Wednesday, March 27, 2013
I got REALLY carried away with starting tomato plants this year. Let's skip right over all the pictures of things growing lushly in the greenhouse to how things look currently: tons and tons of almost-root-bound tomato plants that need homes spread out over every conceivable surface both inside and outside the greenhouse. Between the three gardens on the property up here I've planted 20 tomato plants. Of course, the crazy person in me wonders if that is enough... THIS year I plan to preserve tomatoes! Last year I said I would, and had 5 healthy bushes, but we ate every single tomato fresh, and I was left with zero jars of anything tomato. But this is the year of tomato sauce, tomato paste, salsa, sun dried tomatoes... 20 plants should be enough, right???
The plants we couldn't fit have been given away to people, and today Titus and I made our final delivery to the next door neighbor. He (Titus) was very excited to hear I needed his help and that it involved his tractor. He was not excited to hear that he would have to drive SLOWLY down the driveway with the precious plants in tow, and that he was not allowed to purposely crash into anything on the way there. Boy did it feel good to get those things out of here!
Our trusty side-kick came along for the trip, limping along because he jammed his paw into a thistle plant before we left. Stepping in thistles is one of his spring-time traditions, though he's getting pretty darn old and these things are more difficult to recover from. He's taking a nap in the dirt next to some dust-bathing chickens right now.
It was nice to make an event out of The Tomato Delivery, rather than rushing around and cramming it in between errands. It is so beautiful outside these days - almost completely spring-like except for the slight chill in the air. The flowering pear tree that grows where we park our car is dropping showers of white petals down so thickly that it feels like snow when the wind blows. Too bad those blossoms smell like a huge pile of dirty socks - every time we get in the car the kids say "It smells like a dead animal around here..." and start looking for a dead chicken. Too bad, as well, that my children can so easily identify the smell of a dead animal. Hm. Another beautiful word picture ruined.
Things are very exciting and busy around here. Lots of planting, building, bird-netting, and waiting, as one of the hens is sitting on 6 eggs that should hatch next week, and one of the rabbits is due to have a litter the week after that. Spring is one of my very favorite times of year, so much to do, so much to look forward to. And of course, Easter. This year I feel especially full of tearful gratitude when I think about what Jesus did for me, for you. So grateful for joy and peace, and loving our simple little life.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Perhaps you remember the Brussels Sprout Tragedy that happened around Thanksgiving time. Happily, in August I had also planted two tiny brussels sprout seeds in a different area, as back up. (I've had enough garden failures to learn not to put all my proverbial sprouts in one basket.) I have been patiently waiting for the stalks to resemble the beautiful things I have purchased at the grocery store or farmer's market. However, yesterday I determined that they were as good as they were going to get and decided to harvest them before something else did.
The stalk was short and the sprouts were tiny, some of them beginning to open up, but they were almost completely aphid-free and tasted delicious! As with every other vegetable, freshly-picked brussels sprouts have an entirely cleaner, more nuanced flavor than the ones you buy in the store.
These were just so fresh that I couldn't bear to put them in the oven, so last night we had our first ever raw brussels sprout salad. The recipe needs a little tweaking so I won't publish it until I've perfected it. But I'll just say this: shaved brussels sprouts plus parsley plus celery plus apple plus some-sort-of-dressing-that-DOESN'T-have-too-much-mustard-in-it plus toasted almonds and avocado = delicious! I have one more stalk out there in the garden and I have a feeling I will be bringing it in the house soon.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Please forgive my rare appearance here on the ol' blog. I like to post something a few times per week, but this has been a doozie of a week. We began with Strep Throat and ear infections, progressed to allergic reactions to antibiotics, threw in some Pink Eye, and capped it all off with a literal flying leap from the top of Grandma's stairs, resulting in a broken 4-year-old foot. You're welcome, Kaiser. Anywho, I have been doing much less farming than I would like, and a lot more health care.
As the kids and I pulled into the driveway after having Titus' leg casted, we noticed one of my dad's hens, an old Pompadour who has always been at the bottom of the pecking order of his flock, milling about our yard. The two flocks tend to stay pretty separate from one another, so we wondered why she had left those other bullies in favor of ours. Moses quickly noticed that she had a long piece of twine tangled around her legs which was preventing her from taking full strides. She has always been a docile hen, so she allowed Moses to pick her up without much difficulty. The hard part was getting that twine off her dinosaur leg. It was so tangled in little knots that were digging into her skin, and I was so afraid of accidentally nipping her with the scissors, that it took about 20 minutes for me to cut it off. She sat placidly in Moses' lap the entire time, occasionally pecking the scissors curiously or peering up at my face through her mop of white feathers. It was a very nice moment. In my experience, helping animals on the farm usually involves pinning them down and working as fast and desperately as you can while they panic and try to escape, the end result being that everyone involved feels a bit traumatized. This, on the other hand, was a calm moment, and Moses and I could both tell that the hen appreciated our help. When we were finished and set her free, she didn't even go running off, but stayed near us, happily scratching and pecking up bugs.
Strangely, Madame Pompadour never returned to my dad's chicken coop after we untangled her. That night she didn't turn up in the nightly head count, and the next morning she could be seen happily wandering around the sand pit on the opposite end of the property, far from any other chickens. She didn't return to the coop that night either. The next day, I spotted her down by the edge of the pond where the grass is greenest and lucky chickens can even find baby frogs to eat. Her shiny black feathers and funny white poofy head made quite a contrast against the green grass and sparkly water. It was a beautiful sight. She looked so happy down there, though it was curious to see her all alone. Even bullied chickens like to stay with the group. She seemed to need some time to herself, though, and spent the entire morning scratching and pecking around the pond.
That afternoon, my dad came over to tell us that he had found her lying dead at the edge of the pond. Nothing had killed her; she seemed to have died of old age. Moses and I were both sad to hear this, but I also felt a soft touch of happiness as well. I was glad she decided to wander over to our house when she needed help, glad to have untangled her and have a chance to hold her a bit. I was proud of her for having such a good death - she had removed herself from the flock, which is natural in animals who know they are about to die - and gone to the prettiest spot on the property where she could live out her last days in peace. I'm glad I got to see her pecking around down there, and happy that this is a place that chickens (even the ones who end up on our table) get to roam free and enjoy themselves.
Friday, February 22, 2013
4 Year Old: "'Sexy' means 'really really gross,' right?"
7 Year Old: "No. 'Sexy' means ATTRACTIVE."
4 Year Old: "What is ATTRACTIVE?"
7 Year Old: "It means, like, really beautiful and it, like, makes people want to love you and stuff." (heaves a huge sigh) "I'm kind of like that. It's so annoying."
Oh, my poor ATTRACTIVE 7 year old. Life is rough.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I made two statements in the last week that nobody should every say. The first was "I don't get sick." The second: "I don't believe in hand sanitizer." I am being punished for both of those statements.
Stuck at home for yet another day, we made do with what we had lying around. We painted rocks, assembled some left-over sun-catcher kits, read MANY chapters of How To Speak Dragonese, and snuck in a few games of handball between torrential downpours of rain and hail. None of us are inside-all-day folks, even when sick, so the combination of germs and inclement weather has us a bit stir crazy. As I was washing dishes at the sink, my oldest son said "Mom, it's SNOWING!!!" "No, Moses, that is hail," I replied without looking up. "Mom, it really is snow! Look!" And, as usual, he was right. Amongst the rain drops, huge fluffy white snow flakes were floating down from the sky. Each one melted before even touching the ground, but they were enchanting. The three of us stood there with our pathetic drippy noses, gazing out the sliding glass door in silence, enjoying the excitement of snowflakes. It was nice.
I wonder how the violets on the lawn are holding up to all this weather. They show their pretty little faces every February and it excites me every time. Until moving "up the hill" when I was in high school, I had never seen purple flowers growing in a green lawn before. It seems so rebellious of nature to think up something like that. Everything seems so excited for spring - violets on the ground and lots of blossoms on trees. All while we are being told that we may wake up to a fresh blanket of snow tomorrow. I wonder how my freshly sprouted pea plants are doing out there with all this cold and hail. I'll check tomorrow - for now I'll sit here and enjoy my tea.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Small people are pretty sick around here, so in spite of the gorgeous weekend, a lot of time was spent indoors blowing noses, taking medicine, and lounging around. This gave me a nice chance to do the thing I love to do even more (gasp) than gardening: sew! With a sewing cabinet full of half-finished projects I did the most logical thing: started a NEW project. And a super complicated time-consuming intricate one, too. I'm so happy!
Inspired by this mini quilt over at 1/4" Mark, I broke out my fabric scraps and began making a postage stamp quilt. Each square is 1 1/2 inches, finished to 1 inch which is pretty darn little! Each finished block is made up of 169 of these tiny squares. My poor husband just shook his head when he saw the kitchen table completely covered with itty-bitty fabric squares. "What about that other quilt you said would take two years to finish?" he politely asked. "Oh, the hexagon quilt? I'm still working on that, too," I replied with a smile.
I don't know what it is about overwhelming projects - they just call to me. I actually just love the look of things that are intricate. Because the squares are so small, there is a mosaic effect to the overall block that I think is just perfect. Plus, I managed to limit myself to a more controlled color palette than usual which I am finding quite restful. I plan to sort of "quilt as you go" on this project - hand-quilting a bit in the middle of each block and then assembling all the blocks at the end and doing a bit more quilting with the machine. I have a very old book of hand-quilting designs from my Grandma in which I found this flower motif. I've never officially done hand quilting before, so I am not up to date on current methods of transferring the design to the quilt. The book told me to trace the design on freezer paper, punch tiny holes along the lines using a straight pin, position the template on the quilt, then "dust lightly with cinnamon." What do you know, it worked! Once the template was removed, there was my design, which I traced over with a quilting pen. I'm not sure if people still do this anymore, but it worked well enough for me, plus it smelled great. :)
Today is dreary outside and we spent the morning driving back and forth from the doctor getting throat cultures and picking up medicine. There is a movie from the library waiting to be watched, too. Looks like another inside day (though I still have to gather eggs and water everything outside.) Hopefully we'll be feeling better tomorrow. In the mean time I might be able to sneak some more time with my tiny squares.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Ever since I read the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I have tried very hard to only buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. This ensures that we are eating foods that taste the best and that haven't been shipped half-way around to world, wasting valuable resources. Every once in a while I will cave in, though, when I experience a moment of weakness at the imported organic tomato section. Yes, the tomatoes cost $6 per pound, but memories of how delicious my garden-grown heirloom tomatoes taste overpower my environmental guilt and I go for it. But no matter how perfectly ripe it looks and feels, and no matter how much dang money I spend on it, that mid-winter tomato never tastes good. I have done this enough times to be sure of it: tomatoes are not meant to be eaten in February.
But what about zucchini, I wondered? Yesterday there was an unexpected pile of organic zucchini squash in the produce section and as soon as I saw it I could almost taste what I was going to make with it: pasta! Now, I almost never purchase zucchini because I grow so much of it in the summer that the absence of it during the winter is a bit of a relief. But yesterday I just had to have it, grown in Peru or not. Throwing conscientious eating out the window, I snapped up a bag full, grabbed a bunch of fresh basil and hot-tailed it home to see if I could make what I was tasting in my imagination a reality.
To my surprise and delight, I did! First try, too, which is a rarity for me in pretty much anything I do. Sitting down to enjoy my bowl of freshly made pasta was so luxurious - especially for someone who hasn't been able to eat ANYTHING resembling noodles for almost two years (nope, not even the gluten-free ones, dang). My husband was pretty excited too - pasta without the after-pasta bloat? Make a double batch next time!
RAW ZUCCHINI PASTA WITH LEMONY GARLIC VINAIGRETTE
5 small straight green zucchini
1 small sweet red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup nicoise style olives, pitted and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 T olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 T fresh basil chopped, or 3 T dry basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1.) In a medium sized bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice and whisk until well combined. Stir in the minced garlic and set aside.
2.) Using a spiralizer or vegetable peeler, make "noodles" out of your zucchini. (I have a spiralizer but used my peeler this time - just peel and peel until your zucchini are turned into a big beautiful pile of skinny fettucini-like ribbons.) Add these zucchini noodles to your lemon juice vinaigrette along with the onions, olives, and basil.
3.) sprinkle on your salt and pepper and mix well until all the vegetables are well coated. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least a few hours to allow the flavors to marry.
4.) You could add more salt and pepper before serving depending on your flavor preferences. This would also taste great with the addition of some feta cheese, if you are lucky enough to be able to eat things like that! This recipe serves two people - the perfect guilt-free Valentine's Day treat so that you can indulge in dessert. :)