This morning was chilly. We didn't have any heat last night, even though the low was 47. So this morning, I decided to make biscuits to warm up the house, and treat our bellies. I use a recipe out of Sundays at Moosewood, which is chock full of butter, but oh so good. I rarely make them these days, but everything in moderation, right?
I decided to can the stock in pints yesterday, as I had all quarts on the shelves, and sometimes recipes call for less. While sitting with the canner, I worked on some stitchery. I've enjoyed doing some handwork recently. Not long ago, I finished cross-stitching the bib up top for J & I's little grandbaby. Above is a peek at one of the things I've been working on for the shop. I've used a variety of thrifted fabrics. This one was a tablecoth that had some stains, so I'm going to use the good pieces for some stitched items. When there are enough items, I'll be listing them. Today, I'm heading to Body, Earth & Imagination, an art show by my dear friend Carey Smith. Wishing you the loveliest of weekends!
The stock pot has been simmering on the stove all morning. Every year, about this time, the freezer is burgeoning with bags full of vegetable trimmings. Most recently, asparagus ends have been added, but I started these last fall, so there's also winter squash, spaghetti squash and tomato trimmings, in addition to the usual carrot tops, onion and herb bits. Oh, and lots of mushroom bottoms from that canning session. As I could barely get the freezer closed, and today is cooler, only reaching the lower 70's, it seemed like the day to can stock. I'll cook it down a bit longer, then strain and can it, to use in future soups and other recipes calling for stock.
First attempts at spring cleaning have begun. The bed has been stripped down, with all pillow and mattress covers laundered, and crisp summer cotton sheets replacing flannel sheets. Is there anything better than sheets fresh from the line, smelling of sunshine and warm breezes? All the houseplants were taken outdoors, to spend the warm months in their stand under the trees. I'm not sure when I'll begin the actual cleaning portion of spring cleaning, but at least it's begun.
The flowers are arriving with the spring showers. Blooms in all colors are a welcome sight, after a cold winter. The pansies are doing well, even with temps in the upper 80's. There are iris, baptisia, clematis, lavender, comfrey, roses, mock orange, and grape hyacinth blooming, as well as lots of wild rattlesnake weed, atamasco lily, virginia spiderwort, yellow stargrass and azure bluets.
The garden is mostly planted, thanks to J's hard work. The cutworms have done in another two tomato plants. Grrrrr... I've planted seeds of calendula, tansy, marigolds, borage, bee balm, purple hyacinth bean, garlic chives and several basils- lettuce leaf, cardinal, lemon sweet dani and cinnamon today. A few of them went in the ground, but most went in pots.
The dogs are now getting into the pond, which is still just under 4 feet. Would you believe they got baths yesterday?!
I hope you had a most enjoyable Easter weekend. We had J's son and family here for a cookout on Saturday, and spent yesterday at my Moms. She prepared a feast for us, 14 in all, as she usually does. In discussing the newest puppy, my brother helped us come up with his name... McNibs. My Dad's parents, both Irish immigrants, often used the term McNibs as a catch-all term for us kids. As in, "you and McNibs come over here". It's one of the many things they said that still makes us giggle. Maggie and Joe, the couple on the right, were a colorful pair, both excellent story tellers and quite the characters. Mama McHugh, as we called her, spent her life as a domestic, and Poppy Joe, as a plumber. They met at a dance in Brooklyn when they were in their early 20's. They moved to NC when our family did, and were always a regular presence in our lives. I think they'd be pleased at our choice of names. Guinness and McNibs just seem to go together. Thanks, Steve!
These are some views from around the homestead. We've been eating well from the garden this week, enjoying salads, chard and asparagus. There has been some rain, almost half an inch last night, with more to come. The pond needs lots more rain to fill it, and is still pretty homely, but we're hopeful it will be looking pretty after some good spring rains.
J has been hard at work in our little vineyard. Two years ago, he planted Chambourcin and Corot Noir grapes, 5 in all. Last year, he bought a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cayuga and Chambourcin. They've been heeled in, allowing them to grow a bit in a protected space, and now are ready to be planted out. The vineyard is just off to the right when we look out our front door, with the pond just to the left. We're hoping there will be some nice views before too long, between the two. The Corot Noir grapes we ate fresh last year were the best grapes I have ever tasted. The Cayuga are also said to be good fresh. So, we've got that, should our winemaking skills be less than stellar.
There is so much to do, outside and in, it's been hard to spend much time on the computer.
The pups are doing well. They visited Dr. Perrin Heartway, a caring holistic vet in the area, and were pronounced healthy boys.
Though we were spared the brunt of the storm yesterday, neighboring counties had significant damage from tornadoes touching down. We are feeling most grateful, with prayers going out to those who were affected. Our Mud and Suds show will go on today. This chicken is one of the new metal art pieces Joseph has at the show. We hope you'll come see us!
The birds have kept me filling their feeders this week. There has been more hummingbird activity, but I haven't seen more than one at a time, so I can't be sure it isn't just the same one right now. The dogs had baths yesterday, and seem as though they're getting used to it. I just praise the heck out of them, sing loudly made up songs to them, bless their hearts, and use my homemade dog shampoo. Hickory used to think the suds were pretty tasty, and would lick them off almost as soon as I would soap him up. He also got to where he would just step into the tub when I asked if he wanted a bath. Which is a blessing, when you're dealing with a Great Dane mix. I hope these two will follow suit, but in the meantime, I'll just make it as fun and positive an experience as I can for them.
The potatoes have started to sprout in the garden. One of the newly planted tomatoes was bitten off by a cutworm. There's some justice, as I found him and fed him to the chickens. I hope he was an only child. My tastebuds were happy last night, with asparagus soup. The recipe I use is from homesteader extraordinaire, Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Though she is no longer with us, her light still shines brightly, showing the way for old and new homesteaders. Borrow or buy the book if you can.
Cut about 1 lb of asparagus in one inch pieces. Cook with a little salt in 1 quart of water (or stock) until tender. Make a white sauce by stirring 4 tbs flour into 4 tbs melted butter. Add to soup along with 1 beaten egg yolk and a dash of cream. Serves 2.
I always run mine through the blender. If you use storebought eggs, you probably will want to cook the egg yolk a bit after adding it to the soup. I don't worry about it, using eggs from my own, healthy chickens.
I'll be at the Celebration of Spring Kiln Opening at Whynot Pottery this weekend. If you come out tomorrow, you may have to dodge a storm or two, but Meredith's cookies are worth it. Sunday promises to be a calmer day. Hope to see you there!
Between the garden, the pups and upcoming show, days have been busy. The asparagus have required picking every day or two, we planted a dozen of our tomato plants in Wall-o-Waters, and got all of our Wintersown plants in the ground. There was one I had forgotten about, called Aubrieta Whitewell Gem, which is a low-growing perennial. I froze several bags of spinach today. The rain and warm days have really encouraged our greens.
There has been a hummingbird visiting our feeder. I'm so glad I put the feeder up earlier than usual. I know for several years, I saw the first hummer on Easter. The pups are growing, and learning some commands. Lily of the valley, chokecherry, dogwood and wild irises are beginning to bloom. All the lovely shades of springtime green are arriving.
This looks to be shaping up to be a good planting weekend. The wintersown plants all look like they would like to get in the ground. I ended up with bachelor buttons double mixed, poppies mixed, bells of ireland, cosmos sensation, columbine dragonfly hybrid, larkspur kaleidoscope, orlaya from Carolyn, and what I believe are a type of crabapple (from a gorgeous hedgerow I saw in the fall). I also have a spot picked to set out the pink calla lily J gave me for Valentines Day.
The garden is coming up nicely with peas, spinach, onions, carrots and beets. The asparagus are poking up more each day. I'm really looking forward to the first asparagus soup of the year. We're hoping to see the first potatoes break through the ground very soon. Last week, I began my first batch of nettle ticture. I've taken nettles along with quercitin for spring allergies for many years. Last year was the first time I've grown nettles. I dried some, but mostly left it to establish itself. I've been adding several of the dried leaves, crushed up, to my kefir smoothies the past couple of months. Nettles are full of nutrients and decrease inflammation, in addition to their histamine blocking action. A pretty good plant to have around, I'm thinking. One of my goals this spring is to learn more ways to use it, particularly in cooking with it. I know I have soup recipes using it, and some others. If I have time to experiment with any, I'll share the results. And if you've used nettles in cooking, I'd love to know.
Yesterday I enjoyed listening to the whir of the sewing machine accompanied by soft dog snores. While the pups nap, I've been sewing up some rice & lavender therapy pillows and wrapping soap, getting ready for next weeks show. While washing dishes yesterday, I was delighted to see the first hummingbird at the window. In just minutes, a pot of hummingbird food (4 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar) was on the stove and one of the feeders put up. I expect it may not have been one of "my" usual birds, but maybe a scout coming through. In any case, I'm ready now, and hope there will soon be hummers at the feeders.
In the last few days, I had the realization that though I have had two dogs before, I have not had two male dogs before. Oh the yipping, barking and gnashing of teeth! Thankfully, Lisa reminded me of Rescue Remedy, a flower essence I always keep in my purse. It's for those times you've got an adrenaline rush, for any reason, and helps calm you. For example, I've used it after the phone call that came in the middle of the night, before giving a talk in class, and before an interview. A family member used it, instead of a prescription med, for panic attacks while pregnant. It's a mixture of flower essences, and imparts different qualities from the various flowers. I've used flower essences for years, on my animals, myself, and loved ones. Two of my favorite suppliers are Perelandra in Virginia, and Green Hope Farm in New Hampshire. Green Hope has an animal wellness line I like. Flower essences have fallen by the wayside with me recently, so I'm thankful for the reminder for a gentle and natural approach to two very energetic pups. I add a few drops of Rescue Remedy to their water bowl each time I refill it. Ah, brotherly love!
The eggs remain plentiful, so I've tried to be creative with them. I've often made curried deviled eggs, in addition to the standard variety. Recently, I saw a reference to curried egg salad, and thought that would be good to try. With a few minor changes, here is what I came up with:
Place eggs in a pot large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Cover by 3 inches of cold water and place on the stovetop over high heat. Once the water starts simmering briskly, reduce heat and cook eggs at a gentle simmer for 12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggs to a bowl of ice-cold water. Let cool for 5 or 10 minutes, then peel.
In a medium mixing bowl, mash eggs with the back of a fork. Combine mayonnaise, curry and pistachios in a small mixing bowl. Remove flesh from olives, chop and add to mixture. Add mayonnaise mixture to eggs and combine well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The day started out with our first asparagus omelets of the year. A good beginning to this day, which is Joseph's birthday. Yesterday, our homestead expanded yet again. Before we met Guinness, I had been talking to the Great Dane Rescue folks about this pup, and he finally made his way here yesterday. The universe must be very aware of Susan and Lisa's love of animals, as they arrived with 4 tiny rabbits they rescued before they could begin their trip this way, and a few hundred yards out of our driveway on their way back home, they came upon 2 horses that were loose. These are two busy ladies! Thank you, Susan and Lisa, for bringing us this sweet pup. I think he and Guinness are going to be the best of friends. Now, I'd better get busy baking a cake!
A couple of my hats are soapmaker and gardener. A simple, green lifestyle is what I aspire to, and something I continue to learn about. The organic gardens here grow food, flowers & herbs. This home was built with the help of several other folks. It took many years, but is now my sanctuary, and where I'm learning to honor my creativity. Believing words are powerful, along with soapmaking, is how the blog was named, rather than there being any exceptional cleanliness here on the homestead :o). Thanks for taking this journey along with me!