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.

Sourdough & Detergent

I neglected my sourdough starter for too long and it died. I started a new batch today and I’ll be able to start using it next week. I made it the old fashioned way, following Sally Fallon’s instructions in ” Nourishing Traditions”. I ground 2 cups of rye into flour and added 2 cups of cold water. The mixture stays covered with a clean cloth and will be kept on the kitchen counter. For the next 6 days I’ll transfer the starter into a clean bowl and add a cup of rye flour and a cup of water.  It will get bubbly. Then it will settle down a bit and be ready for me to use for bread and baked goods. After that, I’ll keep it refrigerated and fed with rye flour and water . Hopefully, it will last for years, unless I abandon it again.

Two or three times a year, I make laundry detergent.  One batch makes 5 gallons.   I was getting low  so I made that too.  It took about 20 minutes and it has to stand for 24 hours.  Tomorrow I’ll fill up my milk cartons and be set for a while.

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.

Our Farmers’ Market!

Today kicked off the first day of this season’s local Farmers’ Market. It’s held on Sundays from 11am until 2 o’clock, on South Farms. Buying from the vendors there is an affirmation of many of the things that are important to me. It gives me the opportunity to support local businesses, organic growing practices and farmers that raise animals that are allowed to run free, are well cared for and are not pumped up with hormones and antibiotics.

I stocked up on groceries and couldn’t resist buying some beautiful alpaca yarn from Stan. Wool itches me but I learned today that there is no lanolin in alpaca yarn so it won’t itch. The skeins I bought were from his alpaca named Victoria, lol.  Thank you Stan and Victoria:)

Pond’s Poultry Farm is new to the market. Dwayne Pond has a beautiful, young family and a farm in town. He raises small flocks of chickens and has a couple of pet goats. Turkeys are on the way. He’s a funny guy, check out his t-shirt.   I think the picture I posted of the plaque in his booth states his intentions for his small farm perfectly.

Seed sprouting, Jojoba, Lyme

Easter was great.  Easter Monday was a beautiful day.  It’s been cold and rainy since then but the  indoor seedlings are thriving, sending out their true leaves.  Thanks to the good advice of my blogger friends, the Friariello di Napoli pepper seeds sprouted right up after placing the tray on the radiator for a few days.

The power company took down a big maple in my front yard.  It’s a sad sight.

This morning, I made some bug repellant.  Having had Lyme disease and living in a state where it has reached endemic proportions, I have to admit it scares me a bit.  I take precautions.  I don’t want to douse myself or my dogs with pesticides so I’ve been using something home made instead.  I add 25 drops of rose geranium essential oil to 4 ounces of Jojoba and keep it in a dark, glass jar.  I  apply the mixture all over myself before getting into my gardening clothes. Other essential oils can be added but  rose geranium is reputed to repel tics.  Jojoba is a good carrier.  It lasts longer than a water based carrier.  It’s light, easily absorbed by the skin and has the benefits of being antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and  offers nutritive benefits as well.  It never goes rancid because technically it’s a wax, not an oil.   After gardening, all my clothes go right into the washing machine.  I immediately take a shower.  It’s an annoying routine but better than getting Lyme disease again.   So far so good!

My Old House


My house was built in 1848. I fell in love with it the minute I saw it and it has suited me perfectly. My youngest started college this year and the other 2 have moved out on their own. Raising a family of 5 here, a lot of stuff accumulated. A year ago January, I set a goal to clear things out and replace them with things that I made or refurbished myself. Big radiators, exposed pipes, tiny closets, funny little doors and odd little rooms add loads of quirky character and good opportunities to be creative and flexible. Every week I fill a box of things to be donated and another of things to bring to the recycling center. Progress has been slow but sure, eventually I will have everything simple and clean and homemade. We won’t talk about the dreaded cellar now.. I haven’t made my way down there yet, lol.

Home remedies, Starting seeds & a Pug

Schools are already being cancelled for tomorrow because another foot of snow is supposedly on its way!  Milk sold out today at the grocery store but they have plenty of cactus seeds.

May 31  is the date here when we are deemed safe from frosts.   I save all plastic containers that can be used to start seeds indoors.  A  large, screw in hook is a handy device to create drainage holes.  It easily makes a hole in thick or thin containers without cracking the plastic.  It’s too early to start seeds for my garden but I thought it would be fun to try sprouting some cactus. (cactusses?, cacti?)

There’s been a lot of  cold and flu remedies, natural antibiotic and ‘master tonic’ recipes floating around on the internet.  I’m not sure I would subscribe to those claims but the ingredients looked interesting so  I made a quick vinegar tincture with garlic, ginger, horseradish and a little bit of  hot pepper.  That combination will surely open the sinuses but I’m thinking a couple spoonfuls would  give a good punch to a smoothie, dipping sauce or salad dressing.

I think our dog  Harvey might be feeling a little depressed over getting another snowstorm.

 

 

Cousins & Senior Bananas

Snow Day!!  This morning I  got a text from my cousin, “Are you baking today?”  Turns out we were both making something to use up our “senior bananas”….that ‘s what she calls them, so funny.   She is an artist in the kitchen!  (outside the kitchen too).  At family gatherings, we all bring something home-made and whatever she brings is the first thing to disappear from the table.  Today she made a banana cake with struesal  topping and finished it off with a beautiful, drizzled glaze.

Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out a way to trick my family with my brown bananas.  I used a carrot cake recipe and played around with the ingredients to try and sneak in healthy things.  I substituted coconut oil and organic butter for the vegetable oil. I cut the amount of sugar in half and substituted it for Sucanat and I added 2 large, mashed bananas to the mix .  Organic flour, pasture raised eggs, extra cinnamon and spices… my cake came out delicious and didn’t need frosting.   If I was bringing this to a family gathering I would definitely finish it with a homemade cream cheese frosting and pray that my cousin wasn’t bringing her banana cake.  I know mine would be left standing alone on the table, in shame.

I am watching my daughter’s dog, Ella this weekend.  She looks so sweet and harmless…until you try and put drops in her ears. Cousin Ella gets scary very quickly.  Her body whips around like an alligator’s.   Geez!!   I got a text from another cousin, our family dog-whisperer, reminding me not to restrain her by the scruff of the neck as it could cause an eyeball to collapse in this type of dog.     I love my family.

Away with the Grey

The grey was getting to me.  Dark skies,freezing rain, slush…my daughter laying on the couch eating contraband poptarts..lights off and TV blaring… ugh, too depressing

Gone are the days when I could turn off the television and set her onto something productive so I lured her up from the couch and away from poptarts with the offer of an afternoon of beauty.  We started off with yoga….I have a nice instuctional video that has waves and sea gulls in the background. It drowned out the sound of sleet pelting our windows. Then, I mixed up an avocado and honey  facial. It was easy to make and  our skin felt  refreshed and rosy.  (it was a little chunky and awkward to apply, next time I’ll run it through the blender).

Next came  the “Dead Sea Detoxifier and Relaxant”.  In other words, a hot bath with sea salts added.  I added 2 tablespoons of castor oil to 1 cup of Dead Sea Salts.   Castor oil doesn’t  leave the greasy residue in the tub like the other oils.  Epsom salts can be substituted for the Dead Sea Salts and castor oil is optional.  The salts are high in minerals which are absorbed  by the body during the bath.  There’s a good amount of magnesium which relaxes muscles.  I added some lavender oil to the mix and lit a beeswax candle near the bathtub.

While my daughter soaked away, hopefully leaching some of the college toxins out of herself,  I spent the rest of my ‘afternoon of beauty” looking at garden catalogues .  Lavender and honey in the air, poptarts in the garbage..

Loose Ends


This has been a busy week! Mostly I’ve been cleaning, organizing and tying up loose ends so next week I can focus on Thanksgiving. Then our Christmas season begins. So exciting!
Oranges are tasting good right now. Citrus shouldn’t be composted but I don’t throw away the peels. The oils are naturally antibacterial and they smell so nice and fresh and clean. I spread them out on some paper and as they dry I add them to  white vinegar in a big jar. Soon this will be filled with the dried peels and in about 4-6 weeks, I’ll strain the peels out, put the liquid in a spray bottle and I’ll have a good, natural cleaner that won’t smell like salad dressing.
The tinctures I made this summer were all ready to be strained, bottled up, labeled and put away in the medicine chest. One of my favorites is lemon balm. It’s such a safe and gentle herb and it is said to have anti viral properties and be mildly relaxing. The tincture picks up that green, lemony scent. It’s delicious as a tea but it’s properties aren’t retained well in drying. It’s very easy to grow, kind of takes over really, but for some reason the tinctures and essential oils are  pricey in the stores. I think it would make an excellent cordial- another project for next year.

There’s going to be a lot of cooking, baking and holiday projects going on here. I arranged a separate work space for the projects because I’ll need my kitchen free. It’s been fun organizing my sparkly bits and pretty patterns and arranging it all together. Just looking at everything gives me so many ideas! The sewing machine will take up a permanent residence in the midst of it from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas week. This is such a wonderful time of the year!!!

The Hawk

Yesterday I was plagued with worrying thoughts.  As I went about my work, these thoughts grew to such an extent that I lost focus on the task on hand.  I dropped an entire pot of soup stock on the kitchen floor.   Then, I knocked a cutting board full of vegetables into a dirty sink.  After cleaning everything up and feeling very annoyed with myself, I decided to take a break and  do some yoga poses.  Unpopular as this may sound, I don’t like yoga at all.  I’ve  had to do it  since I was a teenager because of back and neck problems.   I put it off shamelessly.  Yesterday, I was hoping  it would  balance me out.  In the middle of a halfhearted warrior pose,  I began to wobble and came crashing down.   Ouch!!!  Self pity threatened to take over.  No way.

Grabbing my i pad, limping and rubbing my shoulder ( which still hurts, lol), I went to my gardens, determined to see beautiful things, bigger than my problems and be grateful for them. As I was trying to take a picture of a tree, a hawk flew right over my head.  It was so close, I was under his shadow and I felt the wind from his wings. It happened so fast but as he swept past me, I saw the giant spread of his feathers and I reached out my hand, thinking I could touch him.  I couldn’t of course but he lifted up and perched on the tree I had been trying to take a picture of.   We stood looking at each other for a while and I lifted my camera to take pictures of him and he flew away.

Kitchen works & Garden Update


This morning, I had a few chores that had to be done before I could go outside.  I  dug up Valerian root yesterday and wanted to get it cleaned and tinctured.  After a lot of soaking and rinsing, it was ready to be cut, crushed and set into grain alcohol.  Valerian is a great herb, one of the few sedative herbs that is actually nutritive for the body.   In rare cases it can cause excitability but I find it to be a good sleep aid. That may come in handy as I’ll be helping my Dad move out of my childhood home very soon and possibly in with me.   Valerian has a bad smell, sort of a sweet, decaying scent.  The whole house smelled of it, kind of disgusting.

Next was kombucha.  The batch I made 10 days ago was ready to drink and a new brew started.  I grew my first scoby from a store bought bottle of GT kombucha  almost a year ago.  Since then, I’ve accumulated a lot of scobies  and compost them in the garden.

Elephant garlic needed separating before being planted.  These came from a local farmer that I met last weekend at our annual garlic festival.

Once outside, I started some fall cleanup in the garden.  I picked a couple of things and then began prepping the garlic patch.  Suddenly, the sky got dark and rain came pouring down.  ugh

Herbs in the Home

One year ago, I was putting up “Going Out of Business” signs in the windows of the little store I had for 9 years.  I carried a lot of organic herbal products that I made and packaged myself. Many of the ingredients were grown in my own gardens.  It was a LOT of work making it all on a large scale and adhering to strict, high quality, organic and sustainable standards that I wanted to maintain. I gave up the whole business and selling part of things, but I still make everything for my home and my family. I thought it would be nice to start sharing some of the recipes of the things I make on this blog.

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This time of year, I used to sell a lot of herbal sachets. They are little bags filled with dried herbs that naturally repel mice and insects, particularly moths. They are used in dressers, linen cupboards, closets and packed among clothes and blankets in storage. They can also be used in suitcases, tossed in a sleeping bag or sent off to college in the clothes bins.
I make them with dried herbs from the garden. Lavender is one of the main ingredients because I love the fragrance and it is a natural moth repellent. I use lots of peppermint and pineapple mint. Any type of mint is fine. It acts as a fixative and is an insect and mouse repellent. Ground orris root is a fixative as well. It has a subtle, powdery floral scent and one tablespoon of orris root is added for every 5 cups of dried herb.  If orris root isn’t handy, no worries, mint will set everything up just fine. Dried rose petals go into the mix too. Dried citrus peels or chamomile flowers add a nice note. There is no set recipe here, the key is to make mint about 1/4 of the total mix.


Mix all the dried herbs in a bowl. Essential oils can be added, if you like. A tablespoon of vegetable oil for every 5 cups of ingredients can be added to enhance the natural fragrance of the herbs. Loosely fill muslin, drawstring bags. They can be used multiple times. Little bags are easily made using fabric scraps too.

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Rainy Day Remedies

imageThe ordinary arts we practice every day at home are more important to the soul than their simplicity might suggest -Thomas Moore

We’ve had a lot of rain.  Truth be told, waking up to gloomy skies again had me feeling a bit glum. I began to imagine all the bulbs I recently planted rotting away outside under all the soggy leaves. That led to the thought of leaf removal, never a fun prospect. As I thought about this, my yard grew into gigantic proportions and the thought of raking it all made me want to stay in bed. Overwhelming thoughts…one led to another. Better to get up and moving instead of mentally wallowing around in moldy leaf piles.

A little Aromatherapy was called for. I added some lemon oil to the cleanser I’d made.  Lemon, clean and bright was bound to help lighten up this dismal day. Motivating too….soon the kitchen was sparkling. A touch of lemon oil and tangerine on my dust cloth had things picking up a good shine and looking better. Thunder began rumbling outside, the temperature was dropping. I soaked a bit of cotton with cinnamon oil and sucked it up with the vacuum. The faintest scent of cinnamon trailed behind me as I made my way through the house. By now the rain was pouring, pounding on the roof and lashing against the windows. Definitely a day for soup and some home made bread. A big pot of soup went on the stove and as it was simmering, I mixed up the bread dough and set it to rise.

Upstairs, before putting fresh sheets on the bed, I sprinkled a few drops of lavender oil on the mattress underneath. A few drops more on the mop smelled heavenly and picked up the grain on my old wooden floors. It looked so good, I did the stairs on my way down as well. The wind was picking up and howling. Leaves were coming down in sodden masses. Soon the trees would be bare. Still some time for apple picking but not this day. This was a good day for baking them. Baked apples and whipped cream. I peeled the apples, sliced them up, added brown sugar, some spice and popped them into the oven with the bread. I made myself a cup of tea and pulled out my work bag. Spreading out my projects, deciding what to work on, I noticed the darkening sky which got me thinking how nice it would be to light the fireplace…..

Celebrating Fall in New England

Trees are brilliantly colored and within a a week or 2, the “peak” leaf peeping time will be here.  Cider donuts, pumpkin patches, apple picking….all part of fall in New England.   Baked beans are  in the oven, along with pumpkins and cinnamon apples. The house is filled with a warm, spicy smell.. so good to walk into from the crisp air outside.  Summer is swept away as front gardens, doorstops and entryways are being decorated  for Autumn. There is a festive, clean feel in the air.

I notice the Bittersweet vines are ready to be cut.  The berries are still green, verging on yellow.  They will soon turn colors… peach, orange and finally popping out in red,  echoing the trees. The vines are supple and easily formed into wreaths.  It’s a simple matter of cutting a long vine with lots of berries.  Form it into a circular shape and wind it and weave  it among itself to hold it.   Leave the leaves on or take them off, whatever suits.  Weave more vines into the wreath if a thicker wreath is wanted.   Secure it with a twisty tie if there is trouble maintaining the shape  while weaving the branches in.   Birds love the berries but they are poison for people.  It’s fun to watch the berries turn colors and open and become framed by their shell.  If  not in a winding mood,  the branches can be cut and  popped into a vase or laid in a basket, that looks pretty too.

 

DIY Laundry Detergent

DIY laundry detergent!  Simple, inexpensive and good for the environment

DIY laundry detergent! Simple, inexpensive and good for the environment

I’ve been making my laundry detergent for a while now.  It gets things nice and clean.  It’s a huge money saver but mostly I do it because I  don’t want to use sulfates and all those chemicals and artificial perfumes in my house.  I also really like the idea of repurposing my milk jugs instead of consuming Continue reading

Natural Dog … (treat recipe too )

Flora

Flora

We always had dogs in our family. We fed them good quality dog food, took them to the vet for their shots and all was well. Then we got Flora.
She was 4 months old and 8 pounds when we brought her home. I took her to the vet, got her boosters and the recommended topical drops to ward off fleas and tics and a vaccination for Lyme disease. A few months later, I was back at the vet. She had severe itching, ‘hot spots’, wasn’t gaining weight, was lethargic and had fleas. She tested positive for Lyme disease, in spite of the vaccination and drops. Continue reading

Calendula

Calendula flowers

Calendula flowers

Today I am harvesting my beautiful Calendula flowers!

Calendula is a tender perennial,  an annual where I live and so easy to grow.  I see them in 6 packs at garden centers, the seeds are sold everywhere.  They germinate very easily and quickly so I usually just direct sow them right outside in the garden.  No matter what type of gardening season we have, they always seem to come through with lots of vitality and a profusion of blooms.   They are wonderful in the vegetable garden because Continue reading

Simply Wonderful, Natural Household Cleanser!!

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Here is a recipe for an inexpensive, all natural, effective and versatile cleanser that I have been using for years. Hopefully, most people are aware of the negative impact harsh chemical and antibacterial, commercial cleansers can have on our health and our environment. Vinegar based cleaners are a healthy option but personally, I don’t like the smell of vinegar very much. This is also environmentally friendly, has no harsh chemicals, and is so simple to make! Continue reading