Monday, June 27, 2022

A Beautiful State

Hello, friends.  Last Sunday, I left to visit my niece in Asheville.  Between mid-afternoon Sunday to Monday afternoon, we took five hikes, including two to waterfalls.  For scale, look closely at the rocks on the right for people.  We had a lovely time.  North Carolina surely is a beautiful state. I gathered an oak gall and a little bit of usnea on our hikes.  There was lots of usnea, but our hikes were my focus.   After our first hike, we went by the farmer's market, and I picked up a few things for dinner Sunday.  We also did some thrifting, and I brought home a lovely pair of linen shorts.   When I headed towards home Tuesday, I stopped by a nearby discount grocery I'd found online, only it wasn't truly a discount grocery.  Most of their stock was regularly priced, and some was even higher, such as a 2# bag of organic apples for $7.49.  They did have GF chips for $1.49, and I got a couple, but overall, it was a disappointment.  

I'd offered my niece my old juicer, which she was happy to get.  That worked out wonderfully well, as I could make my celery juice each morning while there.  I planned ahead, and was able to stay on the MM recommendations during my visit.  Between the produce I brought, and what was gotten at the market, it was pretty easy.  I prepared smoothies and cut up apples for the drive each way.  On Monday night, my niece suggested a curry house downtown.  I wasn't sure how much I liked curry, but they had two that I could eat, so off we went.  It was delicious!  I'm still thinking about it.  I had a Thai Panang curry, with veggies, coconut milk, lime juice and peanuts.  So good!  I've already found the Panang paste, and plan to attempt to recreate it at home.

Two loads of laundry were hung out to dry outdoors.  The cucumbers have started bearing, and are bountiful.  Several were shared with two neighbors, and some were shared with the owner of the gallery I worked at on Saturday.  I pulled two bags of frozen leftovers to take for my lunch at the gallery, as well as water and fruit.  I tried a MM recipe for Spicy Cucumber Chips, which we liked.  I'm happy to find something to replace the Asian cucumber side I usually make each summer.  There were two store bought onions going bad, so I salvaged what I could, dehydrated it, and added it to the soup mix jar.  I harvested cucumbers, mulberries, black berries, figs, a yellow squash and a small eggplant that something had started chewing on.  We're getting quite dry here, and are very much hoping for the rain in the forecast on Monday.  The chickens are getting a chopped mash each day, and rewarding us with eggs.  I used diluted comfrey tea to feed lots of flowers and landscape plants.  

J harvested the onions that were ready.  They're larger and nicer than previous harvests, which is nice.  He planted two cover crops on currently unused areas of our main and pond gardens.  The cover crops he used were phacelia and buckwheat.  Besides building our soil, both of these will also support pollinators.   After our potatoes had dried on the ground for several days, J & I sized them.  I brought a basket of the smallest ones into the house to can at a future date.  As last year, we spread them out on pine straw in small, medium and large sizes, J limed them, and then placed more pine straw on top.  They're then covered with heavy plastic, and they're within a dog lot which is covered with tin roofing. This system works better for us than anything else we've tried so far.  I used our first tomato in a salad Sunday, but it wasn't very good. J picked up a few Early Girl plants this year.  We're hoping it's because of the heat and dryness, rather than those tomatoes in general not being good.  Either way, they won't go to waste.  

A few weeks ago, we were invited to an outdoor party this past Saturday night.  It was called a Gratitude Fest, and was a small gathering of around 2 dozen.  It was so nice to be out among a gathering of people, some old friends and also meeting some new.  We were treated to live music from an excellent musician, and then danced under the stars for the first time in a long while.  It seemed the quintessential summer night.  I'm grateful for many things, but family, friends and summer nights have to be up close to the top.  Though we'd originally planned our first cookout Memorial Day weekend, we were surprised to find a Carolina wren on a nest in the grill.  Everyone has now flown, so we finally were able to grill over the weekend.  I prepped potatoes and yellow squash with herbs, all from the garden, and made salads using our carrot and the tomato.  Wishing you all the gifts of the season.

Monday, June 20, 2022

The morning the heat dome was to arrive, I harvested two heads of lettuce, and left two of different varieties to go to seed.  A  few more small lettuce plants probably won't make it, but they're in mostly shade, so it will be wait and see.  Indoor chores were accomplished, such as making a batch of ketchup, and starting a batch of glycerite for pain and inflammation.  The ketchup was divided in three, and two containers were frozen.  The herbs, which were valerian leaf and flowers, echinacea leaf and flowers, and catnip, were gathered and mostly dried before making into a glycerite.  I learned of the recipe on Rain Country.  The recipe also contains feverfew, but all of ours has died out over the years.  It was originally planted here to use in a migraine remedy for my ex, and neither of us thankfully has that issue, so we'll try the recipe without it.  The ketchup recipe calls for 1/3 c apple juice.  It's not something we typically drink, so I am freezing it in cubes for the future.  

The morning of the hottest day in the forecast, I cut my walk short, then mulched the newly planted area of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  A small flower bed at my shop was mulched, and a large flower bed in front of the shed was watered and mulched.   A large aster was pruned, to keep it from becoming too leggy before fall.  When all that was done, I celebrated the accomplishment by cutting a bouquet for the house, and some gardenias I placed in a bowl, which smell heavenly.  After having my morning smoothie, it was still in the low 80's, so I headed back out to clean the coop.  It's much easier in the warm months, and doesn't take too long.  I gathered sprigs of mint to strew on the floor, and put in their nest boxes.  The chickens are still getting a daily mash, with a mix of frozen squash from '18, chopped greens and banana peels, mulberries, and sometimes a protein, such as chopped peanuts or boiled egg.  The Japanese beetles arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I began handpicking them for the chickens last week.  They will definitely be sufficient protein for the time being.

Thankfully, it never got above 92 on the day they forecast 99, and it didn't reach that until late afternoon.  I ended up spending a good amount of the day outside.  Blackberries, mulberries and lamb's quarter were harvested.  I picked up lots of metal where J had burned some pallets, and added it to the salvage yard barrel.  There's more, but I put a good dent in it.  The first outdoor shower of the year was enjoyed.  The guys were working at an away job, so I had the homestead to myself.  After all that outdoor work, I thought that would be perfect.  As always, it was a lovely thing.  Some more carrots were dug.  The tiny carrots and some of the greens were dehydrated for a soup mix.  The rest of the greens were added to the broth bag.  Swagbucks were redeemed for a $25 gift card.  Water from washing lettuce was used on plants, and warm up water was used to flush.  Some of a bag of honeydew in the freezer from last year was blended for a drink on a hot day.  Three books I'd requested were picked up at the library. 

The usual composting, shredding paper, and collecting rainwater happened.  There are little eggplant, peppers and yellow squash on the plants, and we're about to pick our first cucumber.  On one of the steamy mornings, J dug potatoes, and I gathered them.  We did find some wire worms, collected them in a jar as we went, and fed them to the chickens, who ate them with relish.  Take that!  J had gathered a box full of purslane while weeding recently.  I removed all the large stems, cleaned it up, gathered basil, and made several batches of pesto for the freezer.  Several times during the week, berries and lambs quarter were harvested.  I froze a couple bags of lambs quarter, and the mulberries and blackberries.  We were at the critical point for rain with the wild blackberries, as they were drying up.  Thankfully, we got a good rain, so they are doing well.  Only the Salad Bowl lettuce came up, of the last round I started.  I began a new round of Salad Bowl and two others.  J is holding down the homestead, while I take a short visit to a niece in Asheville.  Wishing you a most Happy Summer Solstice!

Monday, June 13, 2022

Flowers of June & a Vintage Treasure

Hello, friends.  The flowers are in a patch of Twelve Apostles lilies, which J started from a patch he had at his house, which started from one bulb he got 35 years ago.  On Monday, I canned the vegetable broth that simmered on Sunday, and got 7 pints to add to the pantry.   I add a few pieces of reishi to the pot, for it's medicinal benefits.  I've continued chopping up goodies for the chickens... either summer or winter squash, mulberries, some greens, banana peels, sometimes mock strawberries or a boiled egg.  They clean it all up, except for a very small amount of greens.  Who needs greens, when you've got berries and more?   I've slowly started to decrease the scratch they're getting.  I'm still soaking it in water overnight, and giving it the next morning, as I'm not convinced fermenting is the way to go.  It does seem that it has also slightly decreased their layer pellet intake.  I gathered the last few peas, which were dried and added to the mixed vegetable jar.

After making a soap delivery, I stopped at two nearby thrift stores.  I didn't find anything at the first stop, but found a lovely old gateleg table at the second one.  It needs a couple of minor repairs, but nothing much.  I'd recently been thinking of looking for two narrow tables to replace a couple of very rustic handmade pieces, and this narrow table will work perfectly in one of the spots.  As my extended family continues to grow, the pulled out version will be nice to seat an additional six if needed.  I do love old pieces with history.  I bought beets at the co-op, which had lovely greens on them.  I bought the beets to make apple beet salad, but then sauteed the greens with garlic and broth.  I haven't always been good about cooking the greens.  Though they'd been added to the compost, as they're food we can eat, I'm wanting to decrease any waste I can these days.

I went to Harris Teeter, mostly getting produce, but also checking on some staples, and found they had sales on organic peanut butter and raisins.  I also stopped at Dollar Tree, got more bamboo toothbrushes and a lighter, and was delighted to find some seeds for my Garden soap sets.  I never know how many to get each year, but as quite a few have already sold, I wanted to replenish them.  I ran out of seeds before last Christmas, and would rather that not happen again if possible.  I've been looking in Dollar General and another Dollar Tree without luck, so was happy to find another 8.  They are a mix of carrot and marigold packets, so if they don't all sell this year, they are seeds I would use.  

The older chicks turned 10 weeks old last week, so they were moved into the main flock, and the littlest chicks are now in the outdoor coop fulltime.  That all went pretty smoothly, which is always a plus.  J & I strung up the tromboncino trellis, and the part of the bean row that has beans growing nicely.  Over the weekend, he checked on round 2 of butter beans and some green beans our neighbor gave us, and out of all of them, he only found one green bean beneath the soil.  We have no idea what's getting them, but he planted round 3.  He also planted yellow squash in some cells, instead of the ground, to see if we'll have better luck.  He worked hard on digging stumps and levelling the land in front of the solar panels.  After researching the Northern sea oats, and seeing that they can be quite invasive in some areas, I've decided to plant them in our beds out by the road, instead of by the panels.  If they behave themselves there, we may transplant some in the future.  

I was happy to be asked to add two days to my schedule, working at a pottery gallery in the coming weeks.  We now have little cucumbers, some peppers, and lots of tomatoes.  We're so looking forward to beginning the harvest.  The native milkweed has been covered with bumblebees, and smells so sweet each time I walk past.   As much of the country has already experienced, the heat dome will be arriving here this coming week.  There had been a forecast of 100 for Tuesday, but I see that's now been lowered a couple of degrees, thank goodness.  I'll be doing most of the outdoor chores early, then plan on working on things indoors for the rest of the day.  Stay cool, everyone!

Monday, June 6, 2022

Early June Days On The Homestead

Hello, friends.  Last week, I made a mixed berry pie with our berries pulled from the freezer, which we enjoyed for a few days.  Golden paste for the pups & hummer food were made.  I tried a new recipe for fat free hummus, which was just OK.  I planted seeds for three varieties of lettuce, more zinnias and cypress vine in pots.  By the end of the week, the cypress vine and zinnias were coming up well, but the lettuce hadn't sprouted yet.  J and I noticed a black spiny caterpillar just hanging out by our door for a few days.  One day, we noticed it had molted into a yellow caterpillar, though before it moved, it had changed back to black.  It may have been the caterpillar of the Buck Moth, though I'm not sure.  J stopped to pick up chicken feed, noticed some two week old "leftover" Rhode Island chicks, and brought two of them home.   They are quite fond of watermelon. So, we're back with chicks in the house, but since Friday, I've been taking them out during the warm part of the day, to hang out with our 9 week old chicks.  

I harvested peas, the last spears of asparagus, lettuce, chard, basil, mulberries, and gathered wild blackberries, purslane, lamb's quarter, and catbrier tips.  Peas, berries, and lamb's quarter were frozen.  A double batch of pesto was made, one for eating now, and the other frozen.  A carrot, carrot tops, chard stems with some greens, and peas were dehydrated and added to the mixed vegetable jar, for future soups.  A GF banana blueberry bread was made.  I tried a new recipe from Kaihla Tonai,  Garlic Cucumber Noodle Bowl with Steamed Yams, which was so good, I kept thinking about it the next morning, and had it a second time during the week.  Though I'd liked ginger, I'd forgotten how good it can be, as due to a sensitivity J has, I haven't used it in our meals for around 10 years.  I used the potato option in place of the Japanese yams, cut the cucumbers thin with a mandoline, and left out the raw onions.  I was able to use our garlic and lettuce, but I'm hoping our lettuce and cucumbers will coincide in the garden, then along with our potatoes and garlic, I'll pretty much have the recipe covered with homegrown.  The YT video above has the recipe below it.   All laundry was dried on the line.

After running an errand for J, I ran by a feed and seed in that town, and picked up a few plants... two roselle hibiscus, which I hadn't had luck with starting from seed, a cardinal flower, and pink gaura, as well as the window box plants.  They were all planted on a cloudy evening, and ashwagandha seeds I was given were also planted.  Jars of usnea and astragalus glycerites were strained and bottled.  Though it's only been 3 1/2 weeks since I canned broth, I had another 4 gallons of veggie scraps in the freezer.  As Sunday looked to be one of the coolest days and nights in the forecast, I began simmering them on the stove.  I prefer to do it when the woodstove is going, but if I don't keep up during the warmer months, I'll have a freezer full of scraps.  I've shifted to having more raw fruits and vegetables, and less cooked food right now, so that's contributing more to the scrap bags, as well as the compost bin.  The update on the new water aeration and filtration system is that it's a success!  The water is still very slightly gray, but no odor that we can detect.  I'm very happy!

I planted the window box that J made the insert for at my shop window, with creeping jenny I dug up, plus calibrachoa and angelonia.   It's a bit bedraggled looking, but I'm hoping it will recover and fill in nicely.  I potted up the three marked down geraniums, and placed them next to the trellis at the driveway edge/start of path to the house.  Several of the black eyed susan vines are coming up along that same trellis, and at another one.  I'm hoping they'll be happy, and climb the trellises.  A batch of alfalfa sprouts were started.  Working on eating down the outdoor freezer, I pulled out two bags of butter beans I plan to cook soon, and a bag each of summer and winter squash from '18 that are being shared with the chickens.  The summer squash was mixed with chopped wild lettuce, banana peels, and garlic mustard, and mulberries.  Anything healthy I can give them to supplement their diet these days seems to be a good thing.  There is an excellent discussion on alternatives to store-bought feed here.  The pups were given something raw daily; sometimes dandelion greens, chard and stems, apple, etc.

This is the main garden from the handmade gate.  The garlic was harvested from the middle foreground.  Onions are beyond.  The right trellis is cucumbers.  The wood trellis barely peeking out on the left is the tromboncino and cucuzza squash.  Eggplant, peppers and basil are to it's right, with tomatoes beyond, and to the right in cages.  To the right of the cucumbers are potatoes, and the far right are sweet potatoes.  It's getting quite dry here.  We got a little sprinkle last week, but nothing measurable.  Plants are starting to wilt.  I used water from washing vegetables and orders to water plants.  The chickens were brought two huge watermelon rinds last week.  One day, I brought the last of one of the watermelons to them.  They may not eat all the green plants that chickens supposedly eat (ie: nettles and purslane), but they sure love some watermelon.  May your coming days contain good moments and good things to eat.