Thursday, July 31, 2008

Humm-Dinger of a Storm

Can you see the camouflaged little hummingbird taking a rest on the red crocosmia branch there? She has been such a joy and a delight to watch, actually coming right up to my face and the MAN's on the same day to get a closer look. Hard not to react with a wild swing of the arms imagining it to be a cicada or hornet coming in for the attack. But I go out expecting her now and am surprised at her curious nature. I guess being able to zoom to the highest treetops in a millisecond gives her an edge of security that other birds can't fathom.
Oh, that humm-dinger of a storm on Sunday?We knew it was coming, but it was still miles off.Could have easily still been outside putting tools away or finishing up last minute work in the garden when the rogue lightning bolt came out of nowhere with a canon-like explosion of light and sound. It glanced off the ancient sycamore tree at the corner of the house, knocking off some bark and leaves, but it's final destination was our phone line which promptly zapped the phone/fax machine, the wireless modem and the MAN's computer...all attached to the phone line. Took four days for the phone company to send a tech out to repair it. Been exceedingly frustrating to be out of commission in the communication department for that long. Been even a little more concerned that my hearing hasn't returned to normal yet in my right ear...was right inside by the window near that tree when it hit. Thank goodness we weren't on the porch, as is often the case, as a storm approaches. Is it my imagination or are these thunderstorms picking up in intensity and frequency? I have finally submitted to fear and dread at an impending storm, instead of romantic anticipation of a good garden soaking and cuddling under the blankets. Good grief!

The Merry Mead Gathering

With nearly 25 people in attendance for the Mead Making workshop on Saturday night and guest speaker Greg Fink at the helm, the farm was a rockin' good place to be for feasting, fellowship and the flowing of fine fermented beverages! A truly great time was had by all. It was a glorious evening by the gardens, as well, and a bit cooler outside than in the Farm at Coventry kitchen packed with bodies enjoying the finest of Greg's tasty wares. For my Kansas connoisseur: I served strudel with the sweet dessert mead, chocolate brownies with the dry blackberry melomel (couldn't help my chocolate craving regardless of the expert recommendation) and fresh herbed goat cheese with the sparkling apple cyser. There was also an excellent plum mead that was my own personal favorite.
Greg brought along a few of his mead horns that were beautifully carved by a friend. He shared the proper holding technique of the mead-filled horn so as not to suffer the dreaded backslash burp and wet shirt that results from holding it the wrong way! A heathen faux' paux to be sure.
We were also greatly excited by the last minute news that our very own bee-wrangling bud, Trey, would be in attendance for the event, selling the first honey harvested from the Farm at Coventry colonies in the back 40!! He was happy to report a harvest of over 600 pounds with still more to glean from the remaining hives. We purchased a 5 gallon bucket in anticipation of our own mead making excursion and were gifted a case of raw honey for home use. It is sublime. I swear I taste shades of catnip and anise hyssop in the mix...those little bees are certainly workin' it hard.
Even more precious, if that is possible, was the beautiful beeswax that Trey was able to take away from that 600 lbs of honey...only 2 pounds, believe it or not, but it is the finest gold I could imagine. I put it on a pedestal in the center of the feating table for all to admire. Take a lookey see... I think I see a special bee-keeper's salve in Trey's future. Hey, move over, Burt. Oh it isn't Burt's Bees anymore, is it? It's Clorox's Bees now. I prefer to keep my salve making to small batches, made with hand harvested plants and fine beeswax such as this. Can't imagine that kind of superior quality when you're projecting $500 million a year. Keeping it real and small here on the farm...better to know folks like this, bringing together good home grown food, swapping cool tales and ales, and keeping the fine art of 'crafting' of all kinds, alive here in Pennsylvania. Raising the mead horn to all who attended Saturday. Would surely love to make this an annual event. Perhaps I could convince the MAN to do a brewing class. A Beef and Beer, perhaps. hmmm. I like the sound of that. Beer brewing is normally a winter time happening. Plenty of time to plan for that...stay tuned

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Foto Funk...

A breathless return from a midsummer blogging vacation...I lost my daily dose of blogging discipline a few weeks ago. It was a combination of top priority issues, a power surge of Farm at Coventry business after a large and colorful feature appeared in a local newspaper and intense preparations for a major presentation at the International Herb Association conference last weekend. More on that adventure later. However, my true loss of blogging mojo came after spending an entire day sorting through and choosing a selection of photographs for a new series of Farm at Coventry note cards. By the time I got the call from the printer to come and view the proofs, I was already designing my packaging and display. This was 'phase one' in an effort to showcase the photographs in anticipation of unveiling a 2009 calendar at years end. Since the fall of last year, I have been racking up seasonal photos around the farm, with a critical eye, dumping many but meticulously storing many more in month-appropriate folders on my computer. It was a 12 month plan, which I have been faithfully executing since October of 2007. In ten months of exploring this piece of land on my hands and knees and tippy toes in all sorts of weather I have captured nearly 5,000 images. So, when I walked into the print shop I came prepared to plunk down a big note card order on the cream of the crop....until I saw the proofs. In a matter of seconds, ten months of photographic splendor began to unravel for me. A little background: Last fall, a graphic designer at the print shop helped me with a small series of note cards that I pulled together for the Christmas season. He seemed to be having trouble with the images that I emailed him. He kept noting that they were 'too rich' and made some suggestions on modifying my camera settings, to which I complied. He also made suggestions on cropping the original images in his own 'creative style'. The job, which should have been straight forward, was taking too long because of his own admitted 'tweaking' of my images. Tensions between the force of two creative minds ran high. The original quote for the job was reasonable. The final cost, after his unrequested 'tweaking' and my insistence that they be 'untweaked' was astronomical. I complained first to the manager and then the owner of the shop and they eventually adjusted the difference and I got my cards printed to my own specs. I left happy with my victory, but exhausted from the experience of 'butting heads' with someone who claimed to have a degree and major experience in this arena. I have a good eye, but I am somewhat lacking in understanding all the bells and whistles of the digital and electronic gadgets I own. Interestingly, a week later I discovered that the employee was let go from his position. I was secretly relieved that I would have someone new to work with in the future. However, all these months later, I was again reminded how this fellow inflicted his 'expertise' upon me. His sage advice on my camera settings has come back around to kick me from behind. When I mentioned this to the girl holding my oh-so-less-than-perfect new proofs, her mouth dropped open and she excused herself to bring the manager out. I soon discovered that the 5,000 photos that I have been gathering for nearly a year were not suitable for print. The resolution setting on my camera was set too low for a sharp crisp image. I had to wonder if it was true ignorance on his part or a deliberate attempt to sabotage my future photos. I was (and still am) devastated by this discovery. I left the print shop biting my lip and forcing back tears until I could get to my truck. They were extremely apologetic, offering to try to 'tweak' my images on photoshop free of charge to get them clearer....I said, Thanks, no more tweaking. Sigh. Long story, I know....but it crushed me for a few weeks.I have finally pulled my camera from it's pouch again and began the tedious process of reading the user's guide that came with it. Good start. I have adjusted my settings and moved forward. With more than a bit of trepidation, I started shooting again and made a few more adjustments. I'm looking into digital photography classes and perhaps replacing my 10 year old camera. The good news is that all of those photos that I have collected are perfectly suited for web viewing so I will never be lacking for shots for the blog and the website. Another learning curve I've begun to tackle. Another lesson learned. whew, tough one. But glad to be back....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Cautious Camera Caper

Been sneaking around the back yard with my camera like a secret agent in disguise, quiet like a mouse until I'm spied from above by the dreaded is the sneaky week in snapshots :
The MAN had to restring some of the hops vines which are so laden with papery fruits that the strings were beginning to break under the weight of them. Note to MAN self: Next year spring for the heavy duty twine that's a little more pricey...but worth the time saved in the long run!

The boy made this new little fireplace patio for me this summer...finally fired it up the other night. Fire may have tamed the savage winged beasts

After many years of pruning perfection, the MAN's concord grape vines are coughing up an enormous load of fruit this summer. Really looking forward to this harvest!

daylily at daybreak

the bee balm is 'swaying in the beeze' at dusk

sunshine and shadow spider

Waving the White flag...

What the heck? I am all for sharing the land and it's gifts with all creatures great and small but, I've had enough with this mockingbird couple already! It's become so bad that crossing the threshold to go out the back door provokes an angry verbal greeting or swooping attack from above. Forget about even getting in the herb garden. There's just no getting up there without a body guard keeping an eye out while I bend over. I just bent over once to pull a weed, and was attacked from the rear...and I do mean 'rear'! LOL I was so startled that I pulled a perfectly good white sage out by the roots. Sweet Birch (Birke) is also a victim of the attacks. The male is relentless whenever she is wandering around outside. I am at a loss as what to do. Sweet talking and peace signs didn't work, neither does loudly staking my human claim to planting that there rose bush that they call home. Mockingbirds never sleep either...those who have heard them singing all night long already know this to be true. These aren't singing their happy mocking songs right's more of a constant hissing I hear. I will just continue working inside today with my long list of indoor chores and hope those babies fly the coop real soon. Guess we'll be holding a raffle to see who holds the brooms at this Saturday's Homestead Herbalism class because, dang it, two winged creatures will NOT be holding 15 women hostage when there is so much to be done outside!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Back on Track...

Boy, it's great to be back in my garden after such a hectic week. Now, if I can just make peace with the mockingbird family that decided to move in to my apothecary rose while I was gone. Cannot turn my back on these parents for an instant! Better get the boy's hockey helmet to wear until these baby mocks fly away.
Swallowtail larvae just LOVE the fennel, dill and parsley...their digestion must be superb!Look at this trickster butterfly posing as sunflower petals...too cute.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Scenes from the Heemat ...for Patricia

Idyllic scene...all the way around
Friend Patrick's 18th century carpet loom
High tech rides for the kids
nanny's nap in the shade

Kutzschteddel Fescht

There's no place like home
There's no place like home
There's no place like home

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No Wurst for the Wear...

Little time for blogging this week as I am spending days at the Kutztown Folk need to load up the Farm at Coventry wagon, though. This week, I am putting on my other hat, or should I say bonnet?! The Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts was invited to have a seat in the big tent this year which is a very big honor. This festival is the big time! Here is mei 'Schweschder' , Jesse who has been talking up a blue streak about the PA German healing tradition known as powwow, or Braucherei, in the dialect. Too bad they spelled it wrong on our sign...guess nobody in Berks County will notice that misspelling...yeah, right. Anyway , just thought I might share a few images from the festival. I gotta run. Time to braid my hair, pin on my skirt and pick enough lavender to keep my hands busy while I talk.toottoot! first stop for kansas jenny....grilled brat and kraut with sweet potato fries...mmmmmmThe famous Claypoole hex signs...bought my first yesterdayAcres of quilts in the quilt still my heartLike a gut Deitsch woman, ending the day cooking "fleesch" for the family...couldn't come home without it


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