Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ah, August!

Here in the late summer garden, things begin to go a little wild!

Some of the plants have truly taken over, spreading out, flowering and fruiting daily—keeping us busy every evening with our colander and harvest baskets. The weeds are enjoying the season as well, and we're not quite keeping up with them the way we would like. Too busy harvesting food!

Right now we are gathering lots of tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers. The native sunflowers that we grow for the Bee Project have really had a wonderful year. They are a small branching sunflower and the gold finches come around every morning and again at twilight to snack on the seeds.

We have great expectations for our first crop of popcorn as well as potatoes and pumpkins.

The delicata squash are coming along nicely this year, and we're looking forward to some delicious roasted delicata with balsamic vinegar. Yum!

The beans have been one of our mixed blessings this season. Our bush beans have mostly succumbed to a bean blight, which we've had in other years in other areas in the garden. It doesn't kill the plants completely, but slows growth and cuts way down on the yield. Luckily, the three bamboo teepees of bush beans in the middle of the bed seem to be unaffected. And we've been harvesting a variety of lovely fresh green pole beans, Kentucky Wonder, Cherokee trail of Tears and Purple pods.

A good lesson in the wisdom of growing a diverse selection of crops. Even if some fail, other's will thrive.

After last year's gloomy outcome in the tomato department, we were more determined than ever to have a good crop of tomatoes for fresh eating and putting up for winter. We planted many varieties this year including Brandywine, Martian Giant, Sophie's Choice, Arkansas Traveler, Italian paste and Matt's Wild Cherries. Everything is coming along really well.
And the Matt's Wild Cherries have come out an absolute favorite. They are branching and shooting up all over the place with no end in sight for the flowering racemes which quickly develop into branches of tiny sweet red tomatoes. Delicious to snack on by the handfuls.

So, here's to more wild times in the garden.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jammin' on the one

I've finally tried my hand at canning. It has been a long time in coming...trying to overcome some strange little trepidation I had. But I discovered a lovely patch of wild black raspberries at my neighbors house the other day. Neglected, and unpicked. I made a point to introduce myself and get permission to pick. She doesn't like the bushes and would love to have them chopped down, but her husband won't let them go, although he doesn't pick them either. So, I've now been over to pick three times and there will be one or two more forays before the berries are all gone.

This gleaning was about 1.5 Quarts.

This bounty of found, wild food was just the kick in the seat I needed to nudge me into my first canning experience. With newly purchased canning pot and accessories, sterilized jars and Pomona's Universal Pectin in hand I made a batch each of red and black raspberry jam, sweetened with local honey.

The red berries come from our own raspberry patch that we planted when we moved in three years ago. It is bursting with fresh juicy red berries, and we've been out there picking every day, with no sign of letting up!

My first batches...10 jars of summer goodness.

And this morning before work I was off for another check of the black raspberry bush. This time another 1.5 quarts. Enough for a batch of black raspberry cordial or half of another batch of jam. The bushes have a few more pickings left in them, so into the freezer these will go for now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The colors of the garden

Sorry for the radio silence but, life and the garden have conspired to keep me away from the blog. Here are a few shots of the early season here. These colors are slowly being replaced by yellows and brighter reds and hopefully I'll have more pictures to share soon.

For now the last hurrah from the chives...

and the crimson clover which has since been brewed into a lovely clover syrup with local honey, just the thing to add to a cup of green tea!

The indigo columbine was a favorite in late May

Not to be overshadowed by the lovely rose pink columbine nearby

And sea pinks bobbed their cheery heads near the driveway.

Updates in planting, knitting, and cooking coming soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Knitting in shades of Spring

Stress knitting, or rather knitting to un-stress has been my thing these days. Especially knitting little bitty things that give me quick results and cuteness. And with the seemingly endless waiting that is such a big part of our life right now in the world of domestic adoption. (waiting for "the call" waiting for a match, waiting for the Goober to find us...) I've done quite a bit lately!

First in pictures is this little baby cap the Fixation Newborn Hat from Ravelry. I love this pattern for the simplicity and cuteness factor. And since I was knitting and sitting and listening alot, at a performance my sister-in-law was in, this was the perfect thing.

And then I discovered the Milo!

I know I'll be making many of these little vests. The pattern is so easy once you see how it goes together and it is a total stash buster, using such a small amount of yarn. I love it! The cable variations that the pattern suggests will make for some nice little changes and with different yarns and sizing from 3 months to 4 years, I'll be knitting these for years! This one reminds me of celeriac so that's what I call it.

So, as for the news on the adoption front, there's no baby to report. We have now been officially waiting for over 17 months and trying to keep our spirits up. Our agency is going through some major personnel changes, which is very disconcerting. And it seems that many folks are waiting a very long time, not just at our agency. We did just attend a big Adoption Conference and immersed ourselves in classes and conversations about birth families, open adoption and openness in adoption. We did meet up briefly with the new director of our agency, which was a nice surprise and spent a few minutes catching up with our social worker as well. We'll be meeting with the new director next week to discuss where things stand and talk about opportunities for networking and anything else we can do to ease the waiting.

Luckily, we're heading quickly into planting, harvesting and preserving season. We have plans for garden and season expansions, as well as gaining some new food preserving skills. And maybe starting to plan the chicken coop! So, we'll keep ourselves busy and out of trouble as much as possible...but always ready to drop everything at a moment's notice to go and meet our Goober.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring socks and seedlings

I finally finished Michael's Valentine's Day socks. They are a basic top-down sock recipe made up in a lovely sock yarn called "Smooshy" in color Blue Lagoon by Dream In Color. Not totally dye-fast. My fingers and bamboo needles had telltale signs of blue, but lovely stuff none-the-less. And now that Michael is a convert to home-made sock goodness, I need to keep this thing going!

I'm prepping another round of seedling pots for the next week of seed starting in the basement.

I'm happy to say the halved TP rolls with newspaper strip bottoms have worked out pretty well. This is the second year I've used them filled with purchased seeding mix from Gardener's and I've had pretty good luck. A little bit of a mold thing happens on the sides of the pots, but my chamomile tea spray and setting the trays out when it is sunny, seems to keep it in check. Hard to say wether that has something to do with the cardboard, the plastic trays or the basement itself. But, it doesn't seem to be holding us back. This week the tomato and basil seedlings are starting to take off!

So, onto the IDC update...

Plant something Planted turnips and parsnips outside. Cleared out and amended a few more beds for planting. Started more sprouts in the kitchen.

Harvest something Asparagus

Preserve something Started a new Sourdough starter and started a new yogurt culture.

Waste Not The usual.

Want Not Pulled out a bunch of clothes for mending. Finished making another pair of socks and a few bits for the Goober.

Build Community Food Systems – Wrote the first article of the season for the organic garden at work. Helping on the Earth Day Committee at work.

Eat the Food – Made a fresh batch of yogurt, enjoyed the first warm slices of a fresh loaf of sourdough bread, enjoyed steamed asparagus a few times this week, great with local eggs!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Signs of Spring!

Raspberry canes leafing out.

Garlic coming up in rows.

Asparagus heads poking up last week...

...and this morning.
Rhubarb last week...

...and this morning.
And as for the IDC update, things are beginning to gear up!

Plant something started tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, flowers and herbs inside under grow lights. Spread clover on a few beds for green cover. Cleared out and amended a few beds for planting.

Harvest something Chives

Preserve something Nothing this week.

Waste Not Using more TP rolls and newspaper for my seedling pots. Saved rinsed out paper coffee cups from work for repotting some seedlings. Started another compost pile. Brought my Nana's sewing machine in for a tune-up.

Want Not Found another pyrex small casserole dish with cover and a large pyrex measuring cup at Salvation Army.

Build Community Food Systems – Volunteered to help with the garden at church. Scheduled a meeting with a friend to help her plan her garden.

Eat the Food – Down to the last of the beets, sweet potatoes and butternuts from winter storage. Planning some meals around those... butternut parmesan soup, butternut pecan muffins, sweet Potato fries, sweet potato pancakes, maple roasted beets and beet slaw...not all at once!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The planting begins!


Thanks to the generosity of a very kind friend, we now have a lovely set of grow lights in our basement. This is a serious step up from my DIY seed starting center of previous years! I'll still be using that. But, now I can start twice as many seedlings indoor.

So, after sorting seed packets by variety and then planting/starting dates, ordering additional items and plotting it all out on the calendar, Michael and I managed to get the first seeds going over the weekend. (Pretty momentous since we had the stomach bug around these parts—ugh!) We started 3 kinds of basil, some herbs and some beneficial flowers. Next week will be tomatoes and peppers and the beat will go on and on from there. I love when we get to this time of year, when something (planting, preparing, harvesting) is on the calendar every week until late into next Fall. We'll be trying to push the envelop even more this year, with more food grown at home, and extended seasons on both ends. Pretty exciting stuff!

So, for this week's Independence Days Challenge update

Plant something Planted basil, chamomile, verbena, vining petunias, violas and yarrow. Cut back the herb garden and fertilized the asparagus and strawberry beds.

Harvest something Nibbled a few chard sprigs and some new kale leaves.

Preserve something Soaked and dried another batch of crispy pecans.

Waste Not Made seedling starting pots out of egg cartons and half-t.p. rolls with newspaper strip bottoms.

Want Not Picked up three more small Corning ware dishes with lids at the thrift store. Perfect to replace plastic-ware for leftovers in the fridge.

Build Community Food Systems – Attended the first meeting of the organic garden team at work.

Eat the Food – Used the last rutebaga in our Irish Stew. Made fudge babies with dried dates, pecans and cocoa (a good food storage treat!)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Rising River and an Update

Well, the Shawsheen River has been swelling into the surrounding wetlands for days now. And as of Monday morning had topped the rise down our street and begun to spread out and up the road. This photo, though not the clearest, shows water well up to the third house on either side of the road. I took that at about 5pm Monday evening, well before the river was scheduled to crest. Normally, you cannot see water at all from this spot, and certainly not on the road and in the yards.

We are the seventh house from the river, but it does curve through our neighborhood and swings a bit closer behind. Right after taking this, we stepped around the corner to find the intersection full of water and the neighbor wading in his driveway, wrestling with pump hoses and generators in an effort to stop the flow into his house.

Many homes in our neighborhood were flooded, people evacuated and roads closed. We were truly lucky to avoid any flooding, literally by a few yards! As of this morning the river has begun to subside, the roads are reopening and folks are beginning to dry out and assess the damage.

Today the sun is out, the temperature is warming up to the 60s and things seem a little more cheerful in the neighborhood. A little quieter, fewer pumps running, fewer generators. We started our St. Patrick's Day with a bowl of steel cut Irish oatmeal and a few jigs in the kitchen, before donning our green and heading out for the day. Michael in forest green scrubs and me in shades of sage and pea green paisley.

And an Independence Days Challenge update for the week:

Plant something Wrote the seeding schedule and organized seeds by planting dates. Got in one of my seed shipments

Harvest something Nothing yet.

Preserve something Made a big batch of crispy walnuts.

Waste Not Just the usual.

Want Not Cleaned up old seeding trays and recycled pots for this years seed starting.

Build Community Food Systems – Became a member of the Organic Garden Planning Team at our office.

Eat the Food – Made Kale and Sausage soup (adapted from Joan Gussow's book This Organic Life with some of our delicious hot italian sausage from Pete & Jen's sausage sampler from the winter. Made my first few batches of fudge babies...oh my! What a great way to use dried fruit and nuts from food storage!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gearing up for Spring

Well, three gorgeous days in a row, with temperatures in the 50's have me itching to get going in the garden. But, I've been in New England long enough to know not to uncover the beds or set anything out, no matter what the temp. There will be more winter before it's all over.

The image above was taken last year in late April. Imagine this same scene right now with no green anywhere and you'll have the present view from the upstairs window. But, Michael and I went searching on Sunday and did discover garlic and onion shoots beginning to poke up under their blanket of mulched leaves, harbingers of the growing season to come! And a good 2 weeks earlier than last year!

So, I'll have to keep myself busy with creating the seed-starting schedule for the grow lights dreaming of those growing days to come.

And here is our update for the IDC for this week...

Plant something Sprouting some mustard and radish sprouts.

Harvest something Nothing yet.

Preserve something Made a big batch of sour dough pizza dough and froze in pizza-sized packages.

Waste Not Began collecting TP rolls for cutting in half and using as seedling cups for under the grow lights. Still enjoying last summer's pickles!

Want Not Found an old mouli (hand food mill) at the local thrift store.

Build Community Food Systems – Helping a friend plan her first raised bed.

Eat the Food – Roasted butternut squash, maple-teriyaki glazed beets, apple calvados, yum!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Getting back into the swing of things with the Independence Day Challenge

By late last season I'd seriously fallen short of my weekly updates on ways I'm meeting the Independence Challenge. In a nutshell, it is a way to record and motivate ourselves to do sometimes small or seemingly insignificant things, over time, to make a big difference in our own lives, our local communities and our planet. If you're still curious, swing on over to Sharon's website to get the full details. I'll be posting my updates here every week, most likely on Tuesday, but hey...let's be flexible.

So, here's the first update of the growing season:

Plant something Nothing yet.

Harvest something Nothing yet.

Preserve something Made a batch of yogurt from some dated milk.

Waste Not Used some leftover Fall apples from the freezer for a tea-cake for the Lenten luncheon at church. Sent the tea-cakes off to church on some cookie trays reused from a Christmas holiday party. Took a batch of dryer lint, TP rolls and newspaper from packages out to the compost.

Want Not Assembled the new grow lights (gifted from a co-worker) for seed-starting. Placed our order for summer chicken and fall pork from our local meat CSA. Made up another batch of "shampoo" and "conditioner."

Build Community Food Systems – Started planning a workshop for our local church on local food, food storage and security.t

Eat the Food – Roasted some of the last beets for a maple teryaki broil tonight. Made two oatmeal-tea cakes from a slightly altered family favorite recipe -- using up food storage oatmeal and fruit and nuts. Baked up another roasting pan full of the butternut squash from food storage--delicious packed with lunch or whipped up into butternut pancakes or muffins.

Hang onto your hats, here comes Spring!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

music 'round the house

One of the most important elements of our home life is music. Whether it be traditional Celtic or Mountain music, contemporary folk and Americana, rock, pop and theatrical songs from our youth or songs we've written ourselves. We listen to it, make it and participate in it regularly.

We have no TV in our home and making music in the living room is a frequent activity. Sometimes we're rehearsing for a gig, learning some new songs to add to the repertoire or working on a new piece that we're writing. But, sometimes it is for no particular "reason" at all other than the joy of it!

Lately we've been adding back a few Spring songs, now that we're nearing the end of Winter, and we've tucked away the holiday, Christmas, and Mid-winter songs for another year. There is room for "Red Winged-Blackbird" by David Francey, "The Circle", a song Michael wrote, and brushing up on a few Celtic songs for St Patrick's Day. Too bad there was no one to photograph the little jig I was attempting while Michael played the Bodhran!

Here's to songs of Spring and making music with friends and loved ones!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adventures in Doll-making

I've begun a little adventure in doll-making. I'm not sure what exactly set me off, perhaps the beautiful cloth dolls I'm seeing around the blogosphere, perhaps the Waldorf dolls that keep catching my eye, and certainly the final straw of finding this book on doll-making in my studio a few weeks ago. So, armed with this lovely book...

...and some natural muslin, beige flannel and chocolate flannel, I'm making a beginning. Now my ponderings are filled with musings about embroidery versus painted features, simple or detailed, hair styles, outfits...lots of fun!

The first few bodies are now sewn up and awaiting permanent features. Here they are with pins marking potential placement.

More dolls coming your way soon.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A belated holiday review

My apologies for being so long absent with nary a word or picture of the holiday festivities around these here parts. And as I face "breaking up Christmas" around the house, here are a few images and notes about our holidays.

Bells on the doors to add a little jingle to the days.

My mother's milk-glass sleigh takes pride of place on the Dining Room table.

The annual Christmas Amaryllis from my sister-in-law takes up a post on the bookshelf to begin its glorious growing process, hopefully to grace us with lush red blooms by Valentine's Day.

Our little Christmas tree with a strange menagerie.

Some images of the evergreen garland we hang around the living room door frame to display our Christmas and Winter Solstice ornaments.

A few more little corners from around the house.

Our stockings hung on the banister with care. (For that was the tradition in my house growing up)

Three lovely cross-stitched santas from a bell-pull my mother made that graces our front door.

I hope yours was merry and bright and full of joy and the light of good friends and family.