Saturday, December 20, 2008

Another Tree Season

This is the last weekend for Frog Hollow this year. On Sunday, we will have sold our last tree for the season.

On Tuesday, we had a beautiful snowfall and expected to have a pretty uneventful day, but apparently there are some folks who don't mind braving snow (or even the occasional changeover to freezing rain) to cut their tree.

Somehow, I found myself up the hill with my camera and decided to take some "winter wonderland" pictures.

Bob and Rudy had to come up too. You can see that Rudy, as ever, is proving he can outrun the "Frogmobile".

Sometimes he leads the way and sometimes he decides to take a shortcut through the trees or on a connector road and manages to pop out ahead of his nemesis!

I took this picture today. This is a huge Blue Spruce. I wish I had thought to get the camera a little sooner, because when they began to load the tree, it appeared to be a nearly impossible job. It seemed bigger than the van! As it is, it barely fits in the van.

The people came into the shop and we laughed about the fact that they usually bring a bigger van and they just overestimated this one's size.

I found it interesting that their son's girlfriend had the job of sawing this monster down...

So - another tree season has come and is just about gone...

Friday, December 12, 2008

An interesting pendant

A few weeks ago - or was it more(?) - a friend handed me a little baggie full of beads, stones and crystals. She asked me to put them all together into a pendant.

They've been sitting around in my living room, taunting me for all the time since then.

Last night, I finally decided how I would put them together and this is the result.

The pendant is about 4" long and quite impressive...

I have to drop Roe a line to let her know to check here. If you want a better view of it, just click on the picture and it will appear on a new screen, enlarged.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another mention ... and Rudy in the rain

After all the media attention we have gotten this year, we have had some fun and busy weekends around here.

There are usually two busy weekends each year - Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend after. This year was no exception.

We set up our shop, but when things are crowded, most people want to just get in and out as parking is at a premium around here. This year, we offered free cocoa and hot cider on Saturday and Sunday both weeks and at least had a few folks stop into the shop for that! Last Sunday was bitterly cold and we were glad we had something to help our customers warm up a bit.

Things should be a bit more leisurely the next two weeks and that is fine with me.

I was surprised by a google alert this morning that led to this article which is about keeping Christmas green, and mentions Frog Hollow!

Every year during "tree season", we have a day or two (and sometimes more) of rain or other inclement weather. The rain is the worst though.

I was hoping for a day or two of respite in the middle of the week, but it is stretching out and people are coming out despite the pouring rain.

<<This is Rudy, our self appointed welcoming committee. His job is to keep track of everyone, but especially to chase the "Frogmobile" a utility vehicle we use to get around here, and Rudy's nemesis!

He was outside off and on all day today and when he wasn't out in the rain, he was spending his time wrapped in a big old dry towel, sleeping!

This is his post rain garb! Poor baby...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Media Coverage

We've been really lucky this year with a lot of media coverage for Frog Hollow Evergreens, our Christmas tree farm.

It started with an article in our morning paper the morning before Thanksgiving. A reporter had called me the evening before and I just tossed off the line about how we avoid haggling price by keeping our pricing simple. Bob brought the Paper home on Weds. and I was surprised to see my quote starting off the article!

Another reporter had called me earlier in the day and asked many, many questions. I kept checking the papers because I hadn't remembered to ask what paper it would be in - datewise. As it turned out, he was from our Sunday paper and that interview resulted in this article.

The first article attracted the attention of a couple of TV stations! First, our cable service has its own channel and they came out on Weds. evening. They did a cute little bit with the footage they shot on their evening news.

Then, the local FOX channel was scheduled to come out on Saturday which, as a result of the newspaper was crazy busy - although it is usually pretty insane Thanksgiving weekend. They had to cancel, but said they'd be here Sunday. I was shocked that they did show up in on Sunday since it was raining all day and we had only a few very hardy customers. We did an interview in the drizzle on Tina's deck, overlooking the trees. Again they showed a clip that evening on their news broadcast. I thought I wasn't identified, but a couple of friends have let me know they saw it, so I guess I was... I'll have to watch the tape again.

it was amazing the amount of footage that is shot for a 10-20 second bit!

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Snow

Of course the first snowfall of the year is news. It's beautiful and exciting. I'm sure if there is a lot of this this winter, it will become boring and depressing, but for now... it's great!

This morning, I woke to a surprise dusting and, after talking to Tina, we decided to take Molly to school in the Rav - it is wonderful in snow. Her school is in our old neighborhood and after dropping her off, we stopped to snap a couple of pictures:

This is State Street in Lancaster and it is tree lined and shady in the summer... In the winter, it becomes a snow dusted fairy land!

Here is the yard of just one corner house. There are so many shrubs and big old trees in this area and when the snow hits.... they're just beautiful.

I was just outside a couple of days ago, photographing the last of the leaves on the trees and a couple of late blooming roses... It's always amazing to me how things change so quickly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Bracelets

I've been busy the past few days. I had some orders to get done and while I was at it. I thought I'd better put some bracelets together for the shop and bracelet page of the Torchsong website.

This one is Robin's Nests:

Favorite Colors:

Midnight Wanderings:

Lights in the Forest:
The last three haven't gone up on the Web yet, but here they are...

(Please feel free to groan!) Fiesta-wear:

Bee Flowers:

Purple Custard:

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mystery berries

We stopped over at the post office in Mount Joy the other day, noticed these plants and realized we have no idea what we found:

Before the brash, gaudy orange parts push through, this is what the berries look like - pale, demure, blush pink....
And then, the orange part pokes out ... Here's a close up.

And even closer!
If you know what these are, I'd love to know!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sweet September

So many things I have been wanting to blog about and just couldn't find the time, so, here I go...

As the summer wound down, there were a couple of things that had to be done. One day,

Tina, Molly & I took a walk down into the woods to gather jewelweed for the last time of the year. We clean it and process it to use in the jewelweed soap we call "Happy Wanderer" that people find so helpful in the spring after their first exposures to poison ivy.

It's kind of a pleasant way to pass a few hours, and we wound up with plenty of the frozen "goop"!

That same day, as we were walking around the yard preparing to venture down to the woods, we saw this fungus growing under the paper birch in the front yard.

If you know of the PA Dutch treat called shoofly pie, this mushroom reminded us of a "wet" shoofly pie. The edges certainly looked like pie crust and the top appeared to glisten with molasses. We decided not to taste it though!

Last Saturday was the last day for our market this year, but a couple of weeks ago, I left Tina alone at the tables so I could drop some mail off at the Post Office before it closed (I think I may have also continued on to Dunkin' Donuts to get us some coffee and Bagels). As I walked out of the P.O., this steeple reared up into the gray sky and it just cried out for a photo. Luckily, I had my camera along and took the shot. It is quite massive and very impressive although it really doesn't appear that way here.

I continued then around to the parking lot with my camera still in hand and saw something that has always been very interesting to me. Lancaster had a famous artist named Charles Demuth and for some reason, these silos remind me of his work. It often contains stylized depictions of just this type of thing.

The final event of the Month was the first wholesale show we have ever attended as vendors. Other years, we have been represented at shows, but we have never represented ourselves at one, so it was a pretty exciting event.

We were small potatoes compared to a lot of the vendors there. While we weren't sure exactly what to expect, we held our own just fine and picked up a few new customers.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Oven Tomato Sauce

Looks like this may be the last tomato harvest of the year.

We've actually been going through them so fast (and Bob's been giving a lot away too) that I haven't given a whole lot of thought as to what to do with them all and I haven't preserved any for the winter.

Recently, I read (on my sister's Yahoo list) a way of preparing tomatoes to use as a sauce and to freeze. I've made it twice before and this time, I was determined to get extra to freeze.

I picked as many tomatoes as I could find on the bushes as well as a few peppers.

I also found some basil and oregano, brought it all inside and added a few onions and garlic.
My son helped me by briefly dipping each tomato in boiling water and then plunging them into ice water to make them easier to peel. Peeling is not compulsory, but it makes the sauce a little more civilized.

The tomatoes were chopped into halves and quarters and I squeezed some of the seedy parts out as I was preparing them. I chopped the onions and peppers, smashed up quite a bit of garlic, cut up the basil and oregano and found a box of baby portabello mushrooms, then sprinkled all of those as evenly as I could over the tomatoes. A little salt and pepper and a good shot of olive oil over it all, and into an oven at 400 degree Fahrenheit for about an hour and a half.
I stirred it a couple of times as it baked and when it came out, it looked like this:
This was followed by a frenzy of eating! I made spaghetti and added the sauce. We served it with mozzarella and Parmesan and a loaf of Italian bread - oh, so good!

I don't have any pictures of the finished dish (see above frenzy!) Suffice it to say, it was delicious! We served 7 people with one pan of sauce and 2 pounds of pasta. The sauce appears to be thin and watery, but do not be mislead by the appearance. This sauce is full of flavor and especially good when served in a bowl.

I'm a bit excited because after the second pan of sauce cooled, I packaged it in zip loc bags and now have 2 quarts of this ambrosia in the freezer for the winter - or maybe the fall.

Next year, I'll be doing this all summer and we'll be well stocked! Sorry to tell you if you have received some of our overabundance this year you should not be expecting it next year!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Overheated Soap

Okay - I'm back. There may not be any beads for a while, but I do have a bunch of things I've been wanting to blog about and I'll start with the most recent first!

We've been making soap since the early 90's and there is something I have never experienced before. That is overheated soap. Interestingly enough, I've been reading a lot about it lately and was about to ask what is the big deal? My soap gets really hot in the mold while it does its' overnight cure. It settles down and is fine by the morning.

I've heard of "alien brain", which is something else I've not experienced and thought maybe that was the thing everyone was trying to avoid. I assumed that was the problem, that it sort of formed a wormy looking top or something like that.

Well, last night, we were making a couple batches of soap and decided at the last moment to make a batch of Goat Milk soap. The lye mixture is a little different for that one, and I mixed it up just before we started.

We made the first two batches with lye that had actually been mixed the day before and was room temperature. They went fine, but they were normal soap.

The final batch was the Milk soap and even though the lye was still quite hot, we figured it would be fine... Not so much. I walked away to do somethingin the other room while Tina finished cleaning up.

When I walked back into the "kitchen" area, this is what I saw:
The soap had swollen up like a souffle! It had even overflowed a bit:

Since we had never experienced this before, our first reaction was to tape the liners together to form a collar which would contain the growing soap. The next thing to do, of course, was to take a picture! Then, we carefully carried the whole mess out to the cool, cement floor in the open garage just on the other side of the door.

A bit later, Tina checked it and it had begun to collapse. We brought it back inside and put it inside an open window to finish whatever it was going to do.

This morning, I came out to find this:
We might get a layer of soap out of it (we usually get three), but we sure have learned why we don't want to overheat soap!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Caterpillar update

So, my DH identified our bizarre visitor as an Imperial Moth.

From the Auburn University website:

Imperial Moth
Eacles imperialis (Drury) (Saturniidae)

L.L. Hyche, Associate Professor
Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology
Auburn University

The imperial moth is distributed throughout the eastern United States west to Texas and Kansas. The caterpillar feeds on foliage of a variety of broadleaf and coniferous trees. Some common hosts are oaks, sweetgum, sycamore, elm, hickories, walnut, maple, basswood, honeylocust, pines, red cedar, and bald cypress. In Alabama, the caterpillar is found on both pines and hardwoods.

Life Cycle, Description, and Habits

The insect spends the winter as a pupa in the soil; adults emerge in spring. The adult is a large moth with wingspread of 100-150 mm. It is sulfur yellow, marked in varying degrees with lilac to purplish-brown bands and spots. Females lay large yellow eggs or in small groups on either surface of host leaves.

The full-grown caterpillar is 75-100 mm long. It occurs in two color forms, green and brown. In the green form, the head is orange-yellow with vertical black or dark stripes on sides and front. The thoracic legs are yellow. The body is green and thinly clothed with long whitish hairs. The second and third thoracic segments each bear a pair of stubby, rough yellow horns, and rows of smaller yellow spines occur along the body to the rear. The last abdominal segment bears conspicuous yellow and black triangular plates. The spiracles along the sides are large, oval and pale yellow to cream in color. In the brown color form, the body, horns, and spines are tan to reddish brown. When fully grown, larvae leave foliage and pupate in the soil. Two broods may possibly occur each year in Alabama; however, the caterpillar is most commonly seen in August and September.

Occurrence, Damage, Importance

The imperial moth caterpillar is a solitary feeder. It may occur on any of the many host trees, and is usually encountered most commonly in late summer and fall. These large larvae individually can consume a lot of foliage, but are seldom present in sufficient numbers to cause serious damage. Large, colorful, and armed with horns and spines, the caterpillar may look fierce and dangerous; however, it is harmless and does not "sting" or stab man.

A slightly bizarre inspiration

I know I've been quite remiss in my posting, but I finally saw something that inspired an immediate post. We were just walking up the hill and a beam of the setting sun seemed to draw my attention to something that I could hardly believe was some type of caterpillar.

Still not quite sure what this is - I'm suspecting a Luna Moth larvae, but whatever it is, it's huge:
I took a shot of it next to a lighter to show the size.

We think this is the front/head end.

And this is the hind end.

If and when I figure out what it is, I'll probably edit this to identify it, but I just had to post it right away!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A little tour of my world

I thought today it might be fun to do a little tour around our place.

First stop is the Soap Studio.

I also have my torch in there for lampworking.

This is where I spend most of my time. It always looks so pretty in the summer with all the plants in front blooming away. The Monarda has taken over for now, but there's a huge conglomeration that blooms there in turn throughout the spring and summer.

It's such a great space. climate controlled and fitted out inside especially for making soap.

Next is the new hen house.

It's where the chickens roost for the night and also where the goats hang out.

I thought it was so cute when it was delivered and Bob actually made the little garden out front and planted flowers there and in the window boxes.

I wouldn't be surprised to walk out one morning and see that he had put up lace curtains!

This is the latest momma and her chicks.

She's the big momma around here with 16 of them. You can't see them all in the picture (because she carefully lead them out of range everytime I was set to take the picture), but I think I caught 14 of them in the picture if you look closely.

She's in special quarters for now to keep everyone out from underfoot of the goats and clear of the pecking order.

When the day is over and I wander into the house, this the scene that awaits me.

We put a permanent addition on the back of our house last year and it is really nice.

The pergola and the brick patio were here before and the workmen did a great job of working around them.

I love the lushness of the giant hostas and ferns under the kitchen window to the right and the way the light filters through the wisteria and the trumpet vine growing over the walk. This is always a cool spot in the yard even on the hottest days.

This is the trumpet vine. It is lush and bright and will forever make me think of summer.

I'm surprised I didn't get a picture of a hummingbird in there since they are often feeding at the flowers.

The seed pods for these will be all over the place this fall and there are lots of little plants coming up here and there in the ground cover near the house.

It's something of a chore to try to keep all those little plants from taking hold.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Suddenly Summer

I know it isn't really sudden, but isn't it amazing the way the world changes in just a few short weeks?

It seems we were just wondering at the bright spring green shoots and waiting impatiently for the trees to be in full leaf.

Suddenly, we look around and see summer is here...

Everything is really "green" green.

We no longer wander freely through the woods because the undergrowth is so thick.

We are eating fresh vegetables from our garden.

This Robin is no longer a harbinger, he's just one of the many, many birds who contribute to the natural chorus in the summer...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Playing tag

I was tagged yesterday and actually finished answering my questions in the morning. With all the things on my "todo list", I was a bit overwhelmed 'cause I forgot about the lavender wands we do every night and how frustrating it is to wait through various medical appointments and play phone tag with travel agents... so, I finally finished this up today!

The rules of the game: Each player answers the questions themselves. At the end of the post the player tags 4 people and posts their names, and goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment letting them know that they've been tagged asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answers.

Ten years ago... My sister and I were partners in our herb shop, The Herb Basket. We would have just finished our midsummer class called "Eating Your Yard" where we would serve a backyard salad, stir-fried day lily buds and cantaloupe with rose syrup and anise hyssop flowers. My son would have been 12 years old and getting ready to enter the school that definitely made a big difference (for the good) in his life.

Five things on today's to do list... Taking my brother to Hershey Med for testing, finalizing reservations for my son's trip to the Netherlands in August, putting wash away from yesterday, preparing orders for shipment and hoping to get some time on the torch.

Snacks I enjoy... pretzels, bagels, when I'm feeling "healthy" - raw carrots. Oh, and Turkey Hill Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream!

Things I would do if I was a millionaire.... I'm not sure what I would change - I'd probably invest and live off the interest, then try to help loved ones become more secure financially.. (If we are talking big money here - a million just isn't what it once was!) Probably a few trips (first class, of course!) - Italy again, a Greek cruise, Bali and Morocco has always called for some odd reason(!), a visit to an exclusive spa for me and a group of friends, buy a house at the beach (in Bermuda?) - oh, heck, and one in the mountains too, and hire a personal chef and trainer to make me look great when I go to all those places!

Places I have lived... Lancaster, PA - born and raised. For a few years in my youth when my father was in the Air Force, Columbus, OH. When I was younger, I always wanted to live "somewhere else", but now, I can't imagine wanting to live anywhere else!

So now, my friends, you're it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

So, apparently the teapots are habit forming! After posting the ones yesterday, I kept getting new ideas of how to make more and couldn't resist sitting down at the torch for a few hours to produce what you'll see below.

I woke up very early this morning and was excited to see what would come out of the kiln. I cleaned the beads and wired them up, photographed and already I have the pictures ready posting!

This one, I call "Elegant Pewter". It has a wonderful metallic sheen and the form makes me think of a silver tea service. I love the way the handle ends at the bottom.

For some reason, this one reminds me of leaves swirling in a pond as they dash by in the fall. I just adore this color combination and call this pot "Reflections".

This one has a very earthy finish. The glass used always winds up with the wonderful powdery blue/turquoise patches on the brownish red. It reminds me of a glaze that is used by a potter friend of mine.

I call this one "Tortoise Shell" because that is the effect that this particular frit on the topaz glass always creates.

And finally, "Wedgewood". This blue, when adorned with white or ivory stringer always reminds me of Wedgewood pottery.

Today, I will attempt to put the available teapots up on my website - in the Focals section.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Taking tea in a small way!

More teapots! They took a little while to get finished, since we had other things (for instance a full day yesterday at Hershey Medical Center with our brother) going on, but I think they were worth the wait.

I placed a quarter next to each one when I photographed them so you can get an idea of the size. They are all hollow, so even though they are somewhat large for beads, will have much less weight to them than they would seem to have.

First, a periwinkle blue teapot with vining stylized lapiz and rose colored flowers dancing around it.

A celadon pot with green and pink frits added to look like a rosey pattern.

Milk glass with the same frit as above.

This base color is called opal yellow and I think the roses and forget-me-nots on the vine swooping around it give it a fairytale quality.

Finally, a second amethyst colored teapot with roses and forget-me-nots growing around the sides.

These will eventually go up on my website, but in the meantime, if anything tickles your fancy, please email me at At this writing, they are $35 each and will look beautiful on your favorite silver chain.