Saturday, July 4, 2015

We need more time...

By Yulia

It has been a while since the last time we have written anything on our blog. Well, there has been a lot happening here lately. Here it is, in a nutshell: working on the new siding of the house; putting in a mudroom, working on the computer (this one is for making money! :)), taking trips to Lviv to get more building/renovation supplies (the traffic is crazy in Lviv this time of the year!); weeding, mulching; harvesting; cleaning out the sheds (there's a lot of junk here!); not to mention the basics -- preparing food, maintaining the house and maybe resting sometimes. I think the next post we do, it will be about our daily routine, so you can get a feel for what our day looks like.
 Yes, we do need more time. Now, that the days are the longest of the year, ten o'clock comes without us even knowing it. There is so much to be done...Well, there is so much that we want to get done! Instead of words, we have for you a lot of pictures and very little words. Like I said -- no time! 
For the past week we've been sleeping outside in this tent that we set up next to our outside shower cabin. This is actually not a sleeping tent, but a camping kitchen. It's 3 by 3 meters and 2 meters tall. The idea was to get something big enough where we can stand up fully and don't feel claustrophobic with the ceiling being very low. However, my  main requirement for the tent was the night sky. I wanted to be able to see the moon and the stars. Conveniently enough, all four sides of this tent roll up and we can sleep with just the mosquito screens zipped up. It's an amazing feeling to breath the fresh air and to feel the earth beneath us all night long. We also found out that it helps us to wake up earlier without an alarm. We set up this tent for my birthday, so I could spend the night under my birthday stars alone. We'd like to make this a new birthday tradition.
Good morning! Most of our days start with some fresh fruit/berries and/or green juice. 
       The juice that is made consists mostly of freshly harvested greens from our garden, such as collard greens, kale, orach, spinach, cilantro, parsley, mint (chocolate mint is our favorite, thank you Teri from Runnymede Farm!) and a variety of lettuces. I also add a whole pealed lemon, some ginger root and a few apples to make a seriously delicious green juice. It is a great start of the day! Yes, it does take some time to prepare it and even more time to clean the juicer afterwards (my least favorite part of the process!), remember, we still don't have running water in the house -- but nothing else compares to freshly made juice, in our opinion. One last tip: make sure to use a good juicer to get the most out of your greens/fruits/veggies.

    Yay for our strawberries that have been feeding us for about three weeks now! We're having a good harvest this year. Pictured above is one of our first harvests resting on a burdock leaf, nature's disposable plate.
We have a few varieties of strawberries growing in our garden. This variety is one of the best. They are  sweet and extra juicy. Also look pretty darn good!

The lavender is in full bloom. I've collected a few bundles and hung it in our bedroom above our bed. Later in the season some lavender sachets will be made with it. 

Honeyberries. Their taste is very similar to blueberries. These were the earliest berries in our orchard. I would definitely recommend growing these, especially for those in more northern climates. These bushes are very decorative, fast to produce and are not afraid of late spring frosts, not to mention, the berries are tasty. 

It's our first time growing these purple shelling peas. They sure look pretty, but I find their taste to be too bitter for my liking. Michael, on the other hand, loves them and finds them only slightly bitter. Different people -- different tastes. BTW, it is the pods that are purple, the peas inside are still green. 
Peony flowers are always so fleeting. Their blooms don't last very long, but they smell wonderful!  
   One of our neighbors was cutting down his old ash trees. He had a few huge ashes that he decided to sell in Lviv for boards. The thinner branches were chopped to be used as firewood and some of it was shared/sold to the neighbors. Another neighbor brought us a carriage full of that firewood for a total of $5. The wood needed to be chopped, so it gave Michael a good opportunity to try out the chainsaw. The good thing about ash trees is that they can be be burned as firewood green. This is also one species of tree that is popular for coppicing. They are fast growing and rather abundant in our area. We've collected a few self-seeded ashes on our property and will be planting them for that specific purpose.  

Work on the outside of the house continues. On to the next step: mudroom installation. The mudroom will be placed at the top of the concrete steps. As a side note, do you see that gray blob on the right by the foundation? That's Levko sleeping his young-cat life away. 

 The animals are supervising the project. 
 Levko is Levko, who is always Levko, becuase he's a Levko! Levko, why do you clean yourself so much, and yet remain a grey dumpster cat? (Joking...we love him!)
Inside the mudroom construction. Laska has found a good spot for resting.


Working (at) it.

A lot of progress has been made on the mudroom, as you can see. And I am sure you can also see how uneven the walls of our house are (look at the line where the mudroom meets the window).
Harvested some linden blossoms. They will be dried and used for tea in the winter time. Our two linden trees are loaded with blooms this year. Their intoxicating aroma fills the air. The bees are in seventh heaven and so are we.
We like lilies. These are part of our herbal path. We often see bees and bumblebees taking a dip in their pollen.
Catmint is loved by the bees!

Another bee favorite! A Veronica species. 
Pink yarrow that was planted last year is starting to flower. I got the seeds when we were in the States driving to or from the West coast somewhere along the way. Good memories.

A snapshot of some of our veggie plots. The brassicas: purple sprouting broccoli, romanesco broccoli, collard greens, Tuscan cabbage, early green cabbage. Also, purple onions, Chinese Hilton cabbage, stock celery, dill, carrots, beets and self seeded tomatillos and borage everywhere. 

Some self-seeded cilantro in flower.
Our tiny gooseberry bushes will also be feeding us this year. These will turn red once they are ready.
Roses by the house. The previous owner was a rose connoisseur. We have a few different varieties.
A pleasant surprises out in the orchard -- fireweed.

Another surprise: St. John's Wort

Thelma Sanders sweet potato squash and red decorative sunflowers next to the compost boxes are doing really well.
 Toma: Arhhh, I'm so tired from weeding....!

 The herbal walking path. Not the best picture, but you get the idea. It has a lot of different herbs and flowers.

We hope you don't find these images too boring. This makes up the majority of our world today. It is our little sanctuary of sanity in the world oh so crazy. Дякуємо за увагу! ;)

NOTE: Some of these pictures are a bit outdated, since I started writing this post about two weeks ago, but never got around to finishing it up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Field notes from home

By Yulia

Last year, May and part of June turned out to be the busiest months for us here. This year seems to be repeating the pattern. We've been very busy the whole
month of May, hence not too many blog posts. Of course it is the time of planting and tending the garden, but it is by far not the only activity we have been involved in lately. Yes, to be able to continue to move forward, multitasking is a must for us living here. Planning, fixing, doing, redoing, growing, cutting down -- creating our space here, takes a lot of effort. It builds not only physical, but also mental and emotional stamina. Being in the process of it all, right in the middle of this creation, it is, sometimes, very easy for us to forget how much has been done, how much we have done to make it happen. But there are times when we stop for a moment and take a look around. Wow! A lot has changed since we first arrived here.
Allow me to take you on a walk around our place and show you what is happening:
A beauty.
We've been eating our own green salads for over a month now. Sometimes I harvest salads and sometimes I harvest hearts! Yes, the violas will also be eaten.
Planted a few heads of rhubarb brought from the grandparent's. Thickly mulched it with straw to keep the weeds down and the roots cool.
A few plants are self re-seeding in our garden, like this borage. Called cucumber grass in Ukraine. It's bristly and smells like a fresh cucumber. We add it to our salads and juice it. Later in the season it will produce vibrant purple flowers, which are beloved by the bees. Calendula, ground cherries, tomatillos, red orach and dill are also popping up all over the place. 

Lavender is soon to flower. 
Elder is starting to flower. Last year, I dried it for tea, but this year I also wanted to try something  new.
An elderflower champagne that is. I used Susun Weed's recipe that I found on Youtube. It was very simple and quick to make, hopefully it is also tasty. 

Can you spot those valerian plants in front? Are they supposed to be that tall!? I'm not sure if you can tell, but they are about 1.5 meters high. We have some wild valerian growing by the spring and it is definitely not that big. 
Apples, apples, apples...we have over 20 apple trees growing on our properties. We didn't plant them. They were already here when we arrived. This year almost every single one is loaded with fruit. We shall see what the harvest is like this year.
Strawberries are also doing exceptionally well this year. Last year I added a few more varieties and they are also flowering a lot. We are expecting strawberries in about two weeks.
Pictured here is our plant nursery. It is in the process of being moved, yet again. This is my third moving it, but I think this time I found just the perfect spot: it stays cool during the hot summer days and it is well sheltered from wind. I've been adding a lot of freshly planted pots to our nursery lately. For some it has taken just a few weeks to emerge, Catalpa, Norway Spruce, Ponderosa Pine and Red Alder are among them. And I am happy to finally see a single (at least!) Siberian Cedar (the one with edible cedar nuts)  making its appearance. I've tried to grow them more than  a few times but have failed every time. Perhaps, more of its siblings are not too far behind. Do hurry up, please! It takes years and years, until the tree starts producing any nuts. 

One of our sweet chestnut trees is doing very well.
We have 3 serviceberry trees planted and this year was the first time that they bloomed. Now they are full of  green berries. We have never tried them before, so it will be a real treat once they ripen. 
Hesperis Matronalis is hugging the pear tree. These flowers are tall and fragrant, especially in the evenings and  on cloudy days. To the left of them is clary sage waiting to greet the world with its purple flowers.
On Monday was a holiday here, so it was spent gathering herbs. These are hanging to dry in our kitchen. 
Two years ago I planted a single seed packet of chamomile, today it is proudly taking over my herbal bed. It reseeded last fall and is looking as lush as ever. 

That same chamomile was harvested to dry. It will be made into tea during the winter time. 
This sage was grown from seed. It was planted less than 2 years ago. And look at the beauty it has become! 
 Michael has been working on changing the wooden siding on our house. The north side, which faces the street, is done. This project has made Michael very popular at the village. Every person walking by complements his work! This photo was taken  before the shutters were installed.

This photo was taken at 9 pm, so the colors aren't that great, but you get the idea.

Toma is always nearby!