Thursday, June 30, 2011

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled travelog.....

....for this important harvest message.
I'm having a squeefest here! This is the third year I've planted a garden and the first year I've had any kind of yield--because the groundhog and the birds wiped me out every year. The groundhog found at least five different ways to dig into/climb over the fencing despite our changing the fencing twice and he/she leveled all the plants, including the raspberries; the birds attacked the blueberries and left us with 8 berries to ourselves last year, and pulled up and ate a lot of the seedlings. We now have a 10' fence around the garden that extends 4' underground, and 100 yds of bird netting over the berries and sprouts. I HAVE BERRIES AND LETTUCE AND PEAS! THE KOHLRABI AND CABBAGE AND CARROTS ARE GROWING MADLY!
Blueberries, black raspberries and snap peas picked this morning

Black raspberries from Monday

Rutabega sprouts

Catnip startings--I must be crazy to think the neighborhood cats will leave these alone

 Having started my seeds indoors in late February every year, it's disheartening (to say the least) to have the wildlife consume my work in a matter of hours in June every year. I have tried different fencing systems, I've run outside uncountable times to shoo them, I've used a paintball gun to shoot over their heads and eventually to shoot at them (paintball guns are notoriously difficult to aim, so hitting anything smaller than a human was impossible--but so very satisfying to see purple paintballs splat on the ground where the animal had been). I've finally beaten them! Yee-haw!

I also washed the newest yarn I've made. Not sure if these will go out for sale or stay with me. I really like the three white/blue/green skeins as they will make a marled knit fabric and there may be enough for a vest for me, the yellow/green and red/blue/lime/white skeins will be enough for scarves for abused women who have gone to a shelter for assistance--it's a charity close to my heart.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Belated apology

I also wanted to apologize for my 3-week absence. We've had a family member in the hospital and we've been running around like crazy people. Hopefully, I can go back to weekly posts in a week or so when things are more settled.

European vacation, Part 5--Beer and chocolate!

Monday, May 9–Before setting out for the day, we stopped at the Belgian postoffice in town to mail the flax back home. No one there spoke English, we do not speak French. The best we could do was husband’s smattering of high school Spanish, which is at least similar to French. What an interesting 30 minutes THAT was!
We set off for Trier, Germany by way of Luxembourg. I knew that the Romans had expanded their empire through Europe but was unaware of just how much major construction they did. The Black Gate and ampitheater in Trier were humbling, especially to the engineer. We tend to think construction techniques were invented recently, but the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks were the experts!

Trier center and part of Black Gate

We followed the Our River north from Trier because Skip wanted to see Vianden, Luxembourg. What an incredible little town, perched on the sides of a steep valley with the castle looming overhead! We had dinner and local beer in the hotel situated on a hairpin turn near the top of the valley, where we could see down the valley and upwards to the town wall and tower defenses. I found it interesting that the towers were only half-round, protruding outwards from the wall and being flat on the inside of the wall.  
Vianden Castle
The half-tower on the city wall

Tuesday, May 10–This time, we decided to stay closer to home and visit Our Lady of Avioth Basilica. Built in the 13th century, the basilica is a little marvel of Gothic architecture with unique gargoyles and lacy stonework.

  From there, we drove over to Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval to tour the ruins from the fire of 1252 and taste the famous Trappist beer, which they’ve brewed since at least 1628. As the beer is not sold at the monastery, we decided on a late lunch of salad, cheese and beer in Florenville. Interestingly, we were turned out of the first restaurant because food was no longer being served–the lunch period was considered to be finished at 1:30! So we wandered across the street, where the owner was quite happy to converse with us in English and serve us plates of salad and cheese. One last stop down the street at Les Chocolats d'Edouard, considered to be one of the top ten chocolateries in the world. I had no trouble buying chocolate even though no one spoke English!
Last but not least, a few views of the countryside:

Next: I find one of my ancestral homes

Saturday, June 4, 2011

European vacation, Part 4--Chateaus, castles and puppies

Saturday, May 7–I love the Saturday markets in Europe. They’re usually held in the town center square and have everything you could want–the fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, fish–just wonderful to see and smell! On the advice of our hostess, we drove to Sedan, FR for the market. Unfortunately it was a disappointment. Apparently you needed to arrive before dawn to find a parking spot, and the stalls we saw from a distance were not selling anything we were interested in or could easily transport back home in our luggage. However, we DID find the local chateau high on the hill behind town. So we found a parking space and took a walk around the chateau as it was not open for viewing.

Then we drove back to Bouillon for lunch (Skip found the steamed mussels to be delightful, while I had a veggie pizza). We walked back across the bridge (most town centers are closed to cars on Saturdays so people can enjoy shopping and lunch without having to dodge cars) and drove up the hill to the ‘castle’. This isn’t really a castle but more of a military outpost to defend the town, but it belonged to Godfrey, Lord of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine, and leader of the First Crusade. He sold his castle and all his lands to finance himself and others in the quest for the Holy Grail/Holy Land. Once the Crusaders took control of Jerusalem, Godfrey became the first ruler, eschewing the title ‘king’. It’s an amazing military outpost, and I don’t believe there was any way to approach the castle or surrounding lands without being spotted by the watchers high on the hill. (photos coming soon, they're still on husbeast's computer)

Sunday, May 8–After all the driving, visiting, and walking around the past week, we decided to spend the day in the garden, listening to birds (cuckoos!), reading (Skip), knitting (me) and playing with the dogs. Honcho (2 years old) loves to chase things and play; Einstein (7 years old) just sits back, lets the silly youngster chase things, and insists on being petted/rubbed/scratched as soon as Honcho leaves to chase the ball. Honcho, on the other hand, reinvents the game of chase every time–if you try to retrieve the ball from him, he moves it back in his mouth so you can’t get it; it you teach him to drop the ball, he’ll chase and retrieve it but only return halfway across the garden. He wants YOU to go after HIM for the ball! We ended up playing with them for a bit every night after dinner, and they looked for our car to return to the parking lot every day. I miss those two rascals.
Honcho taking a rest
Einstein--don't ya just love that face?

On the drive to Sedan, France
Farm field on the drive to Sedan, France

Next: Two more countries, chocolate and beer!