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Raised in a Barn…

Day-to-Day Life of a Country Mama

Gathering Grapes

When I asked Papa about where to find possum grapes like we used to pick, I was surprised when he said there were some in the tree next to the hay barn. I was even more surprised when we checked it and found that it was loaded with grapes. I got about three small buckets just picking what I could reach standing on the ground or on a small step ladder. Of course, that was stem and all.

After I picked them, the girls helped me sort and stem them. Savannah was the bigger help, obviously. Caroline mostly just put the grapes that I took off the stem in the pot for me. Other than getting a little purple-stained, this is such a great activity for little kids. I didn’t measure how many grapes we ended up with.

After the grapes were rinsed, I heated them in two batches and let them simmer until cooked. Grandma always brought them to an actual boil and let them cook until they popped. I didn’t go that extreme on cooking them, but I did cook them a little more than the Ball Blue Book suggests on turning standard grapes into unsweetened juice.

Possum grapes have a large seed area, which makes them more useful for juicing. I would put a big scoop of them in a mesh sieve and work the juice and a little pulp out through with a large spoon. Juicing by hand is hard work, but it yielded some great product! I ended up with two pots mostly full of juice. I set them in the fridge for heating and processing the day.

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Squash Problems

So I’ve been battling some powdery mildew on my squash plants. I know, big surprise there. I hadn’t really considered it enough of a problem in years past to fight. This year it hit me that the mildew could be the reason squash bugs then settle in. I realized that I usually saw the bugs show up a little while after the mildew. I’m wondering if the mildew weakens the plants enough for the bugs to then target them.

From what I have read there’s not much you can do to fight the mildew but cut off infected leaves. I’ve been doing that and thought I had it curbed. Well yesterday morning, I found that it has reared its ugly head again and I clipped a bunch more leaves. Then most of the way through I realized something. Part of the leaves I trimmed had silvery patches in them, not on them.

I did some reading and sure enough I’d made a mistake. Not paying attention as I trimmed in a disheartened manner, I trimmed some good leaves too. This brings me to a quick show-and-tell I felt I should pass on so others can possible learn from my mistake.

Above are leaves moderately infected with powdery mildew. It slowly covers the leaf and causes it to turn yellow then die. The mildew seems to like hot dry weather. I will continue looking for organic ways to combat it and pass it on. If you know of any tips, please comment below!

The leaves above are the ones with silvery patches that I misdiagnosed. Looking back it was really a stupid mistake to make, but there you have it. They were perfectly healthy at the time; it is caused by a genetic trait that shows up here and there in squash and related plants.

So there is my blunder for the week. I hope it helps keep someone else from doing the same. And I hope that it’s my last one for a little while!

Second Cutting

A definite blessing and answer to prayer; we are actually getting our second cutting from our top hayfield. By early to mid August, the field hadn’t grown hardly at all from the June cutting. The last month of rains really turned things around. The field grew a great round of grass. We have had to bale it in parts, dodging rains, but this will hopefully keep us from buying hay for this winter.

Grandma’s Roses

During these rains, Grandma’s roses began blooming again and look amazing. I didn’t realize that they would bloom as long as they had rain to grow. They are looking taller and full; I hope they will continue to thrive where they are.

I decided I would see how long the roses would last as cut flowers. I made me two little vases of them. It’s been five days and they are just now showing some wilting. I may have to bring me some in now and then to enjoy. I love having cut flowers on the table. I snipped a few basil flowers to mix in some green and white. It’s far from professional looking, but I like them.

Broccoli Fail

I forgot to mention that our broccoli sprouts didn’t make it. Not thinking, I removed their plastic covering, hoping to keep them from getting leggy. Instead it exposed them to hard rain and then an unexpected sweltering afternoon sun. The combination quickly killed them. Now that we are past this round of rain from Gordon, I think I may scatter a little seed again and see if I can still get some going.

Hummingbird Frenzy

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much this week! It’s been very busy, but I’ll catch you up on what’s going on next week. There’s haying, gardening, grape harvesting and all manner of early fall farm craziness. Until then, I had to share a note on the hummingbirds. The photo above doesn’t do it justice. It’s like the hummingbirds are preparing for the rains we have coming this weekend. They have been eating like crazy and they are all back again. My top numbers are around 10 or 12. They have been swarming the feeders and flowers. All I can figure is they must be tanking up for the rains from Gordon that are starting. It’ll be a soggy weekend, but a nice rest.

Broccoli Sprouts

We have a good number of broccoli sprouts. I started them in one of the tanks with some plastic across the top to help keep the soil evenly moist (the frequent rain certainly helped!). My plan is to keep as many of them as possible in the tanks. I believe that should make them easy to cover so I don’t have to deal with cabbage moth larvae like I did with my first planting. If I run out of room in tanks, I’ll find somewhere I can add a row of them and use a row cover. Hopefully, we’ll actually get to eat some of these!

New Clothesline

And the happy dance ensues! We now have a full-sized clothesline. Travis helped me pick out a spot. We measured and marked. He got them set for me the other day and we let the concrete cure a couple days.

A side note, I had to laugh at current society as I was reading up on suggested distances. Apparently clotheslines have become trendy and been dubbed “solar driers.” I guess giving them a new “green” name makes them more interesting to young folks. Clotheslines are great energy savers though!

But back to topic, Travis has added the lines and I’m all set to use it. The poles stand at about 6-foot tall and 25 feet apart, yielding 100 foot of useable line for hanging clothes. This is good because I am hoping to switch Caroline over to cloth diapers soon, which will increase my loads. I’m so excited to have this!

Death of Pets

I have never been comfortable with the number of lies that children in general society are told. One of these that I have always been amazed with is not explaining a pet’s death; claiming instead that the family pet ran away or went to a new home.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable and sad to try to explain to a young child about what happened. What is more sad is the missed opportunity to prepare that child for future losses. And even worse, when the child learns that you lied about it and begins to wonder what else you lied about.

This has been the year of introducing Savannah to the concept of death. The animal friends we have lost in the past 6 months have been a stray kitten, three dogs and one horse. I obviously didn’t go in-depth, but tried to explain a little on her level of understanding.

I would wait for Savannah to ask about the fact that she didn’t see the animal she expected to see. Each time I explained the cause (really bad sickness, very old), I received a wide-eyed, solemn look. At the confirmation that she wouldn’t get to see the animal again, she would lay her head on me for a big hug. We’d sit there for a bit while I reminded her that we could remember the fun times we had with said animal and that we should make the most out of enjoying time with the animals we still have.

After a few times of her double checking on the situation, I began to state it more as a fact and less as something we needed to sit and dwell on. She seems to have handled the knowledge well, and now tries to even explain to others that though it’s sad we lost a pet, it’ll be okay. I think it’s important that we acknowledge the sadness and work through the grieving, but focus on the positive. I hope this sticks with her and helps her in the future.

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