Monday, April 12, 2021

Spring Blooms & The Garden

Hello, friends.  Monday evening, J & I picked up our taxes.  We're thankfully getting a refund, and are discussing the best use of it.  I went through Swagbucks for a purchase needed for the soap shop, and got 1% back.  Another deal I got through Swagbucks was .05 back each for purchasing apples and lemons.  Little bits, but it all adds up.  I finished two free ebooks, and started another on nights I was awake.  The days and nights warmed on Monday, so we were able to do without heat all week, and have been closing up the house as the day warms up, so no A/C was needed.  The Lowe's cc bill was paid off immediately, so no charges were accrued.  For a dinner, our butter beans and lamb's quarter were pulled from the freezer.  Our last tiny stored onions were used in the beans, and our garlic was used in the greens.  Celery was harvested for a waldorf salad.  

An onion was pulled from the garden for a meal of Mexican quinoa and bean burritos.  Laundry was hung on the line.  A dear niece visited, and brought a yummy pasta dish for lunch.  We wandered the gardens, and talked about gardening and plant dyeing.  She'll soon be graduating with a Masters degree, and will be off on a new teaching adventure.  I ran to the library in town, shopped a few sales in Walgreens, and got $5 in rewards.  A small pot of petunias, mixed portulaca and dusty miller were purchased for the window basket for the workshop.  I found a pot that had two of the dusty millers in it, so got a bonus plant.  The first of our asparagus is being harvested.  It will be a few days until there is enough for a meal, so I purchased some at Aldi's for $1.99/#.  I got one of the free coffee bean bags that J was given while at a job for a coffee roaster a few years ago, cut it to fit the window basket, filled it with potting mix, and planted it.  I dug three clumps of creeping jenny to start with, then added the store bought plants.  We'll hang it after the gas company sets up my little workshop heater next week, as that's the area they'll be working in.  I'll share a pic once it's hung. 

I learned from Rhonda's blog that Lowe's is giving away weekly freebies in April, and signed up for this week's.  I've been having some challenges lately, which have really slowed me down in the garden.  Sleep has been a challenge many nights, which has me feeling rather zombie-ish some days.  I've cut back on the supplements I'm taking, in case they're a problem.  I've also had an awful case of eczema on my hands and lower arms for many weeks.  I've finally found something that seems to be helping, which I may share in an upcoming post.  I'm trying to do a bit of yard and garden work here and there, but end up damaging the fragile skin each time.  Perhaps I haven't learn enough patience during the pandemic?  I was pretty sure I'd heard hummingbirds earlier, and spotted the first one on Friday.  The feeders had been up a couple of weeks, in anticipation of them.  

The past few weeks, I'd been noticing the rooster's dish up on it's side some mornings, and some scratching nearby.  I thought it might be a raccoon or a possum, and sure enough, M placed his game cam on the spot, and caught a raccoon the first night.  Now, we're trying to figure out who is breaking eggs.  That's going to be a little tougher to figure out, as it happens in different nest boxes, and when the hens are in the boxes, you can't see what they're doing when their back is to you.  The peas and spinach were fed with this.  I'm trying a few new things this year, to see if they will help create healthy plants and soil.  I've enjoyed using the LeafSnap app this year.  Most recently, it identified a cluster of flowering saplings J & I came across as black haw viburnum, which is both edible and medicinal.  I snipped some lilac to enjoy in the house.  There was one right outside my window in my childhood home, so they've always been special to me.  

A batch of yogurt was made.  A few small garden beds were weeded.  Our chard was sauteed with bought spinach.  There were so many potatoes, when J cut eyes for planting, he boiled and froze several bags.  I got one of them, steamed it after defrosting for a bit, and used it for potato salad.  Almost 100 potatoes are up in the garden.  J set up the garden trellis on Saturday, and I planted the tromboncino squash.  He also made the cucumber bed, and planted those.  I transplanted the rest of the wintersown lettuce, and the wintersown Hopi Dye sunflowers.  On Sunday, J made a bed for yellow squash, and I planted those.  I also planted nasturtium seeds in both of the squash beds, and planted radish seeds in the cucumber, broccoli and cabbage beds.  Both of these are said to repel pests for these plants.  Several volunteer sedums were transplanted in better spots.  We cleaned up our strawberries, and placed cardboard around them for weed control.  They're covered with blooms.  We haven't gotten any berries to pick in years, and not many then, so we're hoping this will be a bountiful year.  Many wishes you have a most bountiful week.

Monday, April 5, 2021

What I'm Reading, Canning, & Gardening

Hello, friends.  Last week, I thinned the carrots, and weeded and harvested wild onions.   The carrot tops and onions went in the broth bag.  I harvested parsley for potato salad, and enjoyed home canned pickled beets in a salad.  Three loads of laundry were hung on the line.  I took all the bags of veggie scraps out of the freezer, and placed them in pots on the woodstove Tuesday night, to defrost and simmer.  They simmered a bit more Weds. morning, then were strained, and the broth was canned, adding 16 pints to the pantry.  J's birthday was Thursday.  He requested German chocolate brownies, which were made from pantry ingredients.  I walked with the dogs every day.  We continue to heat with wood, but it doesn't look like we'll need it too much longer.  

Soup was made, using up several leftovers, along with homegrown tomatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.  With the forecast for two nights in the 20's, I harvested kale, lettuce and swiss chard.  I covered a few plants, but hubby covered several large figs, the gardenias, peas, onions and olives.  They seem to have done well, though I believe we've lost all of the tiny figs.  There's a good chance we lost all our peaches and nectarines too, which is pretty sad.  The first of the asparagus are coming up, which is good, because other than once a few weeks ago, I haven't seen any good prices in the stores.  I purchased some garden amendments using a 15% off code.  J sewed a button on one of his shirts.  Youtube and amazon videos were enjoyed.  We now have three varieties of tomatoes coming up in our cold frame box, and some eggplant.  I've been drinking celery juice most mornings, and some of the celery gifted by a friend last year was harvested.  

After taking M to an out of town appointment, I stopped at Trader Joe's and a natural food co-op.  I brought my Kindle to read in the car while waiting for him to finish his appointment.  There weren't any great sales on the things on my list, but I did get some Alphonso mangoes for .79 ea.  Parsley and sage were harvested to make my grandmother's dressing, veggie version.  I'm using up the last of last year's onions.  Not too bad to get to April with them, and there are lots outside I can harvest when I need to.  I've been using using our frozen blueberries and peaches together in oatmeal, which is yummy.  I've been enjoying a free Kindle book.  I had started another one, but wasn't enjoying it, so will delete that one.  

There are a few authors I learned of while listening to the On Being podcast, and I've been enjoying a couple of their books.  The Cozy book is one I read of a while back as being a good one to read during the pandemic.  I continue weeding and cleaning up beds.  Dandelion greens were harvested for the pups most days.  I learned that they supply them with good pre-biotics, so try to incorporate them with most dinners.  Wild wood sorrel was harvested one evening, to add to salad.  It has a lovely sour taste.   With J finishing up, and me painting 8 orders on Easter, it wasn't much of a holiday for us.  I did pick up some organic cinnamon rolls on sale at the co-op, and made them for breakfast.  Pesto was pulled from the freezer for an easy dinner.  If you celebrate, I hope your Easter was a lovely one. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Vegetable Broth & Tomato Rice Loaf Recipe

Hello, friends.  I pulled all the veggie bags for broth from the freezers last evening, and put them on the woodstove to defrost and simmer last night.  After simmering the pots of broth a bit more this morning, I strained and canned it.  There are 16 pints cooling, to add to the pantry shelf.  Yesterday, I thinned the carrots a bit more.  J and I enjoyed them with hummus, and the tops started a new veggie broth bag.    While weeding an herb bed, quite a few wild onions were pulled.  I've also seen them called wild garlic, so maybe I should just say wild alliums.  Whenever I pull them up with the bulb intact, I clean them up, chop off all but the tender portion of stem, and add them to the broth bag.  Though I've used them in a pinch when out of onions or garlic, they are a bit of work, due to the layers of skin, so I prefer to use them this way.  It's easy, and still makes use of them.  We garden organically here, so there are no worries about chemicals.  If you'd like to harvest some, I'd recommend making sure there have been no chemicals sprayed in the area.

I was asked to share the Tomato Rice Loaf recipe, and thought I'd do so in a post, so I can find the recipe here in the future.  I'm not sure where I originally copied this recipe from, but I've been making it for many years.  I've tried adding various herbs at different times, and feel free to do so yourself.  It's not an exciting recipe, but we think it's good, and uses ingredients we have on hand.  

Tomato Rice Loaf

1 medium tomato, chopped                                     1 tbs oil

1 stalk celery, chopped                                            1 tsp garlic powder

2 cups rice, cooked                                                  2 tsp onion powder

1/2 cup bread crumbs                                               Oil for loaf pan

1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350.  In large pan, saute tomatoes & celery.  Add onion and garlic powder, rice, bread crumbs and milk to pan.  Salt to taste.  Mix well and spoon into a well-oiled loaf pan.  Bake for 1/2 hour.

Notes:  This recipe is quite forgiving.  I typically use fresh onion (1/2 small) and garlic (2 cloves) instead of dried, and saute them with the tomato and celery.  For the tomato, I've subbed a handful of grape tomatoes, or often use a pint of home canned tomatoes.  I like it heavier on the tomatoes than the recipe calls for.  For the milk, I've used the tomato juice for a portion of the liquid, and used part or all yogurt, kefir, or half & half instead.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

Early Spring On The Homestead

Hello, friends.  Last week, I got several of the storage butternut squash, peeled and cut them up.  Seeds were saved.  I made squash crumble, and froze bags for two more.  This winter, I was introduced to a new to me kitchen tool, a Kuhn Rikon peeler, which has made peeling winter squash considerably easier, and I no longer have to worry about cutting myself, cutting through thick skin with a knife. When it arrived, I was surprised by how small it was, but it does a fantastic job, and doesn't waste any squash, unlike my usual peeling with a knife.  I learned of it from a chef who shared his favorite kitchen tools.  The squash peelings went into the broth bag.  Butter beans were pulled from the freezer to have with it, and a broccoli salad was made.  Pretty pear and peach blossoms are opening, and the violets and pulmonaria have also begun blooming.

Soup was made using up leftovers.  J put all the partially done compost in the wheel barrow to dry out for a couple of days.  I then sifted it and got around 5 gals, which he spread in the asparagus bed.  We continue collecting warm up water, and use it for flushing and in the woodstove humidifier.  While packing orders and wrapping soap, I enjoyed listening to podcasts.  Tomato rice loaf was made, with peas and a salad.  Most of the winter greens are bolting in the garden.  I harvested the last of the cabbage, and started a small batch of sauerkraut.  The first of the tomatoes are sprouting, three Brandywines so far.  After delivering soap, I went by a thrift store, and bought a lavender cashmere sweater for $3, and a canister for $4.  I drilled holes in the canister, cut a carbon filter, and listed it in my shop.

I transplanted 14 wintersown spinach seedlings into a raised bed.  I also planted a few of the wintersown lettuce, but they came up very thick, and most were too fragile to make it.  I've left the top off the container, so they'll hopefully harden off a bit. Looking through the freezer, I noticed how many bags of grated tromboncino squash there were.  J is avoiding cheese at the moment, which made it a bit tough to find a recipe, but I found a zucchini potato bake to make.  I used the grated squash in place of sliced, and it turned out fine.  I'm beginning to see anole lizards, skinks and frogs on the homestead.  The frogs are making quite a chorus at the pond.  With the leftover squash/potato bake, I made corn on the cob I'd frozen, and we finished the broccoli salad.

J finished putting up the last of insulation and sheetrock in the workshop.  We took out all the leftover insulation and sheetrock, then I cleaned up and swept before mudding the sheetrock where needed.  J requested pasta with olives, and parsley was harvested for it.  On Sunday, my intention was to begin picking up sticks and limbs from the yard, but I started weeding first, which kept me busy for several hours.  Oh well, it all needs to happen.  After that, I cleaned the refrigerator, which sorely needed doing.  I opened a jar of home canned crowder peas, to have with jasmine rice and cauliflower for dinner.  Over the weekend, my sister and I planned an adventure in a few weeks, and I'm pretty excited about it.  It's very nice to have something to look forward to.  Wishing you a most lovely week.

Monday, March 22, 2021

A Happy St. Patrick's Day

Hello, friends.  Last week, there was one huge football of a sweet potato left over, and it was calling me to make pie.  Tuesday was cold and rainy, so that seemed a good day for it.  J had requested baked ziti for dinner, and it was made using our tomatoes, herbs, garlic and onion.  I used a promo code for an order on Vitacost for 15% off the order, got another 8% back through Swagbucks, and bought just enough to get free shipping.  A pot of sweet little daffodils purchased at the grocery store had finished blooming, so I planted them in the ground.  Quite a few of the zebra hollyhocks were up, but all of them were outside the flower bed, so most were dug up and returned to the bed, and a new spot got the extra three.  The new spot is across from the workshop window where I'll be packing orders, so I hope they do well there.  

I picked daffodils, forsythia and a hellebore for a bouquet one day, and more daffodils and forsythia another day.  On St. Patrick's Day, I harvested a cabbage, and made colcannon and Smitten Kitchen's Irish soda bread scones.  I made the cake flour it calls for, using her instructions of 1c flour and 2 tbs corn starch sifted twice.  I wandered the homestead, looking for a 4 leaf clover, and found a 5 leaf!  After dinner, J took me to our new local wine bar, to have a drink to celebrate the 14th anniversary of our first date.  There was only one other person in there, so social distancing was not an issue.  On the trip to Asheville with my SIL last year, I gathered four fruits of the kousa dogwood, which had fallen where we had parked.  They'd been in the refrigerator cold-stratifying ever since, but I got them planted over the weekend.   I've been wanting one of these for quite a while, and hope some of the seeds germinate.

A clump of red sorrel/bloody dock was divided in 4 and transplanted.  The thornless blackberry and raspberries were pruned.  I took 3  blackberry cuttings, used root hormone, and am trying to propagate them. While wandering the woods, I came across a cluster of plants along the creek.  I thought they looked similar to heuchera, and the LeafSnap app indeed came up with heuchera americana, or alumroot.  I'm thinking I found another cluster of them in a different spot last year, along the creek bank as well.  J put the ceiling insulation in the workshop.  I assisted him in putting up the ceiling sheetrock between painting orders. He got all the potatoes planted, and planted lots more than usual.  Our recent harvests have been pitiful, so we're hoping we'll have plenty of potatoes this year.  He amended the truck tool box we use to start seeds in, and planted 9 varieties of tomatoes, 3 peppers, and 3 eggplant.  I made name tags by cutting up old mini blinds.  

My sister asked me Saturday morning if I'd like to go to an outside event that afternoon, where they closed off the street, so restaurants could expand outdoors.  We had a fantastic meal, and supported a local business.  Plus, I brought home a piece of their yummy strudel.  It was a lovely way to celebrate the first day of spring.  Sadly, we lost a hen last week.  They all seemed fine when I let them out in the morning, but by early afternoon, one was struggling to breathe.  I made up some Vet Rx and put it beneath her head, but J found her dead when he went to close them up that evening.  That's the fastest we've ever lost one, besides predator attacks.  The grape hyacinths have just begun blooming, adding a bit of purple to the yellow and white blooms.  Happy Spring!

Monday, March 15, 2021

March Meals & the Garden

Hello, friends.  Lately, I've been getting bored with the usual lunch choices.  One day, I decided to make some shell pasta, and sauteed a few mushrooms with garlic, then added some cream and fresh parsley to top the pasta, along with grated Romano cheese.  It was good, and a nice change.  I pulled our lima beans, spaghetti squash and lambs quarter from the freezer for a dinner, and made cranberry relish with the last of the cranberries, an apple, juice of an orange, and a handful of blueberries that needed using.  The squash and lambs quarter dish used the last of the cream that needed using.  Another dinner was The Prudent Homemaker's black bean burgers with a Mexican quinoa dish.  A green salad was made, which used our home canned pickled beets.  The seed potatoes arrived, and are in pans in the studio, developing eyes.

It had been a month since I cleaned the bird feeders, so I cleaned them and the birdbaths again with 10% bleach solution, to avoid spreading mycoplasma among the finches.  I've only seen a rare bird since the first cleaning with sickly looking eyes, and nothing as bad as before the cleaning.  If you'd like to learn more about it, Julie has an excellent post on mycoplasma.  A sweater was mended.  Hummus was made for lunches.  The workshop porch and steps were sealed.  Laundry was hung on the line.  For a dinner, I topped cheese ravioli with sauteed garlic, mushroom, and chopped frozen parsley.  Another dinner was baked sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus and pinto beans, with home canned applesauce.  J tilled up the garden, took down the trellis, and amended the soil where the potatoes are going.  I pruned the fruit trees in the pond garden, and pulled up all the wild blackberry and grape vines I could, then cut the rest at ground level.

We dropped our taxes off at the accountant's.  Orders were powder coated on Saturday, including an extra one J had made, but afterwards I realized I mixed up two of them, and will have to repaint both the proper colors.  We continue heating with firewood, though there was one warm day and night we did not need any heat.  I enjoyed oatmeal with our frozen blueberries and figs.  Repainting the two stands was a major hassle, but after two tries for one and three tries for the other, we decided they were good enough.  My mistake was in not looking at the order slips, and just going on auto-pilot.  I'm usually better with details, but this one slipped by me.  I needed a simpler dinner than what I had planned, so veggie chik patty sandwiches were made, with our dill pickles, and a salad.  I don't know if it's the time change, or a shift in energies, but I hope the coming week will be gentler on us than the weekend was.  Wishing you a gentle week as well.  

Monday, March 8, 2021

The Power of Color

Hello, friends.  Last week, I harvested lettuce and thyme.  The wintersown lettuce is now up, as well as spinach, marigolds, hollyhocks, scabiosa, cosmos and Hopi dye sunflowers.   The stovetop was cleaned with homemade thieves vinegar and baking soda.  Fire cider was strained, and honey added.  To use up several leftovers, vegetable soup was made for lunches, which also used our canned tomatoes, fresh cabbage and carrots, garlic and last year's frozen peas.  The dehydrated garlic was ground into powder, and another tray of garlic was dehydrated.

After talking with J about David the Good's video on the trench biochar method, he said he thought what was left in the woodstove with the ashes every time he cleaned it out was the same thing.  So I sifted the ashes out of what was in the ash bucket.  Once I get a full 5 gal bucket of the charred pieces, I'll charge it with compost tea.  I spread the ashes around fruit trees.  A dozen eggs were shared with a friend.  I made cabbage and noodles with our cabbage, and sweet potato muffins with leftover sweet potatoes and soured milk.  Laundry was hung on the line.  Face masks were hand washed and hung on the line.  On the way home from dropping recyclables off at the dump, I got gas for the push mower, then mowed the edges of the asparagus patch, around a fig tree, a persimmon seedling, and a flower bed.  Somehow, when the guys mow, these areas are almost always missed, so I wanted to start out with some clean edges.  

For a dinner, I made autumn succotash, using some of our butternut squash.  Three more containers were wintersown... butterfly weed, woad, and dyer's coreopsis.  A patch of poppies was direct seeded.  On Saturday, I powder coated lots of orders.  A flower bed was weeded, a volunteer bachelor button was transplanted, and a goji berry was pruned.  A jar of our red noodle beans was cooked in the wok, to go with mushroom gravy over jasmine rice.  The windows for the workshop were all salvaged and are different.  The two with wood frames happen to be the most visible, and were painted in spring green on the outside.  I'm planning on making flower beds beneath these two windows, and putting a flower box at one.  J finished putting all the flooring down in the workshop, and built the steps up to the porch.  The walls took some hits, so I need to mud some places before I put the second coat of paint on.  Slowly but surely, we're getting there.  

I've been thinking about color, and the power it has to soothe or excite, make us happy or sad, even make us hungry (it's said red does that).  The recent blooms are surely making me happy.  If I'd have tried, I couldn't have matched the new flannel sheets to our walls any better.  They didn't look like they were a lavender blue on my monitor, and were just named "Blue", so I was pleasantly surprised they were such a good match.  After looking at a load of laundry from the house, it made me smile to see they were hung pretty similar to the color wheel, though I wasn't aware of it at the time.  Other than the 3 containers from a few days ago, most of the wintersown plants are germinating, which is pretty exciting.  The peas are slow to germinate, with only five up.  I'll give them a little longer, then will reseed some spots.  

J has been working on the garden plan for the year.  He's going to move the trellis we grow tromboncino on, as they've grown in the same spot the past two years.  We're taking down the long PVC "house" we tried growing corn in.  I don't have anything on my calendar this coming week, and hope to spend some time working on the workshop, and in the yard and garden.  I learned a few things while reading Margaret's post about companion planting.  A few things I plan to try are planting nasturtiums in with the squash, radishes with the eggplant and possibly tomatoes, and sweet alyssum with the lettuce.  Hopefully, our garden will continue to just get better each year.  Wishing you a most colorful week, friends.