Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rescuing Uncle Dillon's Wine Recipe

In a rare technological triumph, I have rescued Uncle Dillon's Wine Recipe. Between changing both laptops and PDA's, I thought I had lost the priceless wine recipe shared by my uncle at a family reunion a few years ago. But, in my efforts to find my equally lost cranberry tea recipe, I unearthed it on a backup on Love's computer. I've never made the wine, but I'm scheming to have my brother make it with the wild grapes that grow near his home in Texas. I just yesterday made another batch of jelly from juice he froze for me last summer. Uncle Dillon's daughter says that while she was hesitant to drink the wine -- afraid it would poison her -- it's actually pretty good. The cranberry tea isn't nearly so colorful, but it is a holiday favorite. It's not bad with peach schnapps added, either. Here are both recipes:

Uncle Dillon's Wine
July 30, 2006

1 gallon of grapes
3 cups of sugar

Mix grapes and sugar in a gallon jug. Tighten lid. Wrap jug in a newspaper & brown paper bag. Bury 3 feet deep for 120 days. Place board on top before covering, to prevent breaking when digging up. Strain through cloth -- don't mash or squeeze. May need to double strain. Makes 1 quart of wine.

Cranberry Tea
1 quart cranberry juice
small pkg red hots
3 cups OJ
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup sugar

Mix over low fire until red hots melt. Strain. Dilute with water & serve hot.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August Ozark Gardening Calendar

August 1
Kitchen Garden: Plant southern peas, summer squash (in partial shade with thick mulch), carrots, collards, lima beans, cucumbers. Set out tomatoes, broccoli Plant snap peas & sugar peas. Take cuttings of perennial herbs to start new plants.
Berry Patch: After blackberry harvest, remove spent floricanes and fertilize. Prune laterals on primocanes to 4 feet to encourage branching. Replace thin straw on strawberries & blackberries. Cottage Garden: Order bulbs for fall planting. Plant autumn crocus & colchicum. Cut lilies to ground when stalks die back. Cut back annuals to promote fall reblooming.
Woodlot & Orchard: Order stock for fall planting. Keep windfall apples picked up.

August 8
Kitchen Garden: Transplant cabbage, cauliflower Plant beets, cucumbers, turnips
Roadsides: Check elderberries for ripeness. Harvest & mark for taking cuttings in spring.

August 15
Kitchen Garden: Plant bush beans, cucumbers, mustard, kale.

August 22
Kitchen Garden: Plant cucumbers, lettuce, radishes Start pinching out any newly set melons.

August 29
Kitchen Garden: Plant spinach, lettuce, radishes
Cottage Garden: Plant perennial and biennial seed.
Woodlot: Plant container-grown evergreens if weather is cool enough.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Daylily Project

As I noted a couple of posts ago, I've been hauling daylily plants home from my mother's gardens for years. Some I've lost over the years, some have multiplied like crazy, some I've shared with fellow gardeners, some I have but have lost track of. I've lost the names of almost all of them, though my mother was most careful to give me the name of each. All of them have been moved around my gardens until I know longer know what is where. Now I've set out to at least label each plant as it blooms so that I can know where the duplicates are.

I keep reading that you can eat the buds, and someday I'm going to try that. But today, I'm just going to enjoy the beautiful show of color!

Here's my catalog. I'll be adding more as they bloom.

#1 -- In Pantry Garden & Cottage Garden -- I have lots of these to share.

#3 -- South of path in Cottage Garden -- not a great photo!

#4 -- Cottage Garden “Island” & Pantry Garden -- Lots of these to share, too!

#5 -- 'Delightful Lady' -- Center of southern section of Cottage Garden -- My absolute favorite. A much more delicate pink than this picture shows. Some to share, but not until the fall.

#6 -- 'Fat & Sassy' -- Along fence on south edge of Cottage Garden

#7 -- Double Yellow (description, not name) -- West of pink rose in Cottage Garden (along south fence) -- The picture doesn't do it justice!

#8 -- Along south edge of Cottage Garden, near cut-off -- It's hard to tell from the picture, but this one is peach-colored.

#9 & #10 -- New transplants from Mother's, no pictures. Both are in the Pantry Garden.

#11 -- Along south fence of Cottage Garden, between ‘Fat & Sassy’ and double yellow

#12 -- 'Redin Kilpatrick' -- in Pantry Garden

#2 -- Joan Senior -- In Pantry Garden

Friday, July 3, 2009

Spreading the Joy, Sharing the Wealth

This week has found Skye and me making our annual trek south to visit family. We spent three nights at my mother's, with day trips to my sister's and cousin's homes. It was wonderful to spend time with all of them.

This morning finds us at Love's parents' home in southern Arkansas. We're heading north again in an hour or so. But yesterday, we were busy spreading the joy, sharing the wealth.

I don't think I've ever visited my mother without bringing home plants, most often daylilies. This trip finds my trunk loaded with three daylilies, four irises, and a pot full of little oak trees -- and enough to share of each. So yesterday evening, my mother-in-law and I were in her back yard, setting out a bit of each. I hope they will do well for her. She always speaks of her mother's irises, and perhaps these will remind her of those.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

July Ozark Gardening Calendar

July 1
Kitchen Garden: Plant bush & pole beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, lettuce.
Monitor tomatoes for stink bugs & spray with pyrethrin.
Pantry Garden: Dig potatoes. Plant beans
Berry Patch: Continue blueberry harvest.
All gardens: Continue beetle patrol.

July 7
Orchard: Patrol for webworms in pecans, cut, and burn.

July 15
Kitchen Garden/Pantry Garden: plant bush beans, collards, southern peas, Irish potatoes.
Indoors: brocolli, lettuce, cabbage

July – after blueberry harvest
Berry Patch: Fertilize blueberries with cottonseed meal (6-2.5-1.7), feather meal (13-0-0), fish meal (10-4-0), soybean meal (7-1.6-2-3) or alfalfa meal (3-1-2).

July 25
Kitchen Garden/Pantry Garden: Plant turnips.

July 29
pre-sprout corn to plant August 1

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Upon the Laying of an Egg

February 18, 2009, marks a momentous occasion at The Realm. So does June 21, 2009. What's so important about those dates? Well, February 18 is the day that we brought home 10 Cuckoo Marans chicks to join the household, and June 21 is the day Skye found the first egg laid by our lovely ladies.

Time is short this morning, so just a quick overview. I'll write more details later. After returning the males to the neighbor who gave us the chicks, we have 5 lovely Cuckoo Marans living the the Chicken Tractor designed and built by Love. In April, 3 little Cinnamon Queens from a local farm supply store joined The Flock. This Sunday, someone laid her first egg, which Skye scrambled and ate for breakfast Monday morning.

More details of the Chicken Saga to follow, I promise. If you'd like to see more pictures, check out Fowl Friday over at Skye's blog. Right now, I have to fix sack lunches for the day and get ready to leave The Realm for another day at the library.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Counting Down

Yes, I'm counting down the days to my summer break, which starts Friday! I hope to get back in the writing mode. I've been in the mood for a while, but it always comes down to: do I garden or write? do I sleep or write? do I spend time interacting with my family or write? Somehow, writing never wins.

But as I was gardening in the early morning today (yes, I can get some gardening in before work if I get up at 5:00, and it's much cooler at 5am than 5pm), I finally realized why I haven't been writing. While I never write as much during the school year as I do during the five weeks I am "off" in the summer, this spring has been pretty much a desert. But Love went back to work in January. I had gotten used to those extra hours his schedule while working on his master's had allowed me. Now they're gone, and the house is the wreck it always becomes when I'm trying to juggle work, family, my gardens, and the house. The house always comes in last. And that's as it should be. I don't clean house for life.... I garden for life.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Ozark Gardening Calendar

June 1
Kitchen Garden:
Plant bush & pole beans, carrots, celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant, melon, radish, & summer squash.
Transplant long keeper tomato and peppers.
Plant brocolli, cabbage, cauliflower, & fall crop celery.
Cottage Garden:

Cut sage back halfway.

June 10
Kitchen Garden:
Plant various beans & southern peas.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Ozark Gardening Calendar

May 1
Kitchen Garden:
Plant beans, dill, sunflower, gourds, & winter squash.
Dust asaragus with rock phosphate for cucumber beetles.
Transplant sweet potato slips (throughout month).

When soil temperature is 65F and nights are 55F
Kitchen Garden:
Plant peanuts.

May 6
Kitchen Garden:
Transplant celery & cucumbers.
Plant long keeper tomatoes & fall cabbages.

May 15
Kitchen Garden:
Plant carrots.
Transplant melons.
Fertilize pecans.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Ozark Gardening Calendar

The average last frost for Fayetteville, Arkansas, is April 15. However, the latest first frost was recorded on May 9, 1980.

April 1
Kitchen Garden:
Plant carrots, beets, radish, spinach
Transplant garlic, onion
Broadcast marigolds as cover crop for tomatotes.
Indoors:Plant cucmbers & peppers.

April 15
Kitchen Garden:
Plant calendula alongside asparagus.
Plant dill & potatoes.
Plant melons, cucumbers & winter squash.

April 17
Plant elderberry cuttings.

When soil is at 60F
Kitchen Garden:
Plant beans.

April 21
Kitchen Garden:
Plant basil, okra & summer squash.

April 29
Kitchen Garden:
Plant dill.
Transplant cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, & eggplant.
Cottage Garden:
Plant bee balm.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March Ozark Gardening Calendar

Kitchen Garden:
Weekly plant spinach and English peas until night temperature hits 45F or April 15.

Berry Patch:
At leaf break on blueberries, fertilize with blood meal (NPK 12-1.5-0.6)

1st 50F March day, spray apples & plums w/ dormant oil spray.
When growth begins, fertilize apple trees.

March 1
Plant onions and tomatoes.
Berry Patch:
Transplant blackberries.

March 2
Kitchen Garden:
Plant potatoes.
Work leaves into soil.
Remove mulch from early planting beds.
Fertilize perennials.
Plant cabbage, brocolli, caulieflower, & lettuce.
Cottage Garden:
Fertilize perennials.

March 10
Kitchen Garden:
Plant mustard weekly until May.

March 15
Kitchen Garden:
Plant carrots, cilantro, radish, beets, & turnips.
Transplant collards (give protection).
Move onions and leeks to cold frame.
Cottage Garden:
Plant larkspur.
Fertilize pecan trees.

March 18
Cottage Garden:
Prune butterfly bush.

March 23
Plant summer squash.

March 30
Cottage Garden:
Plant sunflowers.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February Ozark Gardening Calendar

February 1:
Kitchen Garden:
Weekly plant spinach and English peas until night temperature hits 45F or April 15.
Put plastic over beds to warm them.
Fertilize or top-dress asparagus with compost if not done last fall.

Cold Frame:
Plant salad greens, beets, onions, parsley, & cabbage.

Berry Patch:
Prune grapes.
Transplant blackberries.
Prune blueberries. Remove old canes that are weak, diseased or damaged; cut back tall, vigorous shoots to force branching at a lower level and to control bush height; and thin fruiting shoots to reduce the number of flower buds by about 50%.
Mulch blueberries.

Plant broccoli, artichoke, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, peppers

Apply dormant oil spray on mild days.
Prune apple trees & rake under trees to interrupt the life cycles of insect pests.

February 15
Plant collards.

February 21
Kitchen Garden:
Set out onions and lettuce.

Prune out elderberry branches more than 3 years old. Try to leave equal numbers of one-, two-, and three-year-old branches. Prune out any dead, diseased, or broken branches as well.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Of Chain Saws & Generators…

Yesterday’s trip into town was just a little surreal. I fully expected to hear The Twilight Zone theme start playing any time.

My first stop was Sam’s Club to pick up Love’s prescription. Unlike the day before, Sam’s had electricity.

The trip into the store the day before was worth the experience for me and Skye, even if we wound up buying nothing. Although the auxiliary battery lights were barely glowing, the store was well lit by the many skylights. The Sam’s Club in Fayetteville is a “green store,” designed to save energy, recycle water, compost produce, and use native plantings and a bioswale to reduce its impact on the nearby Clabber Creek. I had never realized how much of the store’s daytime lighting comes from the sun. Since we had cash or checks, we were assigned a personal shopper to escort us through the store and total up our purchases. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until we got to the pharmacy that I would need to use my HSA (health savings account) debit card to pay. But the pharmacy staff was great and actually gave me three pills from the prescription to get Love through. We also wanted bird seed, but they didn’t have any.

But, like I said, Sam’s had electricity yesterday. However, I had left my HSA card in my bill-paying caddy at home.

I trudged onward to The Hardware Store to pick up Love’s chain saw and blades that I had left the day before for sharpening. I could not find a place to park at this quiet little store where the employee-custom ratio allows great service. So I circled around and headed for the grocery store, planning to come back on my way home.

Harp’s had power. Yeah! The Harp’s closer to our home had been out of power for the past two days. I wasn’t desperately in need of anything, as I keep a well-stocked pantry and had laid in perishables last weekend. However, I still wanted some birdseed, and I thought I’d pick up the other items I had added to my list during the week. As I approached the store, I noticed a sign on the door. I was expected a “closed” sign, but it was a sign advertising generators. Does YOUR grocery store sell generators? I thought not!

Not only were they selling generators, but also chain saws. Granted, they were electric chain saws. I’m not exactly sure what you could cut with an electric chain saw, but there they were. I made my rounds through the store, gathering my items, and noticing with interest what items were in short supply: bottled soft drinks (but not bottled water), sidewalk salt, milk, frozen pizza, canned soup, and paper products. As I made my way to the checkout, I noticed the lines were not moving. It seems that their power had just come back on – it had gone off earlier in the day for the first time during the storm – and their electronic cash registers were searching for software or data or something. I wound up leaving Harp’s empty-handed, and they locked the doors behind me.

Back I went to The Hardware Store. A guy in a pickup was backing out, so I scored a parking space. Inside the store, I got in the long line to wait and watch the people. The first thing I realized that every man in the store who was not an employee was holding a chain saw. Most of the saws were the bright orange Stihls sold by The Hardware Store. I don’t know much about chain saws or motorcycles, but I recognize Stihl in the same way I recognize Harley Davidson: quality and price. Many of the saws were new, but some were there to be sharpened. One guy seemed to be in the store just to be in an environment where his chain saw could be admired. I wish I could remember its brand, but it seemed to be the envy of all the other chain saw aficionados. I learned that it could cut anything and all day, that it was several years old, and the brand is no longer made. I was so glad I was there to pick up Love’s little Pouland. While a woman could hold her head high carrying the green chain saw, I know that Love’s head would have hung low as he endured the shame of such a lowly saw in that testosterone-soaked environ.

Which leaves me wondering: new chain saws + novice users + testosterone + lots of stuff to cut. Will the emergency rooms be as busy in the next few days as the Hardware Store was yesterday?

Friday, January 30, 2009


We're starting to thaw out from the worst ice storm to hit this part of our state in many years. We've been in northwest Arkansas since 1989, and there certainly hasn't been anything like this in those years. I've never seen anything like it. Love and I both have memories of an ice storm when we were kids -- maybe the early 1970s? -- that broke trees and caused power outages like this. He was in southern Arkansas and I was in northern Louisiana then.

As far as power, we have been relatively lucky. First of all, we've only lost power for a total of 17 hours, and that was spread over three days. Also, we're not all electric like lots of folks. We have a wood fireplace insert and plenty of dry firewood. Even though the blower that circulates the air is electric, we still get some good wood heat: it just won't heat the entire house. We also have a gas cook stove. Even though it has electric ignition, we can light it with matches. The oven is a different matter: it's gas with electric controls -- we can't light it manually. Our central heat is gas, but its blower is electric. Perhaps our greatest blessing on these cold days is our gas hot water heater, which works just fine!

The damage to our trees is another matter. It breaks my heart to look at them. The pecans which gave us 250+ pounds of nuts this fall are devastated. I know they are resiliant and will mostly recover, but they look awful. The maples along our driveway have half their limbs on the ground. (Those maples have always been a source of amusement for me. The couple who built this house and lived in it for seven years before us set out only six trees: six maples, three on each side of the driveway. And what runs between them? The lines that feed electricity to the house. Did they actively try to find the worst site on the 2 1/2 acres to set out trees? Now it's not quite so funny.) Most of the older trees (10-15 years old) that Love and I have set out are damaged, some with large broken limbs, others with the tops broken out. Only the smaller trees (7 or fewer years old) seem to have dodged the bullet. If you want to see a more detailed account of the damage to our trees, see my gardening journal at The Place Journal. And for great pictures and a report from our dog's perspective, check out Skye's blog over at A Dog and 2 Cats.

Yesterday I took Love's chain saw blades to The Hardware Store for sharpening. Once the ice has melted from the trees, we will set to work. We won't be able to do it all ourselves, but we will start and move forward from there. And even as all this ice was coating our world, wonderful things were arriving in our mailbox. After Love used a hammer and chisel to chip the ice off our mailbox Wednesday, we found vegetable seeds from Seed Savers Exchange inside. Spring IS just around the corner!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I should have REALLY knocked on wood...

About five minutes after my last post, our power went out. We were lucky that it was only off for about 2 1/2 hours, just long enough for the novelty of candles to wear off for Skye. She and I walked over to check on our elderly neighbor, who was just fine. We are losing limbs -- maple and pecan mostly. The cracking limbs send dread through me: I hate to think of my green friends being battered. But so far, they look like they will be able to bounce back. While we have lost some large limbs, nothing has split in such a way to look life-threatening. And some ice is starting to melt enough to shower down out of the trees, so maybe the end is in sight.

Not Quite Spring Yet...

This morning we woke to a winter wonderland of ice. Skye and I are home from school, and Love is going in late to work, now that the temps are above freezing. We are fortunate that there appears to be little tree damage on The Realm, and our power has only flickered a couple of times -- knock on wood! These pics are taken from the relative safety of the front porch, as I am a bit of a weather wimp. I plan to venture out later for some more artsy close-ups. We'll see if I make it out before the melting starts.

Skye has been out and about a good bit. She reports that the daffodils on the south end of the house are free from ice. The radiant heat from the brick must have kept them a bit warmer. Or perhaps the house blocked the freezing rain from hitting them. I hope the dandelions are frozen solid, although they will probably thaw just fine!

I did go out yesterday morning before work and lay some fencing over my cold frame, under the plastic sheeting. From the back porch, it appears to be keeping the plastic from sagging to the bottom of the cold frame.

It's a good day for staying indoors and choosing a recipe from the "slow meals" section of my little wooden recipe box. We'll be having chicken pot pie for supper, with homemade yeast bread left over from last night (Skye and I got home early, as school let out a 1pm), and lemon pound cake from this weekend. Yum!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gardening Is Dirty Work

It's hard to see from this angle, but Lightning is a filthy cat. She's famous around The Realm for her filthy mouth, but she often sports filthy fur when she's in a gardening mood.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another (Dreaded) Sign of Spring

I can't help it, I detest them! I plot to eat them or make wine or jelly of them, but mostly I just curse them!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Constant Gardening Companion & Her Constant Companion

Penny is my shadow as I move around the gardens, no matter what I am doing. If I am walking, she walks along. If I am working, she waits. Sometimes she stands to wait, sometimes she settles in for the long haul. And always with her is the ball. Sometimes it is in her mouth. Occasionally, it is beside her as in this picture. More often, it is positioned behind me so that I step on it if I take a step backward. I live to garden; Penny lives to play ball.

Monday, January 19, 2009

1st Buds

I noticed the first buds on my daffodils yesterday. Spring must be just around the corner! Granted these are close to the brick wall on the south end of our house, but those count, too. It's interesting to note that the row closest to the wall is further up than those less than a foot farther from the wall. Microclimates within microclimates!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seed Orders

I just finished my seed orders. This year, for the first time, I am ordering seed rather than buying it all locally. I've spent a lot of time over the past month selecting varieties, using the book Designing the New Kitchen Garden and the UA Agriculture site. If I want to really use all this research and planning, then I can't depend on being able to buy the varieties that I've chosen locally. I'm very satisfied with my choices right now. I hope that holds true at the end of the summer.

This year will be my first year to garden in the kitchen garden surrounding the pool, so it is very important to me that it be as beautiful as it is functional. I've tried to choose varieties that capitalize on color and texture, while not sacrificing taste or reliability. I suppose I will know more at the end of the season.

I ordered from three sources: Seed Savers, Reimer Seeds, and Henry Field's Seed. You can find all of those sites along the right margin of this page. The seed I chose is a mixture of hybrid and open pollinated varieties. I'm going to try my hand at some seed-saving this summer and fall. Mother used to save certain seeds, so it is a time-honored practice in our family.

Since I did set a budget to work within, I had to cut back the orders from my original choices. It was tempting to just order every thing I wanted, as I kept thinking how much I would spend on produce (or even bedding plants) compared to the cost of seed. But I made myself trim my order, and I'm glad I did. I mean, do I really need three varieties of eggplants, when I don't even know how to cook one? (Mother always sliced them and fried them: there must be a better way!) I kept in mind my "gardening for life" mantra and approached this year as a starter year. No, it's not the first time I've grown vegetables, but it is the first time I've tried to grow them for aesthetics. I can always add more next year!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Pecan Wrap-Up

We are nearing the end of this season's pecan harvest. I am down to picking up a couple dozen nuts each day as I make my walk to the compost bin. As of this evening, I have harvested 245 pounds of (unshelled) pecans this season! And friends have harvested a few pounds more. But much of the work remains to be done: we still have about 1/3 of the crop waiting to be cracked and shelled -- or given away! Want some?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winemaking 101

Wow -- today I finally did it. I started a batch of wine. I've been thinking about it for a couple of years: I even bought the stuff about this time last year, but I just kept putting it off and putting it off. Right now, I feel like I just sat through a 3-hour chemistry exam. But I learned so much! Like how to use a hygrometer and how to convert Imperial gallons to US gallons. And that a liter and a quart are quite close in volume. And that fermentation takes place best at 70-75 degree F.

I used frozen blueberries from last summer's crop. The recipe specified that frozen blueberries work really well, as the freezing and thawing process pierces the skin of the blueberry, which is necessary for making blueberry wine.

Now, I only have to wait somewhere around 15 months to see how it turns out! I figure this wine will be ready to drink somewhere around April 2010. That's quite a wait, but we should have wine before we have asparagus, and asparagus before we have apples from the newest apple trees. That's part of why I call it "Garden for Life"!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hunting & Gathering

Since today was cold and windy, I went hunting and gathering with Skye rather than gardening. What did we find on our mission? Well, we found wine-making supplies at The Home Brewery for my first foray into wine-making, using frozen blueberries from last year's crop (more on that tomorrow).

Our next stop was Hobby Lobby, where we found two garden-related treasures on the 80% markdown Christmas shelves: tree lights and broken candy canes. Yes, both those items are gardening treasures! The strings of 7-watt tree lights (indoor-outdoor) will help keep my hoop-beds warms after first frost next year. If all goes well, we'll have tomatoes and peppers until the weather gets really cold. And the candy canes? This, I have to admit, was Skye's idea. We're going to make mint chocolate chip ice cream with the broken candy canes! And just how does that translate into a gardening treasure? Ever since I read Phelan's recipe for mint extract last summer over at A Homesteading Neophyte, I've wanted to make some. Combine next summer's mint crop with Skye's broken candy canes, and we'll have some fine ice cream! (Although we plan to use mini-chocolate chips this year, as we think that will improve the recipe.)

Third came Harp's, our local grocery store. There Skye and I had a long discussion about how we see the produce section so differently these days. We got Red Delicious apples for Love, and Skye asked if she could get some Granny Smiths. She admitted that she had sworn she would never eat another grocery store apple after tasting our Fujis last fall, but she misses apples. And the fujis we have left are past the eating stage. In fact, I've spent the afternoon processing the last of those into applesauce. No more homegrown fruit for us until the blueberries ripen in June. :(

Our last stop was Target, where I finally bought myself a salad spinner. It's plastic and cheap, but I thought I try out a cheap model before sinking money into a better one. With leaf lettuce and mustard the only things in our garden these days, I've been washing and drying a lot of green stuff. I'm hoping the new salad spinner will improve my processing of these precious fresh veggies!

A successful foraging trip, I must say!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Not Quite What I Was Planning

"Work for money; garden for life."

So goes my six-word memoir. Check out other six-word memoirs at Smith Magazine's Not Quite What I Was Planning.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


New Year's Day was Thursday, but here at The Realm, the "real" New Year begins tomorrow. Skye will be back at school -- she's ready -- and I will be back at work -- surprisingly, I am, too! Love started a new job last Monday, so he will be heading off the place tomorrow, too. Each day we will all make our ways in the world, and return home in the evening to our haven, the place where we trust everybody and know that everybody loves us. The animals will welcome us home: the dog will dance and the cats will raise their heads and glance our way (maybe).

I have menus planned through March 14 -- Spring Break. Yes, it's obsessive. No, I won't follow it every day. But the hardest part of cooking for me is to decide what to prepare with enough lead time to be able to get it ready. If I don't plan meals ahead of time, I'm planning them in the parking lot as I leave work. When I was a classroom teacher, I avoided parking-lot planning. Why should I inflict it on those I love most?

Skye reminded me that my New Year's Resolution last year was to feed my family better, and that it was really nice for a couple of months because we came home from school to supper in the crockpot lots of days, and I made salads and bread on the weekend to enjoy during the week. I really think that's a resolution worth repeating, but I'm tweaking it for this year. Here goes:

I resolve to feed my family better in 2009 by
1. Planning meals in advance and do some food prep on the weekends
2. Growing more of our own fruits & vegetables
3. Getting chickens so we can have fresh eggs (& because I promised Skye 2 years ago!)
4. Serving good meals so Love & I snack less (I'll bet you can guess why that's important!)

So resolved!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Winter Lettuce

This winter, for the first time, I built a temporary coldframe. Six bales of straw, a doubled sheet of 4-mil plastic sheeting, and four boards --- and, viola! I've been amazed at the difference it has made. The pictures above are lettuce planted about the same time. The picture on the left is in my cold frame, the one on the right is in an open bed. We had a salad with fresh lettuce on New Year's Eve. Yesterday, we had mustard from the cold frame. This is definitely a practice I will continue. I had no idea that this little bit of shelter would make such a difference. We have had temperatures in the single digits already this winter. The worst damage to the protected plants happened while we were gone to Texas last weekend. We got 1 2/10" rain, which crushed the plastic against the plants in spots. More than 24 hours of that was pretty rough on the plants. While I do have two crossbars (tomato stakes) to help keep the plastic off the plants, this is definitely a refinement I will need to work on for next year. But I've already declared this experiment a success!