Archive | October 2017

Hazelnut Harvest

The hazelnut or filbert bushes produced a nice crop this year.  We have three plants.  Two are the same age, with one over eight feet tall and the other languishing with no real growth and about two feet tall.  I bought another hazelnut since it takes two to pollinate and I was afraid the little one would die.  The new plant has put on good growth this season.  I saved some human hair to place in muslin bags and hang on the little tree to try and keep the deer from nibbling it.  That seemed to work last year.  Once it gets big enough, the deer won’t be a threat anymore.

Most of the nuts are from the large bush.  The tiny one made three nuts.  The big one produced a solid dry quart of nuts in the shell.  Hazelnuts form on the plant inside a large, feathery husk.  There can be one to as many as five husks clumped together on one stem.  The bigger the clump, the smaller the nuts.  The husk is peeled away to expose the shell inside.  The shell is cracked to get the nut meat.  The raw nuts in the shell are usually dried for a time to age the meat.  Freshly picked nuts have a higher moisture content and taste slightly different than dried nuts.  I like them either way.  Hazelnuts are my favorite.  I’m excited to finally have decent nut production from my orchard!

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Antique Atterbury Milk Glass Plates

Last week I had the good fortune to discover this set of four delicate white milk glass plates at a thrift store.  It is amazing that such breakables have survived with no chips or cracks.  The pieces were made by Atterbury Glass of Pittsburg, PA.  They are marked on the backs with a capital A.  Atterbury was in business from approximately 1859-1902.  So these plates are antiques.  They appear nearly new with just the slightest scratch here or there from a utensil.

The beautiful open-work borders with their S-shape are so prone to breakage that I was very careful to examine the margins for hairline cracks.  My eyes are getting old, but I don’t think I missed any damage.  This sort of work is termed Early American Pressed Glass, EAPG.  It can be distinguished from later glass by the imperfections inherent to the material.  The glass will have flow lines, straw marks, tiny trapped bubbles and roughness around the edges where the pieces were knocked out of the mold.  As time passed and glass manufacture became more technically advanced, these mars were eliminated.  Thus, in this case the age of a piece can be told by its blemishes.

Atterbury produced tons of milk glass, the company was renown for it.  Some of their most popular pieces included hens and other animals on nests covered dishes, cups, and lacy open work pieces.  This S-shaped lace design has a decided gilded age feel to me, perhaps produced sometime in the 1880s.  This is just a guess.  Information about the company’s production, and especially the marks used, is very limited.  After the company went out of business, some of its molds were apparently sold.  Westmoreland Glass later made an identical pattern under its own mark.

Included in the set are three dinner plates measuring 8 3/8″ square and one salad plate at 7 3/8″.  I paid less than one dollar per piece and hope to realize a sale price of ten dollars each in my online shop.  The last similar one sold for $9 and it was a single plate.

Baby Bunnies and the Chicks

Moonstone, the new angora rabbit doe I acquired last month, gave birth on 10/13 to a litter of three babies.  They are healthy, well fed little guys.  Mama bunny made a nice warm nest for her fawns with hay and fiber she pulled from her tummy.  I  supplemented the nest with fiber from a supply I keep just for the purpose.

Here is mama bunny Moonstone, shortly after she arrived at the farm.  And below is a shot of the proud father, Marble, my albino angora buck.  I’m not sure why this litter is so small.  Rabbits usually have 5-9 babies at a time.  The doe was maiden and not too thrilled by the mating process.  The pair only mated a few times that I observed, so perhaps that’s why she had only a few fawns.  I’m very happy with what I got!  At least one of the babies is showing signs of developing darker hair than white, so fingers crossed I get a nice sable or chocolate doe to keep.

Proud daddy Marble

In other news, the September hatch of Ameraucana chicks is now four weeks old.  The chicks are well feathered.  The oldest chicks (one day ahead of the youngest) are starting to sprout feathers on their heads.  These babies are very active.  They spend the day alternating between filling up at their feeder and running off to free range in the hedges and over the lawns.  I think they will be well ready to face the cold weather once winter arrives.  To date we have had less than ten frosty nights.  The temperature has not gone below about 30F.  The days and nights continue unseasonably mild.  That’s fine with me and my barn full of babies!

Velvetleaf

Here is a new plant to me, one I’ve never seen on our farm or anywhere else.  I discovered this foot-tall specimen growing in the turf near the gate to the horse paddock.

A search with Google images led to identification as Velvetleaf, Chinese jute or Indian mallow, a member of the mallow family native to China and possibly India.  It was brought to America in the early 1700s for use as a fiber source in rope manufacture.

Since then the plant has escaped into the wild and become a pest of various crops, particularly corn and soybeans.  It seems to have several scientific names, the most common being Abutilon theophrasti.  Velvetleaf is edible and in Asia the plant and seeds are part of native cuisine.  

The velvet name is due to the very soft texture of the heart-shaped leaves.  Feels almost like moleskin it is so fine.  The large, strange seed pods or fruit attracted my attention.  The plant also has yellow-orange flowers up to 1″ across.  All the flowers were closed on the specimen I found.

I suspect the seed for this plant either dropped off the tractor of the local farmer who helps me spread manure or possibly came in grain for the chickens or horses.  Velvetleaf is found in midwestern cornfields and a tough-coated seed could have sneaked into the processed grain then passed through an animal’s digestive system intact.

Following my policy of identifying any new plants found on the farm, I realized Velvetleaf would be an unwelcome addition.  It is a prolific seeder, highly competitive with other plants.  The last thing I need is another invasive weed.  I pulled little Velvetleaf and popped it in the garbage before the seeds could mature.