Thanksgiving

 

 

Last week was filled with Thanksgiving preparations.The pumpkins were  all  cooked up into delicious soups, pies and breads.   Cranberry compote and apple pies bubbled away in the oven.  Winter squash and potatoes were brought up from the cellar and readied to be roasted along with the turkey that we got from a small family farm a few miles away.The house was scrubbed and shiny clean .  My girls all came home.  I had so many things to be thankful for.  This Thanksgiving in particular we were all acutely thankful for each other. Time is so fleeting and things can change on a dime.  This was a good holiday to remember to treasure the moments and those that share them with us.

Thursday’s turkey remnants are simmering on the stove.  The good stock will make delicious soups and stews  for these cold winter nights.  Christmas is coming and there will be lots of baking, decorating, sewing, and cooking, making my herbal concoctions and painting. This house is ready to be filled up with the joy and magic of the Season.

 

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Indian Summer, Snails & Arrowroot


Indian Summer! 70 degrees in November is so unusual for us and it’s been a real gift. Somehow though, I still haven’t managed to get the outdoor chores done. I can relate to this little snail I found.
The last of the daffodils and garlic finally got planted yesterday. Why did I buy 140 garlic cloves? I got carried away at the garlic festival. I need to get out more, lol.
Arrowroot flour is a wonderful thing. I use it in equal parts to replace cornstarch in my cooking. It has a lot of nutritive value, is healing to the gut and it’s cost effective. I use it to thicken gravies and sauces and in puddings and custards. Making pudding from scratch is surprisingly easier, much healthier and more delicious than using boxed mixes. The cooking time is quicker and it sets up faster too.

Family & Fall Cleaning

My college girl was home this weekend. I made a big pot of chicken and dumplings on Sunday and we ended up having a nice family dinner. My sister joined us and my other daughter came with her baby and husband.  Everybody stopped along the way at Farmer’s markets and Fall festivals and brought donuts, apple cider and pumpkin cakes, adding to the feast.

The weather had been continuously dry and hot.  The hibiscus went onto a second bloom.  Overnight, rain came and a cold snap with it.  Now, the leaves are suddenly turning  and daytime temperatures have dropped 30 degrees.  The outside plants have been brought in, cut back and repotted and Fall cleaning  has begun.  I guess that’s sort of a nesting instinct… getting things clean and snug and organized for the long, cold stretch ahead.    Curtains, walls, floors, pillows  and windows washed.  Area rugs dragged outside and damp mopped with soap and water,front and back, spot cleaned and dried in the sun.  Winter blankets pulled out of storage,  washed and dried on the clothesline.  Summer clothes put away.  All the cleaning agents I use are natural..vinegar infused with orange peels, borax, essential oils, homemade soap.  Soon my little old farmhouse will be sweet and sparkling.

Garden Update

The days are busy picking blueberries, drying herbs, weeding and filling the house with giant bouquets of Bee Balm and Annabelle Hydrangeas. I made a big batch of sauerkraut and we have fresh garden salads every night.  The last of the garlic has been harvested and I’m keeping watch on the tiny beans, cucumbers, peppers  and squash that have set. They’ll be ready for picking soon.

I haven’t had to take any measures against bugs yet. There’s just been the normal wear and tear that goes with gardening organically. A few holes in the cabbage don’t bother me.  Everything is doing really well except……my tomatoes are dismal. The plants are sparse and spindly. I tried a new variety this year, Granny Cantrell. Last year I grew Ace..also an heirloom variety and I had gorgeous plants and was swamped with tomatoes. I’m not sure what the problem is.  Maybe its just not my year for tomatoes.

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Strawberry Sauce & Lacecap Hydrangeas

The strawberries are almost done. My daughters came over and we had strawberry sundaes. I added sugar to whole, fresh strawberries and cooked them down over medium low heat until the mixture became thick and syrupy. After it cooled, we spooned it over strawberry ice cream and topped it off with freshly whipped cream. My pregnant daughter added bananas and chocolate sauce to hers.

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My 2 year old red currant bush has set out some nice berries that I’ve been harvesting and freezing. It will probably yield only a few cups of berries in total this year.  They will taste good  combined with raspberries in a crisp or crumble.
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I like blue lace cap hydrangeas. They send out runners, like the Annabelle hydrangea. In early Spring, the runners can be easily dug up with the roots and soon you have a whole new bush. A few years ago, I started with 2 bushes and now I have 6. I planted some of them in with the blueberries and lavender. I had read that all the blue flowering plants camouflage the blueberries from the birds. I’m not sure it has proven to be very effective but it’s a pretty combination.

Flora had her bath. Since she spends most of her days roaming around with me in the gardens, she’ll look dirty in no time. I figured I’d take a picture of her while she’s nice and clean. image Have a good weekend everyone!

Strawberries and Calendula

This has been a good season for strawberries. We ate a lot of them and then froze another 8 quarts. There’s an easy way to freeze strawberries so the berries stay separated instead of sticking together in one big lump. Wash the berries, take their leaves off and pat them dry. Spread them out on a cookie sheet so they aren’t touching each other and set them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the strawberries into containers or freezer bags and then back into the freezer until you want to use them.

Garlic should be sending up scapes pretty soon. I always direct sow squash, beans and cucumbers seeds into the garden. I think they are heartier than transplants and they are doing great. My heirloom peppers are pitiful, doomed from the start.

Calendulas are blooming. Another favorite of mine! For now, I’m adding the petals to salads, smoothies and into whatever I put through the juicer. They have a mild taste and contain antioxidant carotenoids..lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene. Later in the season, I’ll use the flowers to make skin products.  Calendula is known as the ‘Queen of Cosmetic Herbs’ and for  its healing properties. Tomorrow, my dog Flora is due for a bath. In the past she’s had skin issues. To keep things sweet, I’ll infuse a few flowers in some water and add that to her bath.

Garden Update

The gardens are doing pretty well.  Peonies are just starting to bloom.  All the vegetables are up and growing but not as energetically as they normally do  this time of year because it’s still so hot and dry.  I lost most of my roses  from a combination of  the tough winter and voles.   Even the tough old bushes, William Baffin and Lake Champlain had to be cut back severely and are shadows of what they have been in the past. Roses are challenging in the best of times here for an organic gardener.  I miss them but most likely I wont replace them.  Foxgloves took their role as star of the show this year…things always have  a way of working out.  happy days

Cabbages, Bridal Wreaths & Lilacs


My Grandmother set a lot of store by her plants. Cabbage was a big favorite of hers and she grew a lot of it. She made all kinds of delicious things with her cabbage and used it medicinally as well for stomach problems, spring tonics, growing pains and skin conditions.
Bridal Wreath bush (Vanhoutt spirea) was another plant she kept. She grew them from cuttings. When my Mother got her own home, Grandma planted a Bridal bush in the yard right away because she said it would help to keep my Mom’s marriage sweet. She planted a Rose of Sharon too, saying it brought the protection of a Mother’s love. A Lilac tree had to be just outside the back door of every home. I don’t know why. Could be, my Grandmother just liked Lilacs. She never cut them unless a big rain was on its way. Then she would gather as many as she could before they’d ‘rust’ and be ruined on the tree.

Bluebirds & Lilacs


I saw a bluebird going into the house I put up! ..bluebird of happiness…  I embroidered one right in the middle of the quilt I made for the little baby coming our way. Speaking of which, I was hoping  lilacs would be nice to cut for the baby shower next week. It’s been in the 80’s here and dry so I’m not too sure that’s going to work out.
Viburnums and spurge are looking beautiful and the apple blossoms are opening. Giant bumblebees are everywhere. I am glad I decided not to get beehives this year. I have a good local population and I didn’t want to meddle with it.
I’ve been planting out cabbages, bok choi and some herbs. I still have a  a lot more planting to do.  I should have started the kale sooner. I’m glad I did extra tomatoes though. I broke 12 plants by dropping a light on a tray and last night my husband tripped in the dark onto another tray on the back porch.
My daughter will be home from her first year of college this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day.
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Asparagus for Breakfast


So thankful to wake up to sunshine, flowers and WATER! Our water was restored yesterday. Early in the morning until late afternoon.. all weekend long, this small business owner worked to replace our water pump and tank. The pump was 200 feet down into the ground! I am so thankful to him. He went above and beyond what I expected. There are still business owners that care, do excellent work and have a lot of integrity.
The flowering trees are still blooming, the currant bushes are in blossom too. The funny fritillaries didn’t seem to help my mole problem but I like the whimsical note they bring.
Asparagus is coming in. There’s nothing like it….freshly picked from the garden, blanched in boiling water just until the color turns very bright so it is tender yet slightly crisp. I melt a little butter on it and add a sprinkle of sea salt. I had it first thing this morning, out in the garden with some coffee and cream.
I planted the apple trees this weekend. A few years ago, my cousin in South Carolina gave me an odd tip; when planting fruit trees, she adds a handful or 2 of dry dog food into the hole. I’ve done it ever since. I wonder if that is a common thing?
Happy Spring!

No Water

This morning there was no running water. Luckily, a nice man came right away to assess the problem. It turned out to be a pretty big one, as far as these things go. The well pump was broken. Finding the pump was the first issue. For a while he thought it may have been under the patio or even worse, under the driveway pavement.  Good thing it wasn’t. He said the problem with old farmhouses is that there’s a lot of buried metal and his pump locater gets thrown off.   Once he had a good idea where the pump might be, he started digging  with a shovel but things got complicated and the man had to get a backhoe. He ran over an electricity line but it only went to the garage and nobody got hurt. Codes have changed since the pump was last replaced in 1979. Things will have to be set up differently. If all goes well, I should have water next week some time. Now, it’s late in the day and the nice man is still out there digging with the backhoe. This pump is down deep, I guess. It could have been worse. I’m glad it didn’t break a couple months ago when the snow was 3 feet high. We would have had to wait til the frost table went down and that would have caused a cascade of home owner disasters.. frozen pipes, heating and plumbing problems… Best to count blessings at this point.

Say it isn’t Snow


Once it finally gets warm and things start growing and blooming outside, it feels as if it will last forever. But it snowed yesterday and last night the temperatures dipped into the 20’s. The magnolia blooms, still not quite opened are turning brown at the edges. I suspect the cold will take its toll in other ways but out in the yard everything looks fine and luckily, the snow didn’t stick.

April Showers


The rhubarb is unfurling and things are coming alive. The fritillaries I planted are looking good but seem to have had no effect on deterring moles. My front yard is a giant mole hotel. All the roses except the rugosas are ruined, the roots eaten to nubs.
It’s raining so I’ll be spending the day in the kitchen.   I have more seedlings to transplant, (they are taking over the house!),  and I want to catch up on some cooking. There’s chicken broth on the stove. We buy local, free range chickens and not a bit is wasted. Even the bones are used.. burnt in the fireplace and composted.
If I have time, I might work on some needlework later and make some berry crumble with the last of the blackberries and raspberries, in the freezer from last year’s crop.

Happy, productive days!

Edible Landscape

I’ve been really inspired by the Grow Food not Lawns movement. The past few years I’ve been transitioning my massive perennial borders and front flower beds into mixed gardens, integrating my existing plants with vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit. This combination can be beautiful and practical. Rhubarb, zucchini and most vegetables are so attractive and look great among the flowers and shrubs. Lots of flowers are edible and pretty… Bee balm, calendula, violets, nasturtiums, roses and lavender, to name just a few. Strawberries and creeping thyme are great ground covers and borders. Currant and blueberry bushes are easy to grow, attractive when they come into flower and even prettier when they set berries. Columnar fruit trees are another great option. Cabbage and kale are great fill ins. Lancinato kale has a lot of visual interest but it gets eaten up by little green worms here so I grow the Green Scottish Curled instead. Herbs offer so much in the way of flowers and color..echinacea, catnip, lemon balm, variegated mints, borage..The list goes on and this post is getting long. As the season progresses, all the little plants filling my tables under lights crowding the sunny windowsills will hopefully be big and strong and make their way into the gardens. Ideas are percolating for artful/ edible combinations and integrations. I’m hoping this gardening season is productive and beautiful for all of us!

It Starts!!


Today was my first snow-free day out in the gardens. I spent 6 hours in the front yard and got 4 of the 7 beds cleared.  Out back is where the real work begins. I left leaves in the beds and the plants high last Fall so the birds could have the seeds. I have to laugh, I start the day running out the door to get at it and just a few hours later I’m wondering why I have so many gardens.
Poking around for signs of life, I was a little sad to see that even though the pond is dug down 3 feet, one of my fish didn’t make it through the winter. I put 12 little feeder goldfish into the pond when we dug it 8 years ago. No sign yet of any of the others. There’s lots of other things popping through though. It’s so exciting. I have a LOT of work ahead of me

Sprouting Seeds & Easter Daffodils

Seeds are sprouting all over the place. I may have been wrong, and cheerfully so! Looks like we might have daffodils for Easter after all. Does anyone out there know if Milkweed takes inordinately long to sprout indoors? (save the Monarchs!) Also, I think my seeds may have frozen in the mailbox. Not a single pepper seed has taken. If they froze, would that have ruined them? Everything else is fine.  Happy Spring!

Spring Flowers, Winter Thaw

The first flower has  sprung!  Most of the snow in the front yard has melted.  The back yard is still  snowy but a heat wave of 60 degrees is coming so that should be gone soon.  I was working in the front gardens today, mostly pruning and cleaning.  After just a couple of hours, I realized that  I  am out of shape.  I cooked up a batch of vegetables in some of my chicken broth and ran it through the blender when the vegetable were tender.  Vitamin packed and good for the bones!   I am excited that have a lot of work ahead of me and I want to be up for it.

Saint Patrick’s Day

My house smells like cooked cabbage today but I like it because it reminds me of my Grandparents.  I still have the cup my Grandfather used for his supper tea.  His parents came to the States from the county of Donegal.  They raised their children in the tenements of Boston where she was a midwife and he was a policeman.   Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!