Ramblings from the Valley
Fall at Ricketts Glen, PA
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Saturday, 02 November 2013 00:00

RG 11What must have been at the dawn of peak of leaf season in Ricketts Glen we ventured north to Benton, PA, where we met up with 8 friends for an overnight hiking and camping adventure. The drive was gorgeous as was the State Park, the falls, the lake, and a relaxing time among friends. These pics aren't enhanced; the colors really were that stunning.

 

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Hawk Rock
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Friday, 19 April 2013 15:47

Have you ever been to Hawk Rock? If so, you know what a good climb it is and how lovely the view; if not, make it part of your spring or summer plans. Pack a lunch, water bottles, and a hiking stick. Don't forget boots or sneakers on your feet. Stop and take photos of the views, catch your breath, and take notice of the diversity of plants that line the path -- so many more varieties than I've seen in our recent AT hikes. 

Regina Hawk RockMy friend Regina and I met at the A+ Service Station right off of 15 (Duncannon Exit). Head away from Duncannon, cross a bridge over Sherman's Creek, and when you arrive at the dead end (bar/hotel on the left), park on the right and the trailhead begins right there.

It's a strenous 2.5-ish mile loop. I briefly mention it here in my Go Take a Hike article. It's been years since I hiked this trail, and I'm not sure why - it's scenic, close by, and tends to deter flocks of people since it's not an easy stroll. I like that.

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March, a month of madness
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Monday, 18 March 2013 19:58

Snow walk with umbrellaWell kids, it snowed today. Snow! I don't know why I'm surprised; this isn't uncommon in Pennsylvania. The day after St. Patty's and the day before my Dad's birthday. Snow! Just 2 days from the Vernal Equinox and the unopened heads of daffodils are covered in fluffy, wet snow. It was not what I was expecting as I'm eager for spring. Still, it's not such a bad way to spend an overcast day in March. Old man winter is huffing around in his drawers, packing his suitcase, and grumping about at the end of his visit. Don't wear out your welcome, sir. Spring giggles, all buxom and blithe, and pokes her curly headed face through the back door and smiles. "Can I come in?" She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, "Ooh, you've made muffins!" I've had enough of winter, but if this is the way he wants to go out, I'd say, job well done. No sense in being sheepish about it, fella. It sure is beautiful in the valley and the gentleness and gracefulness of snow turned my gray-sky frown, upside down. I like to consider it a bit of lawn-watering before spring fully arrives. And besides, it's going to be 47 tomorrow!

 

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Farewell Mighty Ship
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Thursday, 14 February 2013 15:59

Tunnel First PlantingIf you would have asked me a year ago to imagine life without the high tunnel, I am not sure I could have done it. The 3,000 square feet of covered growing space visible from my kitchen window, the gift of fresh, organic food, the electricity of insect life, the magic of the soil, and the blessing of that kind of work on mind, body, and soul, had all become part of my identity and of my daily life and thoughts. Many people know me as a grower of food and a tender of the soil. I see myself as someone who is responsible for producing crops, managing a greenhouse, planning a sow and harvest schedule… I am proud of that!

come
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I'm Feeling Grateful...
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Thursday, 26 April 2012 19:59

...for my day was capped on either end by beauty and peace in the our valley.

...for early morning: I harvested microgreens, squash blossoms, and baby wasabi mustard greens in the fragrant candy-scented spring air.

Squash Blossom 2012

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The Buzz of Bees
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Thursday, 19 April 2012 18:02

Swarm in PinesHow appropriate that we were discussing onomatopoeia in class last night (that, and hyperboles and metaphors and haikus). Our bee hive in the catalpa in the backyard has been wildly active this year. It was a sleeping nest until January. Phew, what a winter. While I was feeling cheated by the cold season that was mostly absent, the honeybees were busy making plans and not letting the strangeness of the season impinge on their task at hand - to keep a hive thriving when nothing was in bloom.

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Fall Musings
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Monday, 31 October 2011 10:31

Powell's Valley SceneI just finished what was quite possibly the busiest summer of my life. I taught 7 online classes, ran a 14 member CSA, took on the volunteer job of pool co-chief, learned how to hatch and raise chicks (a specialty breed at that)… In the transition from the hustle and bustle of the hot season to the cool season I have found myself in – 5 classes, no CSA, and settling into the rhythm of being a chicken farmer – I am almost bewildered at the quiet, slow, and peaceful pace here. It is a considerable adjustment!

What do I do with myself? I’ve begun baking, freezing, apple-sauce-making, I picked up where I left on 3 novels (and finished 2!), I’ve been hiking, on Sunday drives, and dreaming about our plans to one day build a home. I anticipate a snowy season and recently treated myself to a pair of cross-country skis! I’ve wanted a pair for nearly a decade so I figured it was time with amount of precipitation in Winter 2011's forecast. I’ve picked up my camera again after not having much time to take photos over the summer. I have cleared out beds in the high tunnel, but still have plenty of work to do… but at my leisure. Smile.

With the unexpected and very early snowfall we had over the weekend and freezing temperatures, the tomato plants that were spritely and yielded 7 pounds of tomatoes just a few days ago, are now curling and browning. I’ll pull the plants out and compost them this week. There are plenty of greens and root vegetables we are still enjoying – arugula, mustard, kale, brassicas, turnips, radishes, winter lettuces. Within the next week, I’ll clear and prep several beds for the 9 pounds of garlic seed I need to get into the ground.

Chicks in the snowThe chicks are more delightful than I ever imagined. The Earth Cowboy and I are so happy to have them around. They are easy to tend, amusing to watch, and fun to hear clucking and crowing their way through each day. They free range and have explored what’s under the falling leaves as the season changes. They had their first experience with snow this weekend and immediately ran to an area by the leaning fence where snow hadn’t reached. They walked in a single file line along this 8” path and fluffed their feathers to keep warm. They don’t seem to mind the cold as much as the white stuff under their feet.

I’m looking forward to an unhurried and quiet season – time to spend planning, thinking, reading and wrapping up the year.

 
October Snow
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Sunday, 30 October 2011 15:14

We heard that it was going to be a VERY SNOWY winter this year... but technically, it's not winter yet!

Leaf in Snow

How often does it snow in the peak of leaf season?

 

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Go Take A Hike
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Thursday, 01 September 2011 11:57

Written for Harrisburg Magazine
Spring, 2004

 

Hike 1Unless you toss down 6 teaspoons of cod liver oil per day or take Vitamin D supplements, your body is probably deficient of the sunshine vitamin, particularly after a long winter of an early setting sun and considerable amounts of cloudy days.

Sunlight is our leading supplier of vitamin D. And why, you ask, do we need vitamin D? The sunshine vitamin, nicknamed this because our bodies use ultraviolet radiation (UVB) from the sun to make vitamin D, has been found to prevent prostate, breast, ovary, bladder, and stomach cancers, just to name a few. Severe vitamin D deficiencies are linked to Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, soft teeth, slow healing, insomnia, rickets and muscle cramps.

What function does vitamin D have in our bodies? Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and carries it across cell membranes. (www.nlm.nih.gov) This ensures strong bones and teeth, and a happy nervous system, which is why sunshine-free people are often, depressed people… we’ve all heard of the winter blues.

Well good news, my low-level vitamin D companions, the spring equinox has arrived and with it, she has returned with sunshine, greenness, and generous opportunities to absorb vitamin D while burning calories and checking out some beautiful places not very far from home.

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First Muse Lunch
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 11:39

Organic Flashy Troutback Lettuce - this striking salad mix addition looks like festive confetti in the salad bowl and has a crunchy, but delicate texture. We enjoyed it today with leftover grilled salmon and rice vinegar dressing. Mmh!

Flashy Troutback Lunch

 
Spring Peepers
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Tuesday, 26 April 2011 09:36
Frog 1Sometimes I have to remind myself to pause and take it all in. To breathe in the sweet, fragrant springtime air. Yesterday it smelled like raspberry candy. To watch and listen to the birds as they gleefully welcome each new day and new growth on the treetops. It cannot be overstated how magical spring is - new bits of greenness appear every day; places of bare limbs and empty spaces are suddenly filled and made whole again. The mountain is speckled with bits of green, white, and pink. Sweat bees have emerged and greet me at the door each morning at eye-level. After weeks of rain, the trench between the high tunnel and the house has become a small pond and home to happy, cacophonous frogs who are laying eggs and singing love songs all afternoon in the dappled sunlight.
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Blue Rooster Farm
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Saturday, 23 April 2011 00:00

Sheep BRFOnce a month, we purchase meat products from a small, local farm located in East Waterford, PA, called the Blue Rooster Farm. They raise and sell organic beef, pork and lamb, and recently, they partnered with a sustainable group in Alaska and have made available delicious wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon. Julie Hurst, one of the farmers, typically delivers to several dropoff points, but there was a change of plans this week, and Julie agreed to meet me right off our exit. So nice and convenient! I pulled into the parking lot of our meetup point, and I saw Julie waiting for me. She was holding a bottle and feeding something small. A little baby?

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Early Spring Walk
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Thursday, 17 March 2011 13:54

Buds on our favorite bush

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The spring cacophony of frogs, birds and everything else that sings echoes out across the valley announcing the season of rebirth. We are just 3 days away from the official commencement of my favorite season. Shoots and buds are appearing around every turn and we're up to 12 hours of sunlight per day now!

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A Hard Rain
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Friday, 11 March 2011 18:48
Clarks Creek MailboxesIt's been raining hard here in Central PA for several days now. We awoke to the sounds of rushing water and a closed road. The rain had ceased and as the mountains and streams drained into the center of the Valley, Clarks Creek flooded up over the road making it impassable for most of the day.
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Happy Cross Quarter Day!
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 12:21

 

Lightpost with iciclesThe Examiner today tells us that "Ancient peoples...split each season, or quarter of the year, into halves. The dates on which a mid way point of a season fell came to be called a cross-quarter or mid-quarter day." And today, February 2nd, is just such a day, also known as Groundhog Day. Not evident by the icestorm here in PA and the blizzard all over the midwest, Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow and it's gonna be an early spring! We can only hope. Today is also my Mama's birthday. Happy Birthday, Ma!

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Clouds
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Sunday, 14 November 2010 23:21

Clouds 1

The clouds were tremendous today. I found myself staring upward on my walks back and forth between the house and high tunnel.

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Feeling Grateful
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 15:55

For ...

Blowing in the Wind

...little bits of the universe.

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Long Shadows
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 00:00

Autumn 2010 Backyard Facing Peter's MtnDespite the near-drought we had at the end of the summer, lots of rain in early fall and other well-aligned climatic conditions gave us a better-than-expected autumn. The colors are tremendous and the trees aren't dropping their leaves at just any old gust of wind, and we've had some wind. We recorded a 32 mph gust that rolled through earlier in the month. The sun is hanging out in the sky for a shorter time each day and its position is casting long shadows in the late afternoon light.

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See the fullness of life all around you
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Thursday, 14 October 2010 14:23

Fall colors in the back fieldIt's a cozy fall day, the leaves are spinning to the ground in colors that hint at December's Christmas lights. Rain softly falls and mist moves across the mountains. Lentil soup and baking bread are filling the house with home-smells. I'm feeling grateful for so many things.

 

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Blue Rooster Farm
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Tuesday, 25 May 2010 12:31

 

Our neighbor Liz introduced us to Blue Rooster Farm, a local meat farm in East Waterford, PA, owned and operated by Julie Hurst and Roy Brubaker and their two daughters.

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The Victoria Trail
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 05 May 2010 14:26

Victoria TrailWe live about a half a mile hike from the Appalachian Trail, which runs along the top of Peter's Mountain north of our house.

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Aloha from the Valley
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Friday, 09 April 2010 08:19

Around 6pm last night we stood waiting on a giant thunderstorm that the NOAA radio alert had warned us about 3x in the previous hour, and that we could see ominously approaching us from the west on Google Earth.

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Welcome Spring
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Monday, 22 March 2010 19:06

Saturday was the Spring Equinox and it with it came pinches of color and inches of growth.

I'm feeling thankful for lists of things to do.

...for sunshine and rain.

...for the sweet smells in the valley.

...for warm covers and cool night air.

...for spring peepers.

...for new grow lights and happy seedlings.

...for unexpected and surprise adventures.

...for laughter.

Spring 2010 CrocusSpring 2010 DaffodilsSpring 2010 Beets

Happy Spring, friends!

 

 

 
Year of the Tiger
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Monday, 15 February 2010 00:00

The second Tuesday in February brought us 15 more inches of snow and the Chinese and Tibetan New Years, as well as Valentine's day, all fell on Sunday. It was a week-long celebration of newness, love and the white stuff.

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18 inches!
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Saturday, 06 February 2010 15:10

We awoke to a winter wonderland today. It's the most snow Central PA has seen in years - nearly 18 inches! The Earthy Cowboy was out running the snowblower before 8am. After a quick cup of coffee, I joined him to pull the snow from the hightunnel with the snow broom and to clear the cars.

Snow and Clarks Creek

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Hungry Worms
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Saturday, 30 January 2010 09:00

Bag O' WormsThanks to this inspiring urban farmer for reminding me to turn that pile of food scraps on my kitchen counter into worm food for the red crawlers who live in the kitchen. I have come across the suggestion to freeze and defrost kitchen scraps for the worms time and again. Apparently it breaks down the cells of the food making it easier for the worms to digest. I'm going to try that next time. This time, I just threw it all into the food processor.

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Flood Warnings
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Monday, 25 January 2010 12:27

I woke up at 6am today right as we lost electricity in the valley. It was windy, dark and pouring rain. The yard, road, field and creek were flooded. It was almost 60 degrees. 60 degrees! I read about a record breaking high temperature in Ohio in the 1950's that was recorded on January 25th: 73 degrees. Today is my birthday, and the weather is always kinda weird on my birthday, almost always overcast, rainy and stormy. I remember one birthday as a kid, maybe 5 or 6, in Pensacola, Florida and, my, how it poured. Some of the kids still showed up for my party, but we had to play indoors. I decided not to play indoors today, I wanted to see what the flooding had done. After the heavy rains receded, I went outside. Happy 32 years to me. xo

Clarks Creek after the torrential downpourClarks Creek by the bridge

Clarks Creek is the highest I've ever seen it. Rushing through in shades of earth. The surrounding mountains and hills are draining down into the little valley creek.

 

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The Northern Flicker
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Tuesday, 19 January 2010 19:33

I spotted one of these woodpeckers out the kitchen window on Sunday. He hopped around, digging up insects with his long, slightly-curved beak.... until the Starlings came by the busload and he took solace in a Catalpa Tree. I had never seen a Northern Flicker, and I felt lucky to have seen one in the dead of winter as they are "one of the few North American woodpeckers that is strongly migratory. Flickers in the northern parts of their range move south for the winter, although a few individuals often stay rather far north." (All About Birds)

Here are a couple of videos I took:

Northern Flicker, Video 1Northern Flicker, Video 2

 

We've since seen him hanging out in the leafless catalpas. Looks like he's here for the long haul of winter.

 
The Pennsylvania Annual Farm Show
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Thursday, 14 January 2010 17:29

The chicken who wears his brains on the outside...In January, Harrisburg (and the Dept of Ag) hosts the annual PA Farm Show at the enormous Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. We don't attend every year, but this year we went with another couple and spent 4 hours on a Sunday afternoon walking, looking, eating, talking and making our way through the crowds in the 24 acre facility. We didn't go to see any particular rodeo, contest or event, but the schedule describes everything from "Honey Extraction Demo by the PA State Beekeepers Association" to "Championship Horse Pulling Contest".

There were so many delicious things to eat; some of the things we tried (and loved) were the rib sandwich, fried mozzarella balls, potato donuts, hemp pretzels, German Roasted nuts (my favorite farm show treat), strawberry smoothies, fried mushrooms and honey sticks.

Believe it or not, we did other things in addition to all the snacking.

We saw a red stag, a 16-year old Bison named Harvey who was ready to go home, the most gorgeous Alpacas I've ever seen, goat kids nursing their very annoyed mom, and we found the Americauna chickens we want to raise (<- that is not an Americauna. I called it the chicken that wears his brains on the outside because I can't remember its official name.) The Americaunas weren't the biggest chickens there, the English Orphingtons were much larger, but apparently Americaunas are the tougher of the two. Orphingtons are softies and can be bullied despite their size. With the raptor populations in our valley, and one particular cat named Maggie, I think we'd only have any chance at success with tough, watchful birds.

There were all kinds of bovine and equine creatures at the farm show and a variety of crafts. Folks raised Angoras and made yarn from their hair. I bought beeswax candles. There were stands there that were more akin to a Flea Market than a farm show. There was the giant butter sculpture that featured a family of dairy farmers (and their cow) gathered around a table.  There were terrariums, dioramas, flowers, photos, canned food, corsages, cakes and pies - all entered into competitions. The big room with all the farm equipment (tractors, trailers, etc.) was neat, but we were pretty tired and made that our last stop before calling it a night.

Click here to view the pictures from the farm show. (coming soon :)

 
A Few of My Favorite Things
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 06 January 2010 16:28

With the newness of the year and the slow but sure return of the sun, I reflect back on the previous year and those things I don't want to take for granted, those things that help me make it through the dark winter.

I've chosen a few of my favorite things from each month of 2009 to highlight.

January (besides bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens)

Field Sunset and Striking ColorsJanuary Sunset behind the High TunnelMothership CloudJimmy attaching a ratchet strap with the use of a pool torpedoMy birthday cake

Dramatic sunsets and clouds that look like motherships. Birthday cake and my true love.

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Snowed in!
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Tuesday, 22 December 2009 14:56

Snow started falling in big white fat flakes late Friday night, one week before Christmas. It snowed all through the day on Saturday and left us with around 6-8 inches of fluffy loveliness. We loaded up the fireplace and settled in for a few snow days. I spent Saturday making soup, grading final exams, fighting a head cold with Yogi's Cold Season tea (at least a dozen cups!), streaming Soma-fm's "The Christmas Lounge: Chilled Holiday Grooves and Classic Winter Lounge Tracks", and ordering a few last minute Christmas presents online. I shoveled the walk twice and again the next day, which was a terribly windy day; the wind created snow drifts all around, it reminded me of the way sand dunes form at the beach. Our tall evergreens in the backyard looked dressed for a party, all in white!

Calliope & Bodhi in the SnowMaggie and the Shoveled WalkSnowy coated evergreens in the valley

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First Snow of the Year, Fall 2009
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 09 December 2009 16:59

Hightunnel on the First Snow DayI'm always a little anxious looking ahead to the dark months of winter, but December has been nothing but nice with much to do! Friday, December 4 was our first snow fall and that was just one reason to celebrate December. While snow collected on the roof of the hightunnel, I harvested beets, swiss chard, baby spinach and baby kale. The winter harvests were going to a friend who contacted me looking for "ethically grown foods" and planned to make baby food with the beets and spinach, also, to a local restaurant and to friends who bought a $25 gift certificate that I had donated to another friend's fundraiser. The vegetables grown under the protection of the  Agribon are significantly larger than the ones grown without the protective covering, and they were planted two days later. When we get around to building the supports to hold up the Agribon, all the beds will have it. It will come into use in the spring to raise the temperature of the soil and protect spring crops allowing us to plant even earlier. In the first photo, you can see where I moved the Agribon aside so I could harvest swiss chard. Those gorgeous green leaves veined with magenta are swiss chard, sister of the beet, lover of the soil. I read somewhere, and I can't remember where, that growing beets and swiss chard doesn't deplete, but leaves the soil with a substantial amount of nutrients.

Bed 4 Agribon RaisedMagenta Sunset Swiss Chard LeavesCut Swiss Chard Stems

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1,000 of 'em!
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 17:37

Steps upTwo Sundays ago the Earthy Cowboy, Beauhemian and I drove to Jacks Mountain between Lewistown and Huntingdon, PA, to hike the famous "Thousand Steps". There are truly 1,000 steps that make for a hell of an ascent, though it is a pretty quick hike. Despite the tough climb, there were plenty of families and kids hiking.

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Autumnal Colors
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 11:50

I am about a month late on posting this, but I wanted to share it anyhow. We had a beautiful autumn this year, and though there is technically still another month or so until the Winter Solstice, we are past the prime of glorious autumn. In the words of Shakespeare,

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/ Upon those boughs which shake against the cold.

Welcome to November. But that's today, another topic. These are from October, a time lovingly described by John Donne,

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace/as I have seen in one autumnal face.

View of Peter's Mountain From the BackyardOctober Maple and Catalpa Trees under a Blue SkyView of Peter's Mountain standing in front of the High Tunnel

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Happy Earth Day
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Wednesday, 22 April 2009 17:32

Though we have much work to do on the high tunnel, work for clients and papers to grade in my classes, we took a break today and went for a lovely drive through Powell's Valley, a cozy spot on the other side of Peter's Mountain with wide open views in which we daydream about building our dome. We reminisced about the frozen scenes and the sunset that we saw on our last drive through Powell's Valley, December 25, 2008. The homes, gardens, lawns and fields are tidy and are always real pleasure to see in our passage through the valley. We couldn't believe how many yards were graced by a pink version one of our favorite trees, the weeping cherry. It seemed that every house had one somewhere in their yard! As we drove, we wondered what Kutt-A-Way Nurseries that we remembered passing 4 months ago looked like now that spring has arrived, and when we came upon the nursery, we realized where all the valley neighbors must have gotten their weeping cherry trees! There were rows upon rows of the pretty little trees, and behind them, some sort of flowering white-budded tree, perhaps another cherry? Further down the road, I pointed out another favorite, the Japanese Magnolia, another tree that we would like to see in our yard around the dome one day.

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I had to put down the Easter Bunny and other Initiations into (micro) Farm Life
Written by Calliope Pappadakis   
Friday, 10 April 2009 12:24

Yesterday was a sunny, blue-sky kind of day. I was feeling high on life, grateful for blessings that abound, and generally pretty smiley. I was watering seedlings in the high tunnel when I noticed Maggie having a grand time over by the barns. I went over, and my heart broke - she had caught a baby bunny, one that looked just like the picture in our album here on the site. She was proud, and he was hurt. I walked away, saddened, and continued watering, trying hard to ignore the situation right in front of me. When I was finished watering, I noticed Maggie had joined me in the tunnel, so I went to find what was left of the poor bunny.

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