Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter gifts

Sometimes, just sometimes, in the midst of the coldest winter, the grayest days, the shortest hours, sometimes unexpected joy deposits itself at our doorstep.

One of my rose bushes decided to produce a single flower, and the clove pinks agreed with the plan.  Next, the sunshine conspired to stream through the window just right. A bit of cheer, greatly welcomed.

And this, a completely replaced roof due to Sandy, even though one part of the roof was less than two years old, and the other part, less than four.  Sandy tore off the west and east corners of the main roof, and played games with the shingles all over both roofs.  A team of several roofers descended on the house last week and boom! All done in two days.

Green Energy Design is finishing up the turbine and should have it up in the next two weeks.  Then, we will be entirely self-sufficient and producing enough electricity for the grid to purchase back.  We talked today about a plan to put in a battery backup system in case of power loss to the grid.  

Happy holidays to all


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fog of the early morning

Woke up this morning and was treated to the most unusual sight.  It looked as if the field behind the house was covered in snow, but it was a low cloud of fog that was sleeping on the winter-bare field.
You can see the new solar panels are up, just waiting to finish the wind turbine installation and to bury the power line under the driveway.
Soon, no more electricity bills.  Woo woo!

You can see our anenometer, lonely on that pole, which was working until very recently.  I think Hurricane Sandy scared it into silence, while it played around with the shingles and destroyed the roof.  Our entire roof is being replaced within the next two weeks as it was damaged from the wind that hit the house, probably due to the extreme windspeeds generated from the wide open field.

Hope is waiting for the deer to emerge from the fog.  We almost hit a large buck who was strolling across the driveway for his early evening vine dinner at sunset a few weeks ago.  The deer are very clever you know, they stand in the field and it almost seems like they're mocking the dogs until the dogs go inside for the evening, then they have a feast.

Happy holidays!


Sunday, October 21, 2012


Wow! Fall is upon us with darker hours spreading out across the day, like dark ink on blank paper.

Teke and Hope are very busy now, and are mostly successful keeping the deer away.  However, I've lost a baby magnolia (the deer chewed it in half) and a serviceberry sapling (they rubbed and chewed it out of the ground).  I should have noticed the deer crossing sign on the road shortly before the driveway to the house.....that would have been the first clue, right?   

Nevertheless, the dogs are very happy to have such an important job and take it very seriously.

Some big progress on the solar/wind power.  It took several months, a few hurdles with zoning, planning, and historic boards, and a manufacturer who would actually produce the panels this decade, to complete the panel installation.  You can see the panel mount at the end of the field in the right side of the photo, the anemometer on a pole that I repaired today closer to the vineyard on a pole, and the deep muddy furrows left by the truck that transported the parts for the panel and turbine.

Below, some surprise harvest from the garden that ran wildly away from me by late summer.  Made some yummy ratatouille and salsa from the lot.  Not pictured are the mammoth sweet potatoes harvested before the first frost.  They will last us throughout the winter.  here were a couple as large as softballs, and having never grown my own before, was eager to taste them.  I made a yummy sweet potato pie to share with friends during a fall harvest dinner we held here recently.

As we ready HU for winter, I look back on the year with a sense of both accomplishment and relief.  I'm forward to an externally imposed extended rest, and feeling very grateful for having been able to create this spot with the help of loving family and friends. Now we can all enjoy it, and get ready to hibernate as the nights grow colder.

Enjoy these lovely autumn nights, and keep on the lookout for shooting stars.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Praying mantis

There I was, enjoying the lavender fragrance and the buzz of the bees as I carefully trimmed this year's lavender growth in the front of the house.  And there was this very cheerfully posed Praying Mantis, stretching its legs, soaking up the sun, staring at me stare back at him or maybe her?  It stayed still long enough for me to run back inside to grab my air conditioned camera, which promptly frosted the lense when I went back into the summer heat.  Made for an interesting photo.

Lavender bounty

So the lavender is now neatly trimmed, the flowers fading into the fall, and the vines having a riot in the distant background.  The fieldstone wall is gradually building as I find more and more stones buried in the fields.

Not sure where the Praying Mantis went to rest next after the photo op, but for sure now long gone from the lavender bush that it was perched upon.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Late summer harvest

Learned a lot of lessons in the last week in my garden.  Here's the view from the table, under the shade umbrella.  You can see the olive tree seedling, if you look closely, which will be an espalier against the fence as it grows.  I planted the vegetable garden very late this season, so now I have only okra, sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, artichoke, pumpkins, horseradish, and various herbs growing in chaos.  I promise to do better next spring.  It was a small problem getting the fence built that caused the delay.

The tomatos threw a riot and invited their friend, which I learned is called a Writing Spider, and although it looks ferocious, it's not harmful to humans.  This is the female, the male is smaller and has a web spun in the next tomato plant.   Let's just say I left the tomatoes alone today.

Okay, so the second and third lessons I learned: how difficult it is to harvest flax from  field that is filled with weeds, and why the golden color is called flax.   The harvest took me a couple of hours, and was actually like a treasure hunt.  The stems are a golden yellow color at this time of summer.  

So our harvest yielded three sheaves, probably not a lot to make much from, but still pretty cool.  Here they are drying.  First step in the process of turning it into linen.  Next I'll strip the seed pods and save the flax seed.  After that, the step is called retting, and involves placing the stems back outside on wet grass to rot it just a little.  More to follow as we continue the process.

The lavender has grown a bit since planting a few months ago, and it was time today to trim it back so it forms a round shape nicely in the spring instead of flopping open in a spindly way.

The smell of lavender is permeating the entire house now.  These are some of the clippings of what was trimmed this morning.  I also learned today that lavender is very easy to trim..... if you do it when the plant is very young.

That's enough for now.

Cooler weather this week, very grateful for it.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Butterfly time

Orange Sulphur butterflies, just sitting on the hot gravel after a rainstorm.  The fields are filled with all kinds of butterflies, dragonflies, and the last of the fireflies.  Must be all the Queen Anne's Lace and clover I've been growing.

You can see some of the natural flowers popping on all over the fields.  Teke has stopped to examine the grass to make it look like he's busy doing something. Took three hours of mowing to reduce the grass to a small carpet.  It's a balance to keep beneficial insects around with natural ground cover, and keep away the fungus with minimal use of natural fungicides.

Yup, you are really seeing some early growth grapes, surprised me too!  On the left: table grapes.  On the right, our first bunch of HU grapes, Sauvignon Blanc.

Over 2,000 vines.  That's a lot of vines.

Hope you've made it through the hottest part of the summer, which seems like it was the entire summer and most of the spring too.  Almost time to enjoy the cooler temperatures as we approach fall.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Long hot soak

This spot seems to be the favorite of all of the four-legged members of our family.  First to roll in the freshly dug dirt, then to scratch in the sand, and now to stare at the bricks to encourage them to grow west a little bit more.  Fence was put up last weekend thanks to Country Living Fence and Frank's crew.  They did a terrific job on the vineyard and the veggie garden fence.   Sunday we'll shelter the Chardonnay replacement vines that are now budding.  Jennie (Schmidt Vineyard Management Consulting Company) is happy with the growth in the vineyard, but the hornworms are having too much fun with the vines.

 This weekend we'll put veggie starts in the garden.  I had at cherry tomato salad with fresh basil (both from the garden) along with a touch of shaved parmesan and spicy cracked black pepper for a yummy lunch today.

View from the southwest corner of the farm, looking through the flax and lavender fields towards the house and vineyard.   

Standing at the beginning of the lavender field looking back towards that southwest corner.  One of the most relaxing things to do on a weekend morning is to water toes and lavender while weeding and mowing.  The smell is terrific.

Almost as relaxing as a soak will be in this tub in the master bathroom.  


Monday, June 18, 2012

A little sunshine and water is all it takes...

Super vine reaching the first wire ahead of all the rest!  All of the replacement Chardonnay vines we planted a couple of weekends ago are now doing well.   The vines are working their way up the bamboo stakes and now come the Japanese beetles :(

The backyard patio is not forgotten, however, wet sand is not the easiest thing to transport in a wheel barrow, especially when the tires are flat.  Luckily, fix-a-flat is a great solution.  This sand base sits over a packed crush base, soon to be covered by antique brick pavers.  Slow, exhausting work, but really fun.

Labyrinth in the grass field....

Linden tree in late spring bloom.  The lighter leaves aren't a sunlight reflection, they're actually part of the flower.  It's starting to attract butterflies.  The three saucer magnolias  right in  front of the house are finally taking off this season.  We also planted peach, apple, pawpaw, quince, olive, pomegranate, fig, and almond trees, along with lilac and two other magnolia varieties.  And a stewartia tree.  I guess more accurately we planted sticks, because these bare root trees are small and puny right now, but will be big trees one day.

Front garden lavender doing very nicely.

Time for dinner......


Monday, June 11, 2012

Flax and Lavender

I was up early this morning to take advantage of the relative cool (80 degrees on waking and over 100 degrees expected today)  This was a lucky shot, I didn't know the small insect was on the flax flower until after I took the shot and it flew on my hand.  Then I looked at the photo carefully.  The flax is starting to bloom, wonder what it'll look like with all the plants blooming.

A view from the lavender fields looking back towards the house and vineyard, weeding and watering takes only a few hours every couple of weeks.  

Painting with plants.

Life is much different as a lavender plant, you must enjoy heat and drought to thrive.

The French lavender is thriving, the Spanish lavender not so much.  Grosso and Munstead and Miss Katherine are all doing well.  Provence is having the toughest time.  More picture to follow as the plants fill out over time.  One trimming soon will ensure a compact habit.

Stay well hydrated, it's really hot outside.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Transit of Venus and other progress

We ran outside to try to capture the Transit of Venus across the sun, but didn't have the proper lense to see it in the photo.  We were lucky to see the sun at all because it was behind clouds until just prior to sunset.  You have to use your imagination here to know that Venus is sprawling across the right lower corner of the sun here.  Imagine also that this house has seen at least three of these events since 1760.

This is what a stack of grapevine shelters looks like.  The two rows behind are completed shelters around the vines.

Hope and Teke making sure the bugs stay on the driveway and don't invade the vineyard.  Now you can see that all the shelters are constructed and protecting the young vines

Mia surveying her queendom and vineyard from the front porch.

First bouquet of the season, the intense fragrance from these David Austin roses is incredible.

Lavender is in full bloom now.

Lavender field flourishing under Teke and Hope's very somber and serious attention to their duties.

Veggie garden and patio very very slowly taking shape. We're waiting for the fence to plant veggies other than tomatoes.  

Seems like the weather is all over the map, but mostly really beautiful now.  We replaced over 30 Chardonnay vines to replace the ones that just didn't bud up, and have around 60 Sauv Blanc that need replacement  too, but aren't available now until Spring 2013.  Otherwise, the challenges with the Canadian Thistle continues, and although we're vigilant, we seem to be losing the battles lately.  The good news is that the muscadine survived transplant except for one vine.  

Solar panels will be complete in a few weeks, and the wind turbine is pending county zoning approval, which will take another month.  Green Energy from Easton is doing a terrific job developing our hybrid energy system to power the farm and house.

Hope you are enjoying the late spring.


Saturday, May 5, 2012


Sunrise at HU, just the right amount of rain and sunshine lately has caused spring to break out in a riot.

Teke was caught by surprise by the low flying crop duster....who is very careful not to hit the vineyard. Teke and Hope did fulfill their mission as vineyard dogs this morning and scared away tulip crunching deer from the frontyard.  They are going to be great deer guards!  Ty has slowly been putting up the shelters for the vines, only 2,700 plus vines means a whole lotta shelters to construct.  One row finished, 19 rows to go.

Surprise delivery this week, 120 lavender plants ready for planting party fun on Sunday.

The lavender beds are almost completely prepared, just have to measure the planting distance, and dig the spot.  

That's all for now, 20 muscadine waiting to go in the ground.