Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: An Interesting Year

This post rambles through topics that don't warrant dedicated blog entries. Many subjects like sprouting seed, growing them to transplant size in the greenhouse, then planting in outdoor gardens have been covered earlier and methods haven't evolved much. Tomatoes this year were outstanding, though the rows proved too close together (36 inches) and hard to get through later in the season. Next year we'll try four foot spacing between rows.
Clacker Toys for Toddlers
The Showcase Entry Clacker Toy
I often spend time in winter working on wood projects to get ready for the spring Northeast Woodworkers Showcase where our organization displays articles made during the year. I entered one of four "clacker" toys that make a lot of noise when rolled across the floor. It only won second place in the toy category because someone created a perfect scale model of a bulldozer in which everything worked! Each of the hundreds of treads actually move when pushed along, an incredible amount of beautiful craftsmanship. 

Bulldozer that Won a Blue Ribbon
 Every winter two nieces and their parents visit us on their way back from a week skiing. They usually want to work on a project and this time chose to help make two animal figures: a cheetah and a French Bulldog. These are mounted on pedestals with springs hidden inside so strings attached enable each to wag a tail, bow, lie down or assume other motions. I sent them home unpainted, hoping their owners would make them look like the animals they chose.
Cheetah and French Bulldog Toy Action Figures
 Every spring we shave most of the hair off our dog to make her more comfortable (she withers in heat). She loves looking like a lion, or at least, being much cooler (and rolling in cool grass).
Belle in Her Lion Cut
Fully Developed Monarch Caterpillar
Newly Emerged Monarch Butterfly
 We love butterflies and I've been collecting and identifying them my whole life. Monarchs are our favorites because they are large, beautiful and migrate such long distances. Last year I saw only three. This year was different: we saw many all summer, including their caterpillars on milkweed. After monitoring many caterpillars that did not survive to make chrysalises, we collected new ones and placed them in a large jar with sprigs of milkweed. We successfully raised nine through their becoming butterflies! And we let them go: hopefully to fly to Mexico where they overwinter. 
Some of Many Millions of Monarch Butterflies Overwintering in Mexico, 2018-19
Our daughter, Zoe, is in Mexico as I write this, and just sent me the photo above. She went there specifically to see these butterflies and was encouraged that guides at the site noted that there are more this year than many prior years. Ever more folk are conserving patches of milkweed that promote these butterflies in their migration north.
Zoe with Her Catfish
We have a farm pond that we stocked with fish many years ago. The species that flourish are crappie, bass and channel catfish, though sunfish and bullheads also thrive. Our daughter, Zoe, wanted to catch one of the large catfish for a long time and finally she caught one, and we ate it. The downside was that this lady was full of roe, even though it was September. We had no idea fish could be laden with eggs at this time of year. As with all of the animal parts we don't serve as dinner, we pressure cook them and grind them into paste for our animals so none goes to waste.

 Our Guinea fowl have always been problematic: they like to lay their eggs in hidden thickets around the property instead of in the egg boxes we carefully prepare for chickens. This year we had three females establish nests in remote hedges and luckily we found each one. Two of the three fowl did not survive incubating their nest overnight, one disappeared leaving only feathers and the other we found lifeless but in perfect condition a few hundred feet from her nest but her eggs had been eaten. The male and those females that were not laying eggs roosted in their protected enclosure indoors every night that had safe nesting boxes but these ladies refused to use them. We did routinely snitch eggs from their nests, hoping that they would not start incubating their eggs until they had around 30 (a persistent rumor). Eventually each started sitting overnight even though they had fewer than 20 eggs. We placed some of their eggs under two broody hens (chickens) and five hatched, with four now almost grown up (thinking they are chickens).
One of the Guinea Fowl Nests
A Second Guinea Fowl Nest
Shiitake Mushroom Harvest
Some of the Chestnuts We harvested
One Batch of Onions Packed for the Shelter We Supply
One Picking of Ripening Peppers
Except for our Brussel sprouts, our gardens produces plenty of food for us, friends and the shelter we supply. We planted many types of squash and they did very well, hundreds of pounds more than in other years.
Some of the Winter Squash Maturing 
Another View of Winter Squash Drying on Tables So that Rodents Don't Nibble Them Before They Get Distributed

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