April 18, 2021

'Tis spring!

Spring is a busy season at Holly Tree Manor. The outside work ramps up and the inside of the house suffers from a lack of attention. Thankfully, we're both old enough to know a couple of dog fur dust bunnies won't harm us but tall grass harbors critters that may. This past week I talked with the cousin as he was removing a little, relatively harmless, hognose snake he found "sleeping" under his pickup. The theory is the little guy was drawn there by the residual heat off the engine. It's definitely time to watch where I put my feet when Deuce and I are in the woods. 

Last weekend, I got the mulching done around the patio and along the front porch. There is a bit more to do after I replace a rose bush that died over the winter. That will happen sometime later today. 

The plan for the new patio grilling/canning/storage area has been finalized, at least in my mind. With lumber prices being what they are, we're purchasing pre-made cabinets and countertops for a fraction of the cost of building them. It's unreal. 

Yesterday, I made a sweep around the yard and picked up those sticks large enough to damage the John Deers 370 and tossed them on the brush pile. I got the front yard mowed and decided the back could wait a day. I wanted to get soil into the food-safe five-gallon buckets in preparation for getting the pepper plants outside. After filling the buckets, we made a fast trip to the garden center for another bag of Black Kow, some peat moss, and vermiculite. Burpee's sent me an email saying my strawberries should ship soon and I need to have soil ready for them. 

One of my biggest concerns this year is digging a drainage swale in the backyard. Our property is about one-third the way up the side of a mountain and we get a lot of water flowing through during hard rains. The earth isn't static and something above has changed enough that we have a developing problem. There's no way to prevent the water from draining through so we can only attempt to manage it. Thank heavens for the John Deere 1023. 

The list of things to do goes on, seemingly into infinity. Crossing one thing off the list adds two more. It's good to stay busy but it's also good to stop and enjoy what has been accomplished. I'm sure that will happen in a few weeks when the air warms to the point that I don't need to be active to keep warm. 

Until then, spring has sprung and I'll enjoy ticking items off my to-do list and marveling at the many shades of green. 

And adding things to the list. I just noticed it's time to tie the peonies. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor




April 11, 2021

Pepper dreams

 
We're a big fan of peppers. We love peppers in all sorts of food dishes, stuffed peppers, Cowboy Candy, pepper jelly, and even savory bread. Last year, 2020, amid the COVID-19 crisis, I grew two pepper plants in grow bags and had more success than I'd ever had planting them in the ground. Hmmm. 

I purchased several sets of grow bags, some seed starter trays, good Burpee seed, and as of this morning I have thirty-three pepper plants happily growing in transplant cups in my sunroom office. I can't safely get out the door at the moment, but I don't care. I don't want to risk kicking a delicate transplant over and breaking it. I'll walk through the house to get outside for the next few weeks. Having happy peppers is more important. 

It does occur to me that peppers are hardly a crop to sustain us through a true food crisis. Well, I planted two fifteen-gallon grow bags with potatoes and those plants look hale and healthy. Again, not enough to sustain us for long. Living on the side of a mountain has a few drawbacks and flat land to have a proper garden is one, and the neighborhood deer is number two. That I'm still working is another consideration. My "drop dead" retirement date is May 31, 2022, so next growing season will likely look different. This year, I experiment and learn. 

The recipe I use for Cowboy Candy was pulled from the Living Traditions Homestead YouTube channel. Cowboy Candy isn't candy, but it's good. I drain the peppers, finely chop them, and mix them with a block of cream cheese for a dip to have with raw veggies or crackers. The Living Traditions Homestead channel contains a wealth of information about small to medium homesteads. We like to catch up with them on Saturday mornings while we enjoy our coffee. 

Today I must replant tomatoes. Unlike the peppers, none of the tomato seeds I planted germinated. It's hard to say why, but I purchased the seeds at a home center and not a specialty seller like Burpee's or Baker Creek. It's also possible the soil in the starter trays didn't get warm enough being that the peppers held the best spot. We shall see. 

Now I must get on with my day and stop writing about doing and actually go do. 

Maybe just one more cup of coffee and a few more searches for recipes that highlight peppers first. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor


April 4, 2021

Walking season 2021

It seems like I've been waiting forever for the weather to turn spring-like, and today it happened. It seems appropriate as today is Easter 2021. It was 55F by about 9:30 AM so I loaded Deuce's carry bag with treats, my phone, the new video camera, and his leash, and off we went. Our destination was the pond loop. 

It's been several months since we last made that particular trek, December 13, 2020, to be precise. Unlike the last time, the creeks were running full and fast, and while I had to search for dryer crossings, Deuce was in Labrador Retriever heaven. Lots and lots of water in the creek hits his hot buttons and he jumps right in. His joy is my joy and it's wonderful to watch. Stare into Deuce's eyes and you know someone special is in there. 

Walking season 2021 will, I hope, see my journey to better health continued. Walking invigorates me, ergo, I tend to accomplish more of the things I like to do - like walking. It feeds my soul to get out in the woods away from the noise of the television, cars, and renter neighbors I wish would find another place to live. Easter Sunday is hardly a good day to terrorize the tax-paying homeowners with dirt bikes and ATVs. My family lives up here in solitude for a reason and it's called peace and quiet. But I digress...

Walking is good for me and for Deuce. The vet said he needs to lose two pounds and I'd like to lose at least ten this summer. So, off we will go. Shorter walks on workdays and longer walks on the weekends, weather permitting. The pond loop is almost three miles, and according to my Fitbit, has a lot of stairs. 

We have a new inexpensive video camera and I took it along on its maiden journey. The footage isn't very good but I learned a few things which was the point of the exercise. I'll be able to pull some still shots out and that will have to suffice. If I upload it to YouTube, it will be just to show the man of the manor, and I'll take it down after he's viewed it. It's that jumpy and jerky. Lesson one - turn on the control that helps stop the shaking. 

There were some things I didn't appreciate finding on my walk. The old trails have existed for over a hundred years and many have been commandeered by the Park Service for hiking trails. In and of itself this is not a problem, but people have no respect. The clean, unlittered trails of my girlhood are no longer unlittered. An empty Monster Energy can, a facemask, a plastic Mountian Dew bottle - you can't blame those on homesteaders forced by the State of Maryland to abandon their homes. 


This time of year it's easy to spot the old homesteads. The daffodils are blooming and it seems every old place had them. They live on, untended, and beautifully wild. They inspired me to separate a few clumps of my own daffs and replant the bulbs one-by-one in my own woods in the hope that in future years, they will remain, bright yellow and white on an Easter morning. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor