Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Coming Right Along..

It is all coming right along.
Mayhaps next year I can just
go out into the garden and plant
without having to start from total scratch.
We have been here about 4 years
and I have moved the garden every
single spring.
I am sick to death of breaking
virgin soil.

But I am liking it so far this year.
We had just great success with planting
in the shade last year
that we have moved it all under the trees,
with the tomatoes being the exception.
If you look at the top pic you can see
a few orange lines stretching
between the trees and poles.
Well, gonna be beans as soon as I get
around to planting.
I plan on picking what I can reach and
the vines that go too high
can hold the beans that I will use dry
over next winter.
This is an experiment,
but I have hopes that it will work out fine.

And I am slowing beating back the honeysuckle
and privett jungle to reclaim this dappled grove as my own.
I have cleared a path through it at least.
And in the sunny spot at the end of the path
are new herbs.. Feverfew, Pyrethrum and Sweet Annie.
They can grow and spread all they want back there.
And in the jungle along the path, Foxglove and Marshmallow
are tucked.

And everywhere I stick a shovel
into the ground I come up with
old bricks.
I have them piled and piled
so it doesn't look neat and clean yet.
But there are new Calendula seedlings and
Echinacea there and my Yarrow is beginning to bloom.

Sweet Woodruff under the holly
with Sweet Grass and Apple Mint.
And Valerian in the strange square formed of
chunks of old concrete.

In this bed there is my most favorite herb, Costmary.
It shares the bed with two kinds of Oregano, Parsley,
Rosemary, Evening Primose and an errant Peppermint.
Along the back there are about 70 Basil seedlings
and a new Tansy shared from a friend.
And sprinkled around are some Dianthus that overwintered,
some Sweet Alyssium and a few other little annual bloomers.

Ha!! That line you see stretching across the herb bed
towards the beans.. that's a hair that was blown across the lens.
I just noticed it and I am not going to start this
whole thing all over again.

A hanging pot of petunias, Rocket, which will bloom a
reddish pink border the blackberry patch.
There is a soft curve of dill, my comfrey
and a French Sorrel too.
There is my chard bed that has Lamb'd Quarter
growing in it too.
And peeking on the side is
the red Jerusalem Artichokes.

Chamomile that I found in the lawn in the front.
My White Horehound is taking over
and I need to start sharing it with others.
A lavender that I cannot find the perfect home for
and will transplant for the third time
to location unknown this fall.
A Curry plant, inedible, but very aromatic,
Lime Thyme, plain Thyme, an Anise Hyssop
and my Plaintains.
And a few petunias for color.
I hope that I can get the petunias to reseed.
One of my favorite fragrances is true petunia,
reverted petunia. So heady and sweet. But
you just can't buy them in the stores.
They have to reseed to have fragrance.

My compost pile pumpkins!
They are crowded, but I am not going to mess with them.
Compost veggies grow the best.
There are oodles of little peppers in there too.
But knowing my luck, they are all jalapenos.
I grew and dried so many jalapenoes last summer
that I never have to grow them again.

Chard and coriander and one bed of onions
leading back to the Jerusalem Artichokes.
If you stand and watch for just a moment
you can watch them grow.

From the inside looking out.

From the outside looking in.

And I am a bad, bad, bad gardener.
Naughty, shameful gardener.
Do not let my words and images fool you
into thinking I am on top of it all
and completely organized.
Instead of cutting new paths through the
jungle and planting pretty flowers
and hanging blooming baskets,
I should ahve been attacking the mess of weeds
that are taking over the western edge of the garden.
I have so many tomatoes that need to go in
their beds as soon as possible.
But as you can see, the tomato bed
is an utter disaster that nothing can be
planted in.
My priorities are completely screwed.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Lot of This...

A lot of this fell in our yard
last night around 8:30.

Unbeknownst to me
Sweet Husband was up in the barn
gathering up a stubborn Ameracauna
hen that had refused to go in earlier.
I heard her screaming all the way
down and into the house and stuck my head
out looking for said husband.
I was going to send him up to the barn
because something horrible was happening up there.
I heard an awful 'CRACK'
but didn't see an immediate cause.
I heard another.
I went through the house and out the front
looking for Sweet Husband and by the time
I got to the front porch the 'cracks'
were much louder and almost constant.
It opened up and the hail began to pour from the sky.
Huge hail. Huge, huge hail.
And around the corner of the house came
Sweet Husband, just a gettin it.
I mean that man was moving!

He managed to dodge every ball.
Which is good because ice balls of that size
came from a great, great height
and would leave a mark.
We fretted over the windshields
and could hear the wind ticking smaller balls against
the windows of the house.
But in the morning light the
damage was minimal.
No holes punched though tin roofs.
no broken windshields adn only small
ping dents on the hoods and roofs of the
Some of my plants were a little beaten down,
but no lasting damage.

Over The Long Fall and Winter

there were changes here over the long Fall and Winter...
The goats had to go.
Poor Sweet Husband just couldn't take the
sounds they made.
With every Maaaa his 'daddy alarm' went off.
And with every claxon of that alarm came a jolt of adrenaline.
He began to fear he would stroke out or something
from repeated zaps.
So, off they went with a friend and now live
somewhere with lots of brambles to eat.
But it was great fun to raise bottle babies
and we may test him around other breeds to
see if it was just Saanens or all goats
that bother him. sigh....

And we lost Saddleback..
our Langshan flock sire.
Even now it kills me to think of it.
I kill fluffywuffy bunnies and
chickens often with no difficulties.
I even butcher things with names.
But losing Saddleback broke my heart.
I cried for 3 days.
Aw hell.. getting a knot in my throat
even now.
He was an exceptional rooster,
fine and noble and stunning and intelligent.
I have his son who carries the extraordinary
name of 'Junior'.
He is not his father, but I hope to breed him
and maybe I will get another that comes close.
My heart really did just break
like it would over a good dog.

And we have a new addition..
Someone dumped out this wee kitty
in an empty parking lot towards the end
of September.
I guessed the age to be around 3 weeks.
I still had to stimulate her bladder and bowels
by hand and wean her.
She smelled like house and not the 'wild'
when I found her.
And what was I supposed to do??
I couldn't just leave her there after I found her.
No way, man.

She looked like a guy.
She walked like a guy.
She attacked everything in sight like a guy.
She slept sprawled out in
the most unfeminine fashion.
She was aggressive.
and it never occurred to me to look and make sure.
Everything about ths kitten screamed, 'BOY!!!'
until one day I happened to look at
her rear as she walked by.
I was shocked and horrified to see that she was
missing some bits in the back.
There was no junk in her trunk.
Yep.. I am a great farmer and ex-zookeeper.

Her name had been 'Fluke',
but that is not very girlie.
So we toyed with 'Athena'.
That didn't stick either.
So she is called either 'Kitty-Puss
or (in adult company)'Little Bitch Kitty'.
She is still aggressive and is the terror of the household.
And no other animal will kick her ass!!
If someone would just lay her out cold
she would stop deserving her name.
But since tiny kittenhood she has been allowed
to get away with atrocious behavior by the
other animals.
I have an old, old, old, old cat
that is notoriously foul tempered.
She will tear down any other animal if the mood strikes her.
I lived in terror the first week that LBK was here.
I was sure that Old Grandma would kill her on sight.
But she has allowed that little monster to
smack her, beat her,
chase her from food and
interrupt naps with no punishment.
And Bish, my huge blue intact tom
gets the worst treatment of all.
She rides him.
She chews on his ears.
She is relentless.
He howls and screams and cries
like he is being killed,
but will not lift one be-taloned paw against her.
If he would just beat her senseless one time..just once,
she might stop.
The poor old tom cannot even eat in peace.
Forget trying to come in and grab a quick
snooze by the woodstove on a snowy day.
She is on him like a tick.
And when she was little,
she looked like a tiny tick on his huge back.
The dogs slink away from her
and did when she was tiny.
She has never hissed or swiped a paw,
but they live in fear.
They allow her to steal their food
with nary a snap.

Children need discipline or they
become holy terrors.
We have a holy terror on our hands.
But she loves the barn and will be a fierce hunter
when she grows a bit more.

And I think those are the highlights around here..
Everything changes
adn nothing stays the same.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Violet Jelly

"That which above all others yield that sweetest smell in the air,
is the violet" - Francis Bacon


And easy.

Gathering violets is a medative process.
Quiet and green with the first
soft breeze of Spring dappling the sun.
You feel a connection with past and
those past that have harvested
the perfect blue cushioned in the first deep green.
With each pluck you reach further back in time,
envisioning crisp cotton aprons
and willow baskets..
because if you don't find something to distract you
you will notice your screaming back
and ripping hamstrings.
Picking violets is a test of your will.
Are you capable of enduring?
Can you fill the basket?
Can you endure to achieve the goal that you desire?

Ok.. it's not all that bad, really.
And it is nice to be out on a spring day.

And once you have gathered all
the violets you desire and more is better.
If you are there already,
you might as well pick every violet in sight
because you will be reluctant to venture out again.
It is just not the same as that first glorious day.

After you have brought them inside and given them
a quick, cold soak and drain,
measure them by the cupful as you
place them into a quart canning jar..or two.
Top with steaming hot water.
Use the same number of cups of water
as you did for the violets.
Put the lid on and set them aside to steep
until tomorrow.

You will end up with a
jar of beautiful violet tea.

A sidenote:
I have done this twice this spring.
As you can see, I have a jar of cloudy pink liquid.
That is a wee bit odd.
The first batch gave me a deep blue-purple tea.
It was dark and looked so refreshing and quenching
that it was all that I could do not to swig
it down as if it were the very elixir of life.
The desire was almost overwhelming.
There must be something in violets that I was craving.
But I could not bear to chug such a labor of love.
If you know of ayruvedic medicine,
then I am a blend of an air body type and a fire body type,
So think hot and dry.
Violets have been used medicinally for fevers and inflammation
as a cooling medicine.
I think that is why I craved the tea so.
My body recognized it for it's cooling properties.
Just talking aobut it makes me want a big icy cold jar
of violet tea with the sexy condensation trailing down
down the side.. aaarrghhhh.

But I am not sure why it has gone from a deep blue
to this cloudy pink.
I will pick more (oh gawd no)and see what it brings.
My thought is that it is later in the season
and the increased heat and sun have changed the petals
or the plants themselves have physically changed
in advance of the end of the season.

Back to it...
When the violet flowers are a pale white
and your violet tea is a rich color,
drain the flowers.
Don't squeeze to much or you will lose
the crystal clear of the jelly if that is what you want.

Now you can google 'Violet Jelly" and get tons of recipes.
That is what I did.
But I just couldn't follow them.
That is a LOT of lemon juice!
I didn't want to make a purple lemon jelly.
And they list a LOT of sugar.
I didn't want purple sugar goo.
I wanted a light, delicate and herb-y jelly
where the real flavor and aroma pours forth.

I used 7 cups of violet tea.

1 package of pectin...or was it two?? I think it was 2 for all those cups of tea.

Maybe a tablespoon of lemon juice.. maybe.
And I started tasting..
I would add a bit of sugar, taste, add,
taste, add, taste etc..
until it was sweet enough to be 'sweet'
but it was only to carry the violet taste
Boil this for one minute.
Be very careful here.. it is my thought
that if you really, really boil it hard you
will lose all the oils that carry the scent and flavor.
I had it on a soft boil and for exactly one minute.
Seriously.. I watched the clock.
Ladle up immediately into your clean
and sterilized jelly jars,
lid them and into the water bath
for about 15 minutes.
Cool and wait for the most beautiful sound in the world..


I cannot describe to you the flavor or fragrance.
It is so unusual and different that I have no words.
It is delicate, yet strong and distinct.
It does not carry the same rich bite as a fruit jelly.
It is a flower petal jelly, light and soft.

Next year I really wanna make Violetum,
A Roman violet wine....

Monday, March 21, 2011

Well.. it is officially Spring
since I refilled and plugged in the fountain in the garden.
I had some hopes that a tree frog
would decide it would be a great place for eggs,
but no such luck.

And Spring decided to appear around February 10th.
That was the first really warm day
and it never really got cold again.
I find the whole thing terribly freaky.
We have been over 90* already. That was last Friday
and it was HOT.

And we have expanded the garden further into
the trees.
Some of you may recognize the area
as the previous home of the pot bellied pigs
We had such success last year growing
under shade that we are putting it all under shade
this year.
It is the only way to garden really with the
new weather that seems to mean
screeching hot summers with searing sun.
I think I will let the beans vines
go up the trees. I will harvest what
I can reach and the rest can become
dried shelly beans for the winter
and seeds for next summer.
I think...
I haven't laid it out or anything yet.
I have refused to plant out anything but peas,
onions and chard.
I was afraid the ground was too hot for
the peas to sprout, but they finally made it.

See that wall to the left?
That was a wall of honeysuckle last year,
but I cleared it all and the peas are
planted all along it.
Though I have decided to cover that area
with spreading blooming things like
catnip, lemon balm and bee balm.
I have put the transplants in already
and am willing them to spread and
fill that whole wall.
I think it will be nice to have
fragrant and blooming things there to draw the
pollinators in.
The wall will end up outside the fence in the end as well,
so no use trying to plant anything I care about too much.

My horehound overwintered great and stayed green.
I was able to make a few teas out of it.
Horehound tea with honey is delicious!
It tastes just like horehound candy.
(that is..if you are one of the few,
the proud that like horehound candy)

And there is a small grove of redbud trees in the new garden area.
I have moved the costmary there and it is thriving.
The next tree has oregano - regular and hot and spicy varieties.
And I had this weird geranium come up in the tomato patch last year.
It got big, but the leaves were a bit smaller and I swear I don't remember it blooming, but..
I found teeny, tiny, teeny, tiny little weird geranium seedlings
and I have put them along the back edge of the copse of redbuds.
I have more to move, but they are too small yet.
I will have to post pics of this weird plant
when it gets big this year.
You need to help me figure out what in the world..

And here is the footing for the new kitchen extension.
My baking life will be so much easier with a shiny, new kitchen!

I have missed you and the only explanation I have
is a comparison ; it's like an aunt.
You know you should go see the aunt,
but it gets put on the back burner
for so long that you feel guilt whenever
you think of your aunt.
You feel to guilty to show your face.
You know that once you do go see her,
everything will be just fine and like it used to be,
you are just too ashamed to make that first move.
And so it was with me and thee..
But I am here now. I took the plunge.
Now I can come here all the time again.
And I have lots to fill you in on.
There have been changes over the winter...
(cliffhangar, ya'll!)