Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Frog Hollow

I have an order for soap beads to start working on, but as I waited for the kiln to ramp up, I saw something on the windowsill that I had never shown on here before.

When we were doing the PA Farm Show in January, there were a number of PA wineries set up nearby.

Near the end of the show, we were starting to look for boxes to use to take our left over soaps home and saw they had a lovely stack of empty wine boxes. When I returned to pick some up, I saw this label!

The Chistmas tree farm that we operate here is called Frog Hollow Evergreens. We named it Frog Hollow because when we moved here, the frogs who lived in the pond (in the "hollow") were so loud that we couldn't hear the TV in the evening when the windows were open! It stuck and gave a touch of whimsey to the place. We have acquired a raft of frog memorabilia over the years and so...

Well, despite the fact that we don't even drink alcohol around here, I felt the need to purchase a bottle of the wine, for the label alone!

Today, when I saw the bottle of wine sitting on my windowsill and looked outside at the frog garden sculpture that my brother and his wife had given us for Christmas a year ago, I thought they just belonged together - along with the gaily blooming daffodils.

The wine is made, in Pennsylvania, by Brookmere Farm Vineyards and they describe it this way: Frog Hollow (sweet blush Niagara)- A blend of foxy, flavorful Labrusca and French hybrid grapes to create the blush wine symbolic of Brookmere Farm. Named for the creek which runs between the vineyards.

I did taste it at the Farm Show and although it is a mite sweet for my taste, I imagine it would be nice as a dessert wine for those who imbibe. The man who sold it to me said it was a best seller for them. For me, the label was enough.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Last post the birds...

Today the bees!

But first, I must make a correction on the name of the bird I wrote about in my last post. It is correctly a "Chukar". A couple of different pairs seem to be searching out nesting places and we did a little research. In that research, we found the correct name. These particular partridges are actually natives of the Middle East and in fact are the National bird of Pakistan!

Now, on to the bees.. I was actually taking some pictures of the gorgeous crocuses in our yard that have just popped up in the past couple of days and a little visitor showed up. What a great chance to do some macro shots...

Here she (it would be a "she", right?) is checking out the area.
Lots of pollen available here, which one shall I choose??
You may be able to see the blur of her little wings beating like crazy.

Seems to have found a promising candidate.

Look at her little "butt" covered with golden treasure.
Mission accomplished, really!

Ah, Spring....

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Morning visitor

I've been working on Tina's magazine layout since yesterday afternoon and since I really do enjoy it, I wandered out to the shop early this morning.

This guy was perched right on the peak of the roof above the door. He's a Partridge, a Chukker and seems to be lonely. We have about 7 of them hanging around, left from our hatchlings last year, but this one has been traveling alone lately instead of with the "flock".

Tina thinks he lost his mate, but Bob thinks his mate be actually be nesting. I prefer to agree with Bob on this one.

We seem to have lost one of our three remaining Guinea Fowl. I wouldn't be surprised that Bob will be "restocking" this year. Also, two pens of pheasants may mean that we'll be producing our own pheasant chicks this year. Should be interesting.

The final word on all this reproduction, though, is NO WILD TURKEYS!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What were we thinking???

Why can't we "get it"? Whenever we have been invited, or should I say lured, into participating in a show, we are always sorry! And yet, the possibility of it turning out well reels us in every time.

We may have actually hit the wall this time.Here's Tina behind our latest disaster! We agreed, on very short notice, to do a show which was supposed to be attended by 650 teachers. They did say the teachers were religious pre-school teachers, but knowing that teachers are usually a really nice buying group, we decided to go.

We set up for the show on Thursday and within a very short time realized this was not our crowd. Not only weren't they interested in soap, herbs or jewelry, half of the attendees had canceled because of the snow forecast. A waste of time is not all that bad, but coupled with the worst snowstorm of the year it isn't the best idea we ever had!

Of course, as always, we slogged along and, attempting to be professional, we appeared as promised on Friday morning, even though the weather forecast was clearly correct and it had already begun sleeting ahead of time. The roads were warm though following our previous few days of warm temps and sunshine, so we figured we would be driving home in mostly slush after 4 when the show was over.

By 10 AM, it was clear that the warm roads had already cooled down and the snow was starting to fly thick and fast. I asked the organizer if, since we were doing nothing businesswise, she would mind if we left early since there was no reason to risk life and limb trying to get home later. She asked that we wait 'til 2...

All through this, Tina was attempting (without success) to contact the school transport to make sure that her daughter would be getting a ride home since she has been staying late for after school activities for the past week or so and had not been scheduled to ride the bus.

So, we waited - anxiously checking outside from time to time and condensing our display and hauling parts out to the car as unobtrusively as possible.

Shortly after 1, my husband called and said that if we couldn't leave soon, we might as well plan on staying the night... That was the final straw, since he NEVER worries about snow. We packed up and left.

We live north of the location of the show and with every mile, the extent of the storm became clearer and clearer. The closer to home we got, the fewer plows had apparently ventured on the roads until, the last few miles had not been touched. I was never so happy to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle before in my life as we drove through 5-6" of unplowed snow.

About 1/2 mile from home, we encountered a school bus stuck sideways across the road. The driver was not even attempting to move it and we saw one lonely set of tire tracks which had driven around the bus - on the neighbor's yard. We finally decided to try it for ourselves and after we passed the bus, we stopped. It was Molly's bus... she hopped out of the bus and into the car. Tina went back and asked the driver if there was anything she wanted us to do and suggested she might want to pull in the driveway just behind her.... no she wanted whoever came to pull her out to SEE the conditions(!) Despite the fact that we were on a hill, my perky little RAV just took off and carried us home.

After dropping Tina and Molly at their house, I decided rather than attempting to use the road I'd just drive through the fields and trees to get home - it was all downhill right into the garage. I'd used that tactic before and it was a good thing. The picture here is what the entrance to our driveway looked like!

It was an adventure and I must say the adrenaline rush was quite invigorating. Since nothing but an unusually hefty(to me) table fee was lost, the outcome was even somewhat invigorating!

This morning, when I peered outside, this was the scene out our back door.

Our little pretend "piazza", so cool and inviting in summer, had become the garden of an ice palace!

The snow, so far untouched, was gorgeous and sitting in the warmth of our gas fireplace was very pleasant. I always love snow when I don't have to go anywhere in it.

Bob got out during the brief sun this morning and plowed the driveway which is now bare. The roads are clear.

Tina showed up a few minutes ago to retrieve her car which she had left here Thursday afternoon.

And Rudy just loved the whole thing!

So, once again the moral of the story is - never attend a show when the organizer calls at the last minute, they're just trying to fill space and it's not going to be a good show for us. We know which ones work and really need to stick to the tried and true.

And, if there's even a hint that there might be fowl weather - forget it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A new favorite and - oh, we're famous!

My son is unimpressed with my choices in music because mostly I listen to "oldies" for the transporting qualities - you know, back to "the day". He has tried often to find "new" stuff that I would appreciate and I certainly appreciate his efforts, but nothing really "gets" to me the way the old stuff does - until this.

Corrinne Bailey Rae! I don't think I've been this fascinated with a new singer for a long time. There's something about the tone of her voice and the apparently effortless way she presents herself.

Check out some of her Utube clips: Put Your Records On or Like a Star or Trouble Sleeping

I just love the langorous mood of her music. I often feel the same way about glass when I'm melting it or when I'm really in the groove and the stringer or design is just flowing perfectly.

Also, on Friday, an article about Lancaster County Soapworks was published in our local newspaper. If you are interested, you can read the article here. We were pretty pleased with it. We had been interviewed a week or so before and knew when it was scheduled to come out.

While the reporter was waiting in line with her children for a balloon sculpture at the Farm Show, her husband had purchased a sniffing jar from us and suggested she write an article about us.

She asked us a question or two and we (Tina & I) were off! We can't seem to shut up once we get started! She looked like she was watching a humorous ping pong match, but she did manage to get most of the facts straight (she's GOOD!) The only thing that was off was that we actually began making and selling soap back around 1992-93, while we were still The Herb Basket/Twisted Sisters.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Break

So.... You may have been wondering what I've been doing for the past couple of weeks.

We took advantage of the fact that both our son and our niece had spring breaks that coincided to take them along on a week long cruise to the western Caribbean. We decided only 3 weeks before the actual trip, so were busy trying to get all our documentation, etc. together for the trip.

We sailed on the Jewel of the Seas (Royal Caribbean.) It's the front ship in the picture to the left. It was very nice, but didn't compare to the Grandeur of the Seas which was the one we sailed on a few years ago when we were fortunate enough to ply the western Mediterranean, the August just before 9/11.

The food - as on all cruises, was fabulous and more or less continuous! We often ate two breakfasts since Bob and I were up and out early and when the kids woke up, we joined them too. If we were on the ship, we ate lunch, followed by snack or "tea" mid afternoon.

I found that most of the pictures I brought home were from Key West, our first port of call. None of us had ever been there and so we wandered around, choosing not to take any of the shore excursions and found Hemmingway's house which we toured and also a few other interesting spots.

On the way there, we passed a guest house called The Banyan Tree and this monstrous example was outside. Bob and I both snapped pictures of it. Banyans always fascinate me since they send aerial roots down to the ground from their limbs. The roots reach the ground and then grow into extra trunks so that the tree is very well anchored in the ground. Seems like a really handy adaptation for a plant that lives in a hurricane prone area.

A little farther along, this sign caught my eye. I really should have gone inside, especially if they had shirts to go with the sign. If you'll notice, the little turquoise banner in the middle says, "no snivelling". I love it. If I ever would consider going into a retail business again, I would just love to add that to my literature! Just love it! I may have to check out their web site and see if they have T Shirts.

So, there we were, thousands of miles away from home and our own chickens. I'd heard about all the stray cats in Key West, but I'm not sure I knew that there are also wild chickens all over the place!

Here's one of the roosters, but there are plenty of hens, too. Every now and then we would pass a hedge and hear a peeping sound. Sure enough, there would be a hen and one or two peeps scratching around under the bushes.

I don't imagine there are huge clutches of eggs and peeps hatched - you know - because of all the, uh, cats.....

On to Hemmingway's house, which the kids were really anxious to visit. I have lots of other pictures, but as I was snapping a number of flora and fauna shots, I liked this one of an ibis(?) of some sort next to the swimming pool in his jungle of a back yard.

I kinda liked the reflection/shadow of the palm tree in the water in front of the bird.

Bob and the kids went off to an adventure in Tulum the next day while were were docked at Cozumel. The sea had been rough the night before (well, as rough as it got on the trip, so not really bad.) and I was still stiff from our long walk around Key West plus I had visited Tulum a few years ago, so I spent a quiet day on the ship. Apparently the ferry to the mainland was an adventure in itself, but Tulum is such a beautiful and interesting site that it was all worth it.

Our last port was Grand Cayman. I really liked this island when I visited it with my mother 5 years ago. It reminds me a bit of Bermuda - clean and safe, with a British influence.

The "boys" went on a tour to a turtle farm and "Hell" - a strange area of volcanic rocks.

Meanwhile, Molly and I decided we wanted to actually put our toes in the Caribbean and opted for a beach "tour". Basically, we paid for admittance to a "private" beach - we had to pay separately for transportation TO the beach.

The picture you see is NOT the beach we were actually on. It is a view to the south from the beach we were on. You can, however see our ship standing our from shore in this picture.

"Our" beach was wall to wall beach chairs and not what I would hope to be my only memory of a Caribbean beach.

If I were to do it over, we would have just hopped a taxi to the public beach and taken our chances there. This one was a definite "tourist trap". It is hard to know when it will be better to just go it on your own or to take the ship's tours although my advice on this one is definitely to go on your own here.

After a "day at sea", we pulled back into Ft. Lauderdale harbor around 6:30 in the AM. I was surprised at all the activity even so early in the morning.

The sight was just gorgeous as we pulled in after being at sea for a while. The sky was just brightening and seeing all that land was pretty nice!

Love to travel, but love to get home again, too. We knew Rudy was pining for us.

At least 4 cruise ships pulled into port that morning and the Ft. Lauderdale airport was totally overwhelmed. Unfortunately we had 6 hours to wait for our flight and there were no seats to be found. We couldn't even check our luggage for two hours. It was a very unpleasant experience all in all. I heard someone say that the Ft. Lauderdale airport is the fastest growing airport in the country and is experiencing definite growing pains....

Eventually though, we got through the numerous security checks, our wait at the gate and onto the plane. Back to the Philly airport which certainly seemed bright, clean and uncrowded after the nightmare of the day.

A quick couple of hours on the road and we happily pulled in the driveway and celebrated with an ecstatic Rudy!