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Love affairs of June

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Close up of a hosta petal on fireflys farmYou know what the problem is with June? There are just far too many things to love, be in love with, and fall in love with for the first time. My latest love affairs? Well, let me see now ... I will begin with hostas. This is a plant I had never heard of before I came to live on the farm. My sister-in-law introduced me to them; she has been in love with hostas for quite some time. They are lush and lovely with large flowing leaves slumping into deep and luscious mounds. When I was told they practically grow themselves, requiring very little care, I was in. I figured even a plant adoring non-green thumb lady living on a farm like me could do well with a plant that could be described that way. Close up of another hosta leaf on fireflys farmMy husband agreed, so a couple of evenings ago we went on a hosta hunting adventure with the sister-in-law and her husband. She knew of a gentleman who used to be in the hosta business, but is now retired. With a phone call to him, we were allowed to stop by and visit the inner sanctum, "back 40" greenhouse he never shows anyone any longer. We braved mosquitoes and who knows what hidden deep-woods vermin as we walked through a wooded area back to a private and protected green house. It was full of hostas of many varieties. We left with twelve hosta plants well-established in pots which we will transplant along the west side of our barn and on either side of a charming back porch we never use as an entrance or exit, but are fixing up to look inviting and attractive nonetheless. More close up hosta leaves after the rain on fireflys farmThis morning we got some summer rain, and the hosta leaves looked quite beautiful holding drops of rain water. I had a great time out there photographing them, and put together a new set of notecards at my Etsy shop featuring shots of the hostas, in case you are interested. Once I was out in the yard with the camera in hand, I ran into a big problem. There are so many pretty things to photograph I just shooting. When I came in to review my photos and select three for my blog (I try to limit myself to three shots so the pages are not too slow in loading) I found there were too many subjects and they were all so pretty I could not choose what not to show. So, my apologies if today's blog loads slowly, I decided I am going to show several shots not just three. There was a lot of pretty stuff out there and I want to share it all with you. Frankly, it is a good problem to have. Would it be awful if the reverse were true -- if I had to say, sorry I have no photos today because today I found nothing magical or beautiful out there in the world. Now that would be sad. Lots and lots of strawberry preserves firefly made on the farmLast weekend my husband spent much of the day out in the yard cutting out excess brush, taking out some shrubs and small trees that had become very old and misshapen, trimming other trees and shrubs, filling in spots here and there with top soil and so forth. We have a small porch out back, off toward the street. We never use that door to enter or exit, no one knocks at it. I love it because it has old, weathered chippy paint which will make a great back drop for some of my photography. Before he did that, it was pretty much overgrown with wild and ungainly shurbbery, wild flowers, and such. Now it is open, with most of the brush from around it cleared out. It faces north and is on the west end of the house, facing the barn. We plan to plant six hostas at the old porch, three on each side of the stairs and landing. We chose two each of three varieties, starting with a smaller one that won't grow too large. Those two will go up front, on either side of the lowest stair. Next we have two of another variety which will grow to a medium size, and they will go back behind the two smaller ones, and of course the last two grow to be quite large and will go toward the back. I also plan on setting several terra cotta pots I planted with geraniums a couple weeks back up on the porch, maybe coming down the stairs. Hand knit quart size Jammie gift bag designed by fireflyAs it all comes together I will share photos with you. For today I am sharing a couple of photos I shot on the porch this morning. You see all those jars of strawberry preserves? Last week I made 218 ounces of strawberry preserves with most of the strawberries we picked out at Partyka Farms (see last week's post for more about Partyka). What you see in the photo isn't even all of the preserves I made. The strawberries we picked were such a deep, rich red color that preserves are a brilliant deep red--very different from most strawberry preserves I have ever seen. Also, because the strawberries were a tart variety, the preserves have a much stronger strawberry flavor than they would have had if the berries were sweeter to begin with. I am working on building up a stock of goods to have in the part time store I will be opening on our sun porch ("Firefly's Studio & Pantry" it will be known as) and some of the preserves will go in the store. I want to see if I am able to sell preserves and if so, how much they will go for. Then I will know if I want to make up even more of them next year. It is a fun experiment. The photo of the canning jar in a hand knit bag--if you aren't already familiar with it--is the quart size "Jammie" from a pattern I designed featuring hand knit bags to use as gift bags for jars of jams, jellies, preserves, and other canned goods to make the presentation of those items even finer. The pattern, if you are interested, is also available now in my Etsy shop. Now, out by the barn things are still a bit wild and wooly, but this time of year it looks pretty cool that way. On the west side of the barn where we will be putting in more of the hostas, we have a bunch of wild flowers growing, plus wild grape vines, and wild strawberries. Wild raspberries beginning to grow on fireflys farm
Side Bar: There is a bird on my window, outside of it. Twice while I have been writing he has landed onto a little slip of wood out there which he seems barely able to hold onto. He pecks on the window, turns his head to look inside, turns it the other way to look inside again, and the he's off.
Back to the Blog: We meant to get out there and remove quite a lot of that wild grapevine, but we didn't get to it in time. It tends to grow so ravenously that we have trouble making our way through it to get to the raspberries. That's a shame, because so many raspberries end up going to waste. This year the wild raspberry crop we have coming in looks huge compared to what we got last year. I am hope to be able to gather plenty for eating fresh and plenty more for making into some preserves. So far, in spite of the grape vine, it looks like I will be able to do just that. Milkweed plant blooms on fireflys farmEarly last autumn I gathered wild milkweed pods which I dried and used in some dried arrangements and I used some with my little Thistleonian critters, which some of you will remember (you can search for "critters" or "Thistleonian" in my blog to see what I am talking about). Anyway, amongst the wild flowers growing in front of barn last year, we had a few milkweed plants and I did my first pod gathering right there. This year I think we have two to three times as many of the plants, and I have been following their flowering stage this year. Of course, there are tons of milkweeds growing wild in fallow fields all around here, and I will gather plenty out in those fields but I like the idea of being able to find some right here on the farm. They are some of the prettiest pods I have seen when they are dried, maintaining a pale green color on the outside and a pale, soft yellow on the inside. Now these dainty little coral colored flowers are not wild. I forget what they are called, but I picked them up a Partyka's market a few weeks back and planted them in two stone planters we have out on our front porch. Even though the kittens spend all of their play time out there, and seem to sometimes sleep in one of the planters, these flowers are doing great, multiplying in number at a great pace. So you see, it is June and there are many things to be in love with. All I have done here is give you a sampling of what I found while out in my yard for thirty minutes or so. I hope you get a chance to look around this weekend and see too many pretty things to share. ~firefly

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