How does your garden grow?

Things are coming along in the garden!

Firstly, and thankfully, the strawberry season is coming to a close. We have pints and pints of strawberry jam, canned and frozen. We have cleaned and hulled berries individually frozen and bagged for the winter. We’ve had our fill of strawberry shortcake and fresh strawberries for breakfast, lunch and supper. And, as an added bonus this year, we were able to sell pints and pints of strawberries at our roadside stand!


The asparagus is also fading away:


We’re starting to pick snow peas now. As usual, they’re so good right off the plant that only about half the peas make it up to the house – the rest are consumed al fresco in the garden! Here’s a photo of our second planting.


We picked a small bunch of golden chard and had that sauteed with a chopped garlic scape (just learned what those are this year – it’s the little seed pod that appears this time of year on the garlic shoots) with dinner last night.


We’ve been eating tender mixed baby lettuce nearly every day!


There’s some romaine, too:


The corn is about 6 to 8 inches tall now. There are about 200 plants that took this year, so that should keep us well fed and leave plenty for freezing!


The cantaloupe and watermelon have sprouted – they were planted most recently in some extra space we had leftover.


We’ve picked patty pan squash and chopped it up in pasta salad last night – crunchy good! This picking in this photo might go on our pizza tonight!


Here’s a baby, still on the vine:


The giant butternut squash plants are looking healthy. These butternut squashes, called “Argonaut”, end up on average 15lbs or so when mature! And they taste fantastic! People teased us about them at first, but not after we gave them one to try!


The zucchini and cucumber are going slowly. I think they need a bit more water.





This will be a lovely winter carnival squash:


I weeded the carrots last week and I think they’re taking advantage of not having to compete with the weed roots and they’re doing great!


The beets are flourishing, too. We’d better pick some soon!


The snap peas are maturing, but it will be a little while before they’re ready to pick. Someone picked one yesterday to sample – the peas are SO sweet!


And the beans are finally looking nice. For some reason, the beans we’ve planted for the past two years in didn’t do so well this year. We over-sowed with some Italian green beans, so between the two varieties, we should have plenty of green beans.


And our grape vine is LOADED with tiny grape clusters! It’s pretty amazing, because last year we got ONE bunch of grapes!


The rhubarb is down there, too – 3 plants. But it’s too sad looking to show you(!) Suffice it to say, it’s still alive – a first for me to have it live 2 seasons in a row!

The onions continue to grow – we have 3 varieties, sweet, yellow and red. We just did some MAJOR weeding, so that should make them quite happy!


I have some celery in for the first time, but it’s goin
g pretty slowly.


And the eggplant is doing well, but no blossoms yet! Last year we put it in when it was a bit younger, and the flea beetles did a number on it. This year it was more mature and survived, plus we put way more in, so we may actually get a few eggplants this year!


Here’s our biggest green pepper…the plants themselves are looking great!


The tomatoes are finally perking up. Here’s one row:


Here are some of the larger ones:


and some cute little cherry style:


Last – the potatoes…white and yellow are looking good – not all of them sprouted for some reason, but we should get a reasonable amount of potatoes.


And the sweet potatoes are coming along just fine. I think we have about 40 vines that survived the initial planting.


I think that covers it! I actually didn’t realize how many different things we have planted until I did this little inventory! And that doesn’t include all of the herbs we have up here by the house and all of the flowers that went in this year out front AND the apple trees that are bearing fruit for the first year!

What a blessing to have a part in bringing this place to life! And to be able to feed ourselves from our garden is a most incredible blessing! Even though my thumb and forefinger tips are sore nearly black from pulling weeds, I wear the stains proudly, though I’m not sure why they say people have green thumbs, mine’s definitely more black!

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Today the Church celebrates the birth of the predecessor of Our Lord, St. John the Baptist.

There is so much to say about St. John!

He was the herald of the good news of the Savior’s impending arrival! His mother, St. Elizabeth, was the cousin of the Morning Star – Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When Mary came to assist Elizabeth in the last three months of her pregnancy with St. John, St. John leaped in his mother’s womb in the presence of his cousin, Our Lord, in the womb of His mother, Mary!

The Catholic Church teaches that this was the moment of St. John’s sanctification in the womb.

Our Lady, we are taught, was conceived without original sin, but we are taught that St. John, unlike any other creature save Our Lady and St. Joseph, was born without original sin through this meeting of Our Lord prior to both of their births.

So…what am I getting at? 

Today is a feast (actually a solemnity) – our family celebrated by going out for a very decadent breakfast this morning, and we’re off soon to make a Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament to close our day…

…but ALSO what I’m getting at is something I discovered about nature last year, and how my Faith plays a role in it. 

About this time last year we were watching an Australian television show called McLeod’s Daughters. It’s about some women who run a sheep/cattle ranch in the Outback. They were dealing with a problem of St. John’s Wort growing in their pastures, and I was trying to remember back to vet school why St. John’s wort in one’s pasture was a problem. I looked up the plant, and sure enough I thought to myself, as I looked at the photo of the plant, “I think I saw that flower down by the garden yesterday!”

I walked down to the garden the next morning and yes – there was the plant – and it was growing all over the place in the lot adjacent to ours!


St. John’s wort is a plant that is used medicinally by many herbalists to treat depression. It can be toxic to livestock (causes photosensitivity, among other things, resulting in sunburn and can even cause death), though, and it is considered an invasive species. I don’t think we’re going to be able to get rid of it, though – and I don’t think our sheep are suffering depression or are in need of a quick tan, so we’ll probably be avoiding feeding it to them any time soon!

BUT – the really cool thing (to me, as a Catholic) is that St. John’s wort got it’s name because it blooms around the time of St. John the Baptist’s feast day – today! How cool is that?!

Forgive me, but I get kind of excited when my faith has an influence in naming plants! And when nature reminds us of our Christian Faith…it’s a good thing! 

Happy Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist! And if you find yourself a bit down in the dumps, give us a call and we’ll send you a care package of yellow happy flowers!


Hymn from Vespers

The great forerunner of the morn,

The herald of the Word, is born;

And faithful hearts shall never fail

With thanks and priase his light to hail.


With heavenly message Gabriel came

That John should be that herald’s name,

And with prophetic utterance told

His actions great and manifold.


John, still unborn, yet gave aright

His witness to the coming light;

And Christ, the Sun of all the earth, 

Fulfilled that witness at his birth.


Of woman-born shall never be

A greater prophet than was he,

Whose mighty deeds exalt his fame

To greater than a prophet’s name.


All praise to God the Father be,

All praise, eternal Son, to thee,

Whom with the Spirit we adore

For ever and for evermore.



Photo shoot

Time for updated photos of the gang! And also a mini-genetics lesson. See how cool homeschooling is? My 8 year old was talking about genetics the other day, without even realizing it! She can see it happening each breeding season, up close and personal!

Thanks to a good friend of ours for these gorgeous shots…

Here’s our matriarch, Millie, with her twins:


Millie’s ALWAYS on the lookout…for danger…for food. What else does a sheep have to concern herself with?! Millie is the most amazing mom. When she sees us coming with a snack, most all of the other sheep run to us, but Millie almost always takes time to let her lambs nurse a little before she runs over. I always see her making sure they’re following her when she moves from place to place, too. I love seeing these maternal qualities!

Here’s Laverne and Shirley. They are really quite a pair! Their markings are incredible! It’s funny that one ended up with horns and the other is polled. This is controlled genetically, and their sire, Monty, has mixed polled/horned genetics, so he always has a chance of producing offspring that are polled or have smaller than normal horns or scurs.


Bruna and her mom, Bindi.


Bruna is also polled. She’s our gorgeous spotted moorit. Her sire, Monty, carries a gene for the moorit (brown) color. Her brother, below, may also carry this gene. As Bruna ended up polled because of her sire’s genetics, this little ram lamb appears to have smaller horns, meaning that he is probably carrying the polled gene, and expresses this by having smaller than normal horns.


Here’s Roxanne’s singleton, Esther.


She’s a real sweetie. Unfortunately she got her head caught in the fence (the grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side, dont’cha know?) and broke off one of her little horn stubs when she was younger. Her left horn is not quite as pointy or long as the right now. She and her mother are related to Millie. Great stock, both of them. Here she is, striking a pose:


OK – that concludes the pictures from my friend’s fancy schmancy camera…now a few that I took last week…

A nice shot of Bruna’s brother:


Here you can see Esther’s horns. Did I mention that Esther has the silkiest fleece of all the lambs?


And here’s her mom, Roxanne, who’s doing quite a good job as a first time yearling mom:


Millie’s looking so brown these days. This is from the phaeomelanin pigmentation that she exhibits so strongly. Roxanne also has it, as do Millie’s lambs:


Here she is being all maternal:


A nice shot of her ram lamb and his gorgeous horns:


Here’s the famous Daisy, our first-borne lamb at Morning Star Meadows. She’s really looking nice these days! She’s polled.


And her mother, Matilda, my personal favorite:


Molly, chomping down with her twins:




Hanging out with mom…


Too nice a shot to leave out…aren’t they just so photogenic?


Here are the boys hanging out together:


Icelandic Genetics 101 pop quiz tomorrow! OK, so maybe not…

Anyway – hope you enjoyed the photo update! And yes, the lambs are getting big fast! This weekend they’ll already be having their first vaccination!

lambs "on the rocks"!

We’ve moved the flock again – they’re mowing new territory in our back yard, and we’ve incorporated an exposed bit of a huge rock in their pasture now by moving the portable electric fence!  


Never did I dream when we moved here that I’d be sitting on our deck watching our lambs play on this rock!  Laverne is definitely “Queen” of the rock – Daisy keeps trying to get up and falls quite ungracefully at one point.  Millie’s little ram lamb, who is just gorgeous, with the nicest set of horns of all our lambs this year, can be seen trying to enter the fray!




Well, all of that heat earlier this week has resulted in a boomer crop of strawberries, all ripening at once!

After picking about 2 pounds of beautiful mixed baby lettuces while it was still nice and cool this morning, we were shocked when we sauntered over to the strawberry patch and saw so many ripe berries!

Here’s one of about 4 or 5 bowls picked JUST this morning, fresh from the field:



Mind you, we’re also helping pick strawberries for the Wingates at Studio Farm.  They have 500 plants ALSO ripening like mad these days.  We spent the better part of the morning picking there yesterday, and they were kind enough to pay us in beautiful heirloom vegetable plants for our garden!  I’ve also requested canning lessons as part of our “payment!”  I love bartering with wonderfully experienced gardeners and home canners!

SO – what do we do with all of those gorgeous strawberries?

First, it’s washing and hulling.  We measured out enough for a few batches of freezer jam (since I don’t can, and freezer jam is so nice because the fruit doesn’t need to be cooked.)  The excess was happily snacked upon, and the rest is getting frozen for smoothies and milkshakes.  Wont’ it be awesome to pull out a bag of vine ripened strawberries in December?!



The girls got right to work on the freezer jam.  Mashing the berries is the fun part.  Then you stir in the fruit pectin and sugar:  



After it sets up for a few minutes, it goes into the jars.

Here’s a few filled:



Middle daughter got fancy with the labels:



And eldest got fancy with the fabric:



Hungry yet?

Then the girls tried to get fancy with the camera (anything to delay getting back to school!)



Oops!  Someone’s hand is in the way!

OK – I think this is it…looks like something from the cover of a magazine, doesn’t it?  



Guess what’s for lunch at Morning Star Meadows today?

It’s Hot!

Man, is it ever hot! The sheep are hot. Thankfully, they’ve had their haircuts. Here’s Monty and Clancy.

And even though it’s one of those dog days out there, we’ve put in a hard day of work (starting at 6:30am weeding in the garden!),  and a shower never seemed so rewarding and refreshing than it is after getting really dirty and sweaty — at least for Mom — the kids, on the other hand, are in the sprinkler, screaming and giggling!  It’s great when kids work for sprinklers and popsicles!!

Halter Training

Between weeding the garden and splitting and stacking wood for next winter, the kids have found a new and amusing pastime that also keeps the lambs busy!  After dinner the kids grab some halter/leads and run down to catch a lamb and lead it around (their secret “weapon” is a stash of sheep feed in their pocket!)  I think this will certainly pay off in the future, hopefully making the sheep that much easier to handle when they’re adults!

By the way – the kids made this halter-lead at the CT Blue Ribbon Sheep Conference with the 4H kids!


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