide interest well into the winter.
On the front corner of the house I planted a Doublefile Viburnum ‘Igloo.’ This plant has amazing double white flowers in the spring that look like butterflies, and it also keeps its interest throughout the fall as its leaves turn red. I plan to prune this plant into a small tree to anchor this front corner of the house. I also indulged myself with a few ornamental elderberries, ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Black Lace.’ These shrubs resemble Japanese maples with their fine, dark foliage, and they also make pink berries for the birds to enjoy. I have very much enjoyed learning about shrubs and trees through this process. I had only ever had the space for vegetable and cut flower gardens, so a whole new world of plant material opened to me when I finally got land to spread out upon.
The garden doesn’t look like much now, but I considered it a huge victory to just have some plants in instead of looking at the bare dirt that had been there all summer. There are all sorts of other neat plants tucked in, including Japanese anemones, inherited iris, Korean lilacs, and perennial ‘Kent Beauty’ oregano. I also stuck my prized Pat Austin rose close to the porch for safekeeping—we will see if it survives the winter. Oh, and I also spent a weekend planting more than 200 daffodil, snowdrop and lily bulbs in this yard with the hope that in the spring they will fill in the bare spots where the plants have yet to grow.
So that’s the front yard—a project that consumed many hours and much muscle strength. Next spring I will tackle the side of the house that faces the road and the back yard. I’ve got big plans for both those spots!
December 18th, 2010 §
December 17, 8:30 a.m. Headed to work the morning after the season’s first measurable snow.
December 16th, 2010 §
December 12th, 2010 §
…when you leave this cozy spot to head out into a dark cold rain to rig a heat lamp to keep your 15 guineas toasty warm.
The guineas have been doing fine (i.e., surviving) the few nights that have gotten down into the teens. But reading the weather report tonight, I discovered that the storm system sweeping eastward may bring subzero wind chills Tuesday night. I know the birds can handle cold, but the wind we’re expected to get may do them in. I am pretty sure their coop is resistant to wind because its so tightly constructed, but I am not entirely sure how much makes its way through and I don’t want to find out by discovering a bunch of two-legged popsicles.
And, I’d rather be doing this mucking around tonight, in a rainy but relatively balmy 35 degrees, instead of Tuesday night after work in a subzero windstorm.
So I hung a shop light over the perch, nailed it in so it wouldn’t fall and catch their house on fire, and then tacked the cord down so the birds wouldn’t hang themselves if they got caught in it. Thankfully the “chicken door” that the birds never liked to use was just loose enough to let an extension cord in, saving me from drilling holes in my perfectly predator-proof coop. We’ll see how long it takes the birds to start pecking at the extension cord. Then I’ll be enjoying flash-fried poultry instead of popsicles. Choose your poison.
December 7th, 2010 §
I can’t say enough good things about Charlottesville-based Relay Foods. I think they have such a good thing going on that I’d go work for them if they’d have me, and I am encouraging everyone I know to try their service so they stay in business!
Basically I order my groceries online, pay with a credit card, and then once a week I drive to a parking lot a minute away from where I work to pick up my order, all packaged up in a nice big tub. Behind the scenes the little Relay elves travel around to all sorts of local Charlottesville business to fill my order, saving me from driving all over town, and many of their options are locally grown and organic. Plus, their web interface is great, their graphic design makes me smile…as do the nice people who load up my groceries. I haven’t found their prices to be prohibitively expensive, but I am happy to occasionally pay a bit more to avoid the hassle and time of going to the stores myself. As someone who loves to cook but hates the grocery store, Relay Foods is my glimpse of heaven.
All this is backstory to the real story, which is the joy I felt on Thanksgiving when I opened up the carton of these eggs that were part of my Relay order. The eggs came from Hardy Farms in nearby Keswick, Virginia, and the sheer beauty of them was my nicest holiday surprise. And they were nice and fresh, with big orange yolks that sat high above the white. I’ve enjoyed them in pumpkin pies, cookies, and last weekend, in an out-of-this world spaghetti carbonara, which also included some pretty fantastic bacon from Charlottesville’s Organic Butcher. It was my first time making this dish, but it was so good that I am trying to justify cooking a meal whose main ingredients are pasta, egg yolks, heavy cream, cheese and bacon twice in one week! Thus far my best argument is that it’s ridiculously cold and windy outside now (in fact only a few degrees warmer than Anchorage, Alaska), and I need the fat to survive the winter!
December 4th, 2010 §
Is falling outside right now!
December 2nd, 2010 §
My fifteen guineas spent the Thanksgiving weekend wandering the fields and exploring the cherry tree near the garage. This is the first time so many have chosen to fly into it, and it was quite a sight. I am glad they are learning to fly into trees because this skill will help protect them from predators. They still aren’t very graceful—and may well never be—but when they find themselves wedged in precarious positions they have managed to work it out.
The recent cold weather and early sunset have put a damper on the pleasure I used to take in caring for them. If I need to feed and change their water when I get home from work in the dark, I shine my car’s high beams at the coop and then juggle a flashlight inside to collect their feeder and waterer. The birds are always calm—with most continuing to sleep on their perches—but it’s awkward work for me. I need to run a light into the coop somehow to make this easier.
This morning I took care of the birds before work, and I knocked a sizable ice floe out of their waterer. And then I went to work and started investigating heated waterers. The idea of paying for the electricity to heat guinea water all winter irks me, but when we start getting into the days that don’t rise above freezing I may not have a choice.
Though the chore of caring for the guineas is diminishing in pleasure, what’s increasing is the enjoyment I take in the birds when they are out of their coop and flying/wandering/running around the property. They are behaving pretty well by sticking close to the house, and they are truly hilarious to watch. When I was mowing on the tractor last week, the whole flock was actually chasing after me!