Fall is Here!

Posted by mrssmythe on September 26, 2019 in Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Pollinators, Seasons |

Summer is gone, and now we are within the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” (as Keats would say). I think he sums it up rather nicely, don’t you? That is exactly how things have been around here of late – misty mornings and mellow fruitfulness. Enough fruit, in fact, to make a couple of apple pies from our first round of homegrown apples.

We might have had more, but CPT A was concerned about the limbs of our little apple tree being able to handle them all, and so culled a portion of the apples early on.

The apples – and the resulting pies – were delicious. Such a treat! It still seems magical to be able to grow things on our own trees and actually eat them.

Elsewhere in the yard, the pollinator garden is thriving. Here is how it looked at the beginning of the month:

And, it’s still going strong, though at this point, it’s looking decidedly less fresh. We’ve had a wonderful “crop” of butterflies and bees this year. Definitely more than last year. Here you see some visitors to the verbena.

And we’ve had more monarchs than ever before. I counted eight, total, one day. I think the population has risen in accordance with the increased milkweed in our yard.

In the backyard, a vigorous crop of jewelweed is meeting the needs of bees that don’t bother to come all the way up to the front.


On the vegetable front, we enjoyed a good crop of cucumbers this year, and now the pumpkins are almost ready to be taken off the vine.

The chickens have been poking around in the pumpkin patch, though, and have gone after some of the pumpkins, so the crop is somewhat scarred and battered.

In early summer, I grew lettuce and enjoyed being able to just gather my dinner salad each evening. I’m trying to recapture some of that fun, so I started another round of lettuce, this time in a container.

I really hope this works.

The weather is still nice enough to spend time crafting outside in the afternoons when I have a bit of time before starting dinner. The chickens and turkey (and guinea hen!) usually keep me company.

I’m working on a variety of projects right now, one of which is another blanket scarf (or “blarf”). This time, I’m using yarn remnants that fit into the “autumn” palette of the Color Me Beautiful book.

It’s a great project to work on while watching TV or a movie…or a great podcast, like the one put out by Fruity Knitting. If you’re a knitter, I highly recommend it.

I did start looking into Christmas gift crafting and thought maybe I’d put together some little mitten ornaments using a pattern I’d seen in a crafting magazine. I sat down one Sunday afternoon and got to work. Here is the result:

Isn’t it wee? It’s like a mitten for a squirrel.

As cute as it is, I’m not going to make another. It was very “fiddly” work and not at all relaxing or enjoyable. So, if you know of a squirrel who needs a single, navy blue mitten, let me know. I have one he can have.

From the dining room table, wondering if human-sized mittens might not make good Christmas gifts instead,

Mrs. Smythe

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Summer Crafting

Posted by mrssmythe on August 27, 2019 in Crafting, Critters, Ginger's Snaps, Toys |

The craft project photos have been piling up, and I thought it would be fun to devote an entire post to the things Ginger and I have been making these past few months. I’ll save Ginger’s items for last, as they’re the most spectacular. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

First, a set of crochet fruits and vegetables that I used as props/toys in the preschool Vacation Bible Camp class I taught in early August.

Aren’t they cute? These were a lot of fun to make and also helped use up lots of odds and ends of yarn I had lying around.

I made progress on my knitted sweater vest. You may remember this project from earlier posts.

I cut the steeks, made an alteration to the length, and sewed up the shoulder seams. Now I just have the ribbing around the arm and neck openings to do. I’m dragging my feet a bit, as that will take a good amount of time, but the weather is cooling down, and I’m sure my enthusiasm will return at some point. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to use up other oddments of yarn from my stash. Scarves seemed like worthy projects for the task. Here’s one I made with a skein of Lion Brand “Scarfie”. I used the Back To School #Scarfie pattern.

Here’s another scarf – this one knit from a skein of Lion Brand’s Shawl in a Cake. This one was knit using the Windham Scarf pattern.

Both of these were simple and pleasant to work up – a welcome change from that vest!

Alison has been even busier than I have, cranking out toys and even doing some sewing. Here are some House Elves she crocheted at the start of the summer.

If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, you may recognize these and the colors she’s chosen to dress them in. Ginger sent a copy of this photo to J.K. Rowling.

Another early summer project – these slippers:

Ginger is looking forward to wearing these once the weather cools.

Ginger took a short break from crochet to squeeze in some sewing. Here she is at work on a quilt. Mr. Wa thought he was helping.

He was not.

But the real star projects this summer have been Ginger’s fantasy creatures, all made from patterns created by Megan Lapp of Crafty Intentions.

First, this “Pony Alicorn”:

Then a pair of dragons.

These are definitely the most challenging things Ginger has crocheted to date. The patterns, though, were very detailed and had lots of photos and help for each step. Ginger found them very clear and easy to follow, so if you’re interested in making something similar, Ginger definitely recommends these patterns.

From the dining room table, enjoying much cooler weather with the windows wide open and the cicadas singing,

Mrs. Smythe

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Journeyman Camp at Old Sturbridge Village

Posted by mrssmythe on August 11, 2019 in Family, Garden, Museums, Out & About with Comments closed |

Before I forget, I want to share about Pepper’s experience at the Old Sturbridge Village day camp this summer.


Pepper had a wonderful time at this camp. In fact, I was surprised by how much she enjoyed it. She spent the week immersed in 1830’s life, wearing the clothing and performing the work that someone her age would have engaged in at that time in New England. She learned to sew, cook on a hearth, garden, work with wood, weave a basket, braid straw for a hat, and so much more. The week ended with a dance on the village green:

Pepper is at left in the green dress and white bonnet.

As you can see, all of the kids were in costume. Pepper was among the oldest, part of a small group of kids aged 14-17. She thought one of the nicest things about the camp was the kinds of kids it attracted. Overall, she found them to be very interesting and friendly.

Pepper says she would definitely like to participate in a similar program at OSV in the future. At seventeen, this is her last year to register for OSV’s youth programs, but there are volunteer opportunities for college students and adults, so she could possibly do one of those.

During the week, Ginger and I had fun visiting OSV twice while Pepper was “on duty” as a volunteer. It was so fun to see her in costume, cooking fritters or dancing on the green. (We tried not to embarrass her too much). OSV is always a nice place to spend the day, and I especially enjoy visiting the herb garden.

This time, a volunteer was on hand, tending the flowers. She demonstrated the miracle of Soapwort…are you familiar with this plant?

The volunteer tore off a handful of leaves, wet them with a hose and rubbed them together in her hands. Here is the result:

Isn’t that amazing? Actual soap from a plant! She told us that centuries back, people used Soapwort to wash their clothing! She also told us that she has an older home with quite a bit of soapwort growing in the yard. She hypothesized that an early owner used the Soapwort for this very purpose. Isn’t that interesting?

It would be fun to grow some in my own garden, though I did read that it can become invasive and isn’t considered very useful to wildlife.

Oh, and if you’re interested in the Old Sturbridge Village day camps, you can find more information about them HERE.

From the dining room table enjoying a deliciously cool evening,

Mrs. Smythe


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Behold, the Bachelor’s Button…(aka Cornflower)

Posted by mrssmythe on July 31, 2019 in Garden, Insects, Pollinators |

One of my favorite garden plants this season has been the Bachelor’s Buttons – aka Cornflowers.

I used to read novels (usually romance novels) in which characters were described as having “cornflower blue eyes”. I never knew what that meant until I started gardening and put two and two together. Now, looking at the gorgeous blue of these flowers (the bluest flowers in the plant kingdom, I’ve read), I have to say that I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Have you ever met anyone with eyes this blue? Maybe Elizabeth Taylor…. Of course, I never met her, but you know what I’m saying?

Anyway, “cornflower blue eyes” discussion aside, these are really very pretty flowers. And, they are incredibly easy to grow. All of the Cornflower plants in my garden this year are self-sown…remnants of plants that grew from seeds I planted two springs ago. They just popped up in unplanned abundance, and I’m so glad.

And, not just me – the wildlife is glad, too.

First, the butterflies.

I believe this is a Silver Spotted Skipper. (We have so many skippers here in Massachusetts, it can get confusing.)

Bees also like these flowers…

…as do Syrphid Flies (aka Flower Flies).

I’m hoping the Syrphid Flies will stop off at the Milkweed nearby and do away with some of the aphids camped out there. Wouldn’t that be nice of them?

Occasional, I’ll spot an ant or two, as well.

My favorite visitors to the Bachelor’s Buttons, though, are the Goldfinches. They’re huge fans of the flower’s seeds, so I’ve resisted deadheading even though the plants are looking worse for the wear at this point in the growing season.

It’s worth having a few shabby-looking plants, though, to see pairs of Goldfinches perched in the flower beds, breakfasting on Cornflower seeds.

From the dining room table, pleased that we finally received rain this afternoon – the garden was getting a bit parched,

Mrs. Smythe

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Life Amidst the Milkweed

Posted by mrssmythe on July 29, 2019 in Critters, Garden |

So, let me tell you about my Swamp Milkweed.

First of all – my Swamp Milkweed is not in a swamp.

The Swamp Milkweed is the tall, pink flowers toward the back of the photo.

My Swamp Milkweed is along a busy road, in a sunny part of my front yard, in soil that is not the clay-rich, wet soil that Swamp Milkweed is supposed to like.

And, yet, my Swamp Milkweed is thriving.

I’m so pleased, because I’m interested in insects and their relationships to the plants in my garden, and the milkweed is a great place to watch fascinating plant/insect interaction.

This year, I’m making an effort not only to look at the milkweed flowers, where Bumblebees and Monarch Butterflies feed, but also to check the leaves and stems regularly – to just stand in front of the plant and watch what is going on.

A lot goes on!

For one thing, the Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed leaves. And then those eggs become caterpillars that dine exclusively on more milkweed leaves.

Meanwhile, other caterpillars like milkweed, too.

These are Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillars, and, yes, there are a lot of them on that leaf (and there are just as many of them on the underside of that leaf!)

And, look what they have done to these other milkweed leaves:

The carnage! Is this what I want for my Swamp Milkweed?

Well,…yes. My goal is to encourage insects and pollinators in my garden, and that means I’m going to see leaf damage. (Would I offer my dinner guests roast chicken and not expect to see chicken bones?)

Other visitors I noted this evening…aphids.

Honestly, I’m not so thrilled to see the aphids. They appear on my Swamp Milkweed each year. They are a wild bunch. They make a terrible mess. Some years, I’ve tried to get rid of them with a dish soap spray, but this year, I think I’ll wait and see what happens. I read an intriguing article this evening that basically said, leave the milkweed alone. Leave the aphids alone. Let predator insects come in and do their job. So, I think I’m going to follow its advice. (If you’re interested, you can find that article HERE.)

So, how will my milkweed look in a few weeks, after it’s been savaged by so many hungry insects? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

From the dining room table, hoping some aphid-hungry ladybugs drop by soon to join the feast,

Mrs. Smythe




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