Hey man slow down, slow down

;) - That’s when you see sparks

As promised, a garden update and a freebie!

Garden first, well lets call it the Micro-farm cuz that’s kinda what were trying to do here. The apple trees are bearing up well and we discovered a surprise on the new pear tree, an actual PEAR!

I am so planning on doing this in a few years

The beans are climbing all over the fence, the peas are beginning to flower and the tomatoes are really beginning to take off. Over in the main garden we are almost done with the first bed of radishes, a few more coleslaws and salads and we’ll be ready for a second planting.

We also have a bunch of little berry patches that we hope to consolidate for next year.  Black raspberries, I feel a pie coming on!

The cockerels and pullets have been separated. The male Steves are living in the new “dude-coop” and the lady Steves have moved down with the hens.

We also picked up 5 Leghorn chicks, from Mr. Lipman’s 2nd grade again, whicj brings us to a grand total of 35 chickens. I know, but really, we’re pretty sure that 2 of the leghorns are male so that means that by the end of the summer we’ll be down to 21 hens. Holy shit, did I just say 21 hens?

Who needs eggs? You do, right? Right!

And how do we corral all these chickens? a Liberal use of chicken wire and other fencing which brings me to the freebie!

My hair is kind of a crazy thing to begin with and the summer humidity does terrible things to it. I often wear my hair in a ponytail but sometimes I just want it out of my face. So what’s a girl to do?

Chicken Wire!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a simple mesh kerchief that ties at the back neck to help corral your frizzy summer locks (it also doubles as a great neckerchief!)

Grab the PDF of Chicken Wire here or over on <a href="download now“>Ravelry

Toots

Beneath the sheltering sky

;) – With their cups still full of sand

This is the first year we’ve really had a rockin garden. We had high hopes for our tomatoes-only approach last year and then late blight set in and we lost everything pretty quick.

This year we tried raised beds and a decent variety of plants and we’ve been happily surprised at the bounty of our 16, 36x18inch beds. The snap peas were a little late and thin but but delicious, the radishes were amazing, the beans were picked clean and have just decided to flower again so we’ll have a second, and completely unexpected, harvest.

(garden picks from the morning of 8/14/10)

The first bed of tomatoes started to ripen last week and we planted in 3 groups so we should have fresh tomatoes through to the first frosts. Carrots and beets are all just about ready to be pulled – some already have been and were declared super yummy. We’ve had lettuces, swiss chard, small onions and japanese eggplants for a couple months along with the summer squash that have just expired. Our potato plants look like they’re waning and the butternuts are slowly turning peachy. Also, there are cucumbers.

(photo from June 2010 – taken by our friend,Kimberly Fletcher Gendreau)

All of this has made me amazingly happy and completely frustrated. I have two daughters and while they are pretty good about eating whatever I set on the table for dinner they are less than enthusiastic about a whole meal of just vegetables. Then there is the husband.  The joke in the family is that,  “If its green, he won’t eat it, unless its Jell-O!” Although he is just as excited by the yield of our plantings I sometimes have to be creative and conservative with the amount of veg in the meal.

So what is a girl to do with all this produce? Pickles and Preserves!

I have a garage full of canning jars and it was time to put them to use. This past weekend I put up 36 jars of pickles and 2 jars of tomato sauce.

I finally picked up my copy of Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton and what a fantastic copy it is! Pickles, preserves, freezing and drying all kinds of fresh from the garden and wild find foods. Apple butter, pickled asparagus, lemon curd, leather britches, fruit leathers and so much more. She has put together a book that is not only full of great recipes and adaptable at that!,  but gives you what other books usually lack, the “Why”. Not only why you need to follow the rules but why you should preserve you own food.

I’ve also been following a few foodies this summer, most notably Eating From the Ground Up and Local Kitchen. I love reading posts from creative woman who not only care about feeding their families but that the process should be enjoyable, adventurous and in the end, delicious. Also, it doesn’t hurt that they both take great photographs :) This post about pickles is what really got me going and I can’t seem to stop. What do I have that I can pickle?

Cucumbers? obviously. Summer squash? Why not, I watched my sister do it a few weeks ago and tasted the amazing results hours later. Beet Stems? whacka-whacka-what?! You heard me, beet stems. Dude, you can pickle anything.

Dilly sandwich slices, Saffron Summer squash and Sweet Fennel beet stems.

So, go forth! Raid your garden, the farmer’s market, and your CSA share. Get you some vinegar, some spices, some basic canning supplies (or fancy ones), a good recipe and method book(hint* – see above) and try your hand. I think you’ll be surprised and your taste buds will be happy.

I’m planning some Dilly Beans from that impending second bean crop, maybe some more watermelon rind pickles and lots more cans of tomatoes for the depths of winter.

Toots

Dig it like a shovel

;) – I’m the lyrical Jesse James

Its lunch time, I’m hungry and the Hubby isn’t going to go grocery shopping till tonight. What to do?

Make soup.

2 minutes in the garden =

12 snap peas, 1 young onion, 1 small japanese eggplant, 4 large swiss chard leaves, a sprig of oregano.

Saute bulb of onion, eggplant and chard stalks in local, organic butter till soft.  Add chopped snap peas, chard leaves, chopped oregano and a splash of Long Trail Double Bag. Bring to a quick simmer. Add 1 cup chicken stock, 1/2 cup milk or half and half, chopped onion greens and salt and pepper to taste. Bring it all back to a simmer then enjoy!

The only thing that would make this the perfect lunch would be a slab of fresh baked bread but I haven’t gotten that far today. Soup and beer it is.

Lunchtime reading? Popular Mechanics - Energyland: The race to cheap, sustainable power. by Elizabeth Svoboda.

Toots

It’s easier to run and harder to be still

;) – When I’m tired

How many of you can reach for a snack from where you are sitting?

The window behind the computer

What is that outside my computer window? 

are those berries outside my computer window

Are those the black raspberries I have been patiently waiting for?

why yes, those are berries outside my window

Why yes, yes they are!

hello delicious berries

Hello delicious, conveniently located healthy snack!

om nom nom

om, nom, nom

I relish the thought of the pies to come.

Toots

The smile on your face I live only to see

;) – Lay here and watch the trees sway

How to have my Tuesday in 7 simple steps.

1:Wrangle with your insurance company and that of the other party involved over the fault of the rear-ending that you experienced 5 months ago and finally get them to come to the conclusion that it WAS NOT your fault and that you can now get your car fixed.

2:Drop your car off at the body shop which also has a rental place and drive off in a spiffy PT Cruiser.

3: Get a job teaching at WEBS so you meet awesome people who will bring you fresh Hadley Grass from their garden for NO reason, out of the blue, while you are happiily crocheting away at Drop-in.  Thank you Joyce!! ;)

marinatin' aspargus

4: When you get home from work with the kids marinate the asparagus with some chives and oregano from your garden and a bit of the real balsamic vinegar that your sister brought snuck back from Italy almost 2 years ago that you totally hoard.

5: Fire up the grill and get it ready for some steaks and the super yummy asparagus.

a broken door

6: Counsel, comfort and bandage your almost 7 year-old after she shatters the glass on your garage side door and scares the SH!T out of herself, her sister and you. (Breathe a sigh of relief when you clean up the Van Gogh worthy amounts of blood from the side of her face and ear and you only find superficial cuts. *sigh*)

sidewalk of glass

7: Clean it all up and be ready to sit down to a delicious meal just as the hubby pulls in.

grilled cow and hadley grass

You could probably get away with steps 4, 5 and 7, or you could make up your own, but that would be simple and easy. The best things in life are more enjoyable if you toss in some drama, and a full belly.

a belly so full 

SO full.

and no, that is not some secret allusion to me being pregnant, I’m just super full of asparagus.

Toots

Hold your breath, make a wish

Count to three

canning-fixins

The kids have been watching this movie like crazycakes the past month, not that I mind, I would rather spend hours with Gene Wilder than 10 minutes with Hannah Montana.

jars-of-jam-on-the-boil

I bring up Willy Wonka because the name came up twice in my life this week.

First: We made jam on Sunday. I had gone to the Twist Fair on Saturday with Melissa, Kristen and her amazingly well behaved (you put me to shame) daughter and Rue and we had a lovely time, and a lovely lunch at which I mentioned wanting to go home and make violet jam, I have mentioned this in past years. Melissa loved the idea and demanded the “receipt!” Oh the calm repose and patience that woman has ;) Then I went back to Twist with Annie and had a second loverly time. I ended up with not a lot of loot but good loot. I bought some super cute hair clips from Tina, got a beautiful necklace from Malea – I’ll shows you later, soap and lotion from Bunny Butt and I ran into all sorts of people I know and love. Now, if  I could just get off my ass a little more and make some stuff I could maybe vend at one.

jar-of-violet-jam

Oh the Willy Wonka thing, right, its because Violet Jam is an insane color and Saebra commented that it looked like a candy that Willy would make.

open-jar-of-violet-jam

Second: My friend Matt picked cahsews this week, he’s in El Salvador with the Peace Corps for the next 2 years. He and his host brother went out to pick cashews and he’d never realized they came attached to fruits. He said,  “…looks like something from Willy Wonka’s health food store.” Unfortunatly they don’t taste so good. And for those of you that followed his link, please ignore the mustache. Somewhere under there is the cutest boy in the world, I swear.

dollop-of-violet-jam1

So what do you do with electric purple jam? you eat it of course! and it is delicious. Melissa says it tastes like spring and she is so totally right.

violet-breakfast

If you’d like the recipe, here you go:

Violet Jam – referred to by my husband as his brothers as violent jam

Makes  12, 4oz jars

3 C violet blossoms                                5 C sugar

Violet Jam – referred to by my husband as his brothers as violent jam
Makes 70oz (my notes say 12, 4oz jars, his says 70 oz, hmmm)
3 C violet blossoms                                5 C sugar
3 C water                                              2 – 1.75oz packets of powdered pectin
2 tsp lime juice
Clean blossoms and toss in blender with 1 1/2 C water and 1 C sugar blend till there are no visible blossoms. Add remaining sugar and lime juice and pulse till mixed. In a medium saucepan over med heat bring remaining water and pectin to a boil and let boil for one minute. Remove pan from heat and pour violet mixture in to pectin, stir to fully incorporate and pour into prepared jars.
Refrigerate and use once cool and set. Will keep in fridge for 4-6 weeks. May be stored in the freezer indefinitely.

3 C water                                        2 – 1.75oz packets of powdered pectin

2 tsp lime juice

Clean blossoms and toss in blender with 1 1/2 C water and 1 C sugar blend till there are no visible blossoms. Add remaining sugar and lime juice and pulse till mixed. In a medium saucepan over med heat bring remaining water and pectin to a boil and let boil for one minute. Remove pan from heat and pour violet mixture in to pectin, stir to fully incorporate and pour into prepared jars.
Refrigerate and use once cool and set. Will keep in fridge for 4-6 weeks. May be stored in the freezer indefinitely.
Just be careful if you do a waterbath for longer storage. Sometimes there are casualties.
broken-jar-of-violet-jam
Toots

five, six, nine, and ten.

;) - you know who you are.

Saturday was a great day and miserable, grey, rainy days usually just aren’t. We played Yahtzee, Saebra won a family game for the first time ever! we colored Easter eggs. Multiple color dips make the greatest eggs!

easter-egg-galaxy-2easter-egg-galaxy-1easter-egg-lightning-storm

We also made Easter cards for the family. We made our own paper shaped into little rounds with wildflower seeds embedded in the fiber so the paper we made can just be torn up and planted. Pretty cool, huh!

bottle-of-paper-pulpwildflower-seedspulp-and-seeds-on-a-screen

easter-cards-to-grow

Yesterday we got to visit most of the family, well the girls and Pat did. I spent my afternoon with a sleepy Easter Bunny :)

julia-sleepy-bunny

Toots

Uncle Richard, me and James Earl Jones

;) – the world has more for you

I’m finishing up, and starting projects left and right lately. I have 3 patterns that I’m submitting for a Twilight knit/crochet inspired book. One is 1/2 done and has been/is being test knitted as we speak and I LURVE what my testers are turning out! Woot!!

The other 2 are crochet projects, I’m working up one this weekend and hope to have the pattern written and off to testers early next week and possibly get the last project started on Monday.

This is all I’ll show you of the one on the hook now, It reminds me of the episode of the original Star Trek series with the two opposite guys that couldn’t get along.

I also picked all the tomatos that were left on the giant plant that grew out of out compost. We had two morning frosts this week and all the foliage is dying. Now I just have to figure out what to do with 10 pounds of green cherry tomatos! Any ideas?

Oh and because he’s mentioned in the song lyric that I chose for a title today, I will leave you with links to 4 of my most favoritests JEJ movies. One, Two, Three and Four, and NO these are not award winning or even worthy performances, they’re just my favorites – go rent and enjoy ;)

Toots

But my heart is still unknown

;) - Now inches from the water, about to disappear

My week started off in a wonderful place. 

Patrick has had Mondays off all month and we’ve been able to spend some nice days in each others company. This week we took a slight road trip north for goodies.

See, Kristin mentioned awhile back that she and The Farmer had this amazing old abandoned apple orchard on their farm, then she went and said that if anybody wanted to come pick apples they could! We don’t live all that far away and I’ve been trying for 2 years to get together with her, so we decided we would go make a morning of it!

It was one of those great blustery autumn days with really warm sunny patches and cool breezy patches – just a beautiful day. We got there around 11, said hi to Kristin, the Farmer, lovely neighbors, the dogs, chickens, mamma sheep and their fall lambs, the guinea fowl and the orchard – oh that orchard.

They are the wildest apple trees, there is such life and a magic about them, all tangled together, gnarled, broken, canted, wild, rose covered – you should see al the little cuts on my hands and all the little thorns I pulled out that afternoon :) – and quiet, so quiet but alive with sound at the same time. I remember days like that as a child spent wandering the hills behind my grandparents place and spending hours without hearing human sounds. I loved every minute of it!

After an hour or so of picking we were at hauling capacity for our little station wagon and we headed back up to the house for a bit. Kristin showed us around, introducing us to the reasons for patricks newest blog posts, showing us her studio, piles of works in progress and recently returned test knits for her latest book-in-progress. Truly amazing stuff. She also gifted me with a nice little stack of postcards of some of her pictures and paintings – she has them for sale on her site scroll down a bit.

The apples were hard to get to in places and we only explored and picked in a very small portion of those 4000 trees. Most of the fruits are very high in the trees now – one of the reasons comercial orchards prune their trees is ease of picking – but we had a wonderful time and filled a huge bin with a falls worth of cider fodder! This weekend, when Patrick isn’t working on his sugar shack, we’ll be grinding and pressing apples. 

The girls have 3 soccer games this weekend but I’m sure I can get them to help me wash the apples inbetween. I can’t wait for that fresh cider!

Thank you Kristin!

Toots

You know that I’m no good

;) – I told you I was trouble

The hands. They are weak.

So I pinned out 14 squares and stopped there because I ran out of pins – 2 left to go. And while I waited for them to dry…I started a sock. I know.

I also hit the garden for what are some of the last goodies to be had. A couple baby cukes – sweet with almost no seeds and some roma tomatoes for lunch. I’ll get maybe a handfull more greem beans but the leaves are all dying and there aren’t anymore flowers.

I also thought I’d share the monster tomato plant that sprouted from our compost – its huge! The first tomatoes that showed up are just starting to turn yellow around the edges but I swear there is a whole new cluster of fruits on that thing everytime I look at it.

Gotta go pay the car insureance and get my car inspected – have a great Tuesday!

Toots