Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas, how can I keep you?

This is the last week before Christmas and I am sad that the season has zoomed by so quickly. When my friends and I discuss our day, someone usually says, "Thank God it is almost over", or "I'm almost done with my shopping", or
"I haven't even started!"
This is distressing to me.
I too am guilty of letting these comments come out of my mouth, it's such an automatice response. When my much- overworked friends want to commiserate with me, I repeat those words back to them.

I don't want to say it anymore.

The real truth is, I've tried to stay up longer and get up earlier this month, because I truly do want Christmas last as long as I can.
Cookie baking, candy making, card sending me, I want it to go on and on.
But, no matter what I do, my precious holiday is still whizzing by me at the speed of retail stores getting ready for the next holiday!
Every day this week I will continue to get up early and stay up as long as I possibly can. I want to extend this incredible feeling I have for the birth of the child who changed the world.
I want to continue to do all the wonderful, sentimental rituals I have practiced for years.
Today,making more candy, baking cakes, cookies, and bread. No tired feelings at the end of the all this kitchen
madness,just happiness.
The Christmas tree is lit right now, wrapping paper and cookies platters are stacked up on the table along with confection sugar, chocolate chunks, raisins, apricots, and flour.
It's a nice cluttered scene.
To my relief, I've finally mastered the art of cooking the pralines, and all batches are turning out right!
We've watched all the familiar Christmas movies this week, and written out countless, glittery Christmas cards.
My husband and I sang Christmas carols with our fellow church members, went out to see the lights downtown, gave out candy canes, started to fill our stockings to each other. (I love shopping for the small things that go into stockings! The grandchildren's stockings are particularly fun to fill!)

The last thing I have to do is buy my Christmas ham and fixings. The last minute shopping, it feels good to be with others in the store, gives me a thrill to say, "Merry Christmas"!

May this week feel like an eternity!

Hope all of you cherish and enjoy the season.

And please...don't forget to leave cookies and milk for Santa.

Merry, Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sugar Plums and Alka Seltzer

Spent the afternoon making my yearly Christmas pralines. The house smelled so delicious today, butter and cooked sugar in the air; the caramel,vanilla making my mouth water!

I began this candy cooking party at 12:30 p.m.

It is a mystery to me the little problems I have when I begin my cooking and baking ritual every year. It's not like riding a bike, you tend to forget things that keep you in the seat.

The first batch of candy is always a disaster. (but I never remember this) It's like a practice run. My husband knows this, he counts on it. He waits in the wings to eat the broken and chipped pieces. (I never bring my friends and co-workers broken candy.) He was confident that he would be eating candy after a few minutes, the anticipation was all over him.

This year I thought I had avoided this problem because the first pot of candy looked so beautiful. I stirred and spooned it onto waxed paper, it cooled nicely, it had a nice rounded look, was creamy and brown. Wow, it was darn near perfect.
Hah! Ok, Jan! First one out of the box, ready to plate and wrap! I did it good! No frustration this year!

Well, what do you think?
That candy would not, could not, come off of the waxed paper.
I would not, could not, have done something wrong?
I laid everything out before I starting cooking, had everything in a neat line...spoons, measuring cups, bowls, candy thermometer.....

I forgot to butter the paper.
How could I have forgotten? Such a small detail...
To quote a famous Peanuts character: "AUUGH"!
My husband sat on the couch like a cheshire cat, patiently waiting for me to stop using very unchristmas-like words. He waited for a break in the wailing and moaning, and then he said, "Any mistakes this year...dear"?
He watched quietly as I pulled and tugged, chips flying off in every direction, cracks marring the rounded perfection that I strived for. As the shards flew around the kitchen, I could hear him talking to his friend on the phone, "Well, I gotta go, I think she may need some help." (He already knew what to say to avoid a headless state.)
I mutely handed him a large bowl of pieces and sent him back to the couch. He sat happily munching while I fumed and sputtered.

The second round was not much better.
I buttered another sheet of paper, ran back and forth to the stove to stir the new batch. As the temperature rose to 239, I figured this one was a cinch.


I didn't stir it quite enough, and spooned it out before it had enough air in it. Rushing it? How could I?
This batch was more like soft toffee.

It ran together like a traitor when I spooned it onto the paper-covered counter. *&*#! %$!!!!

This candy had to be scraped back into the pot. Have you ever had to scrape warm sticky candy off waxed paper? It isn't on the top of my list of things to do.
I advise that you stir that candy until you think it's about to set up in the pot, or until your arm falls off.
You wonder why didn't I throw it all away and start over?'s why: cleaned, shelled pecans are $7.00 for 2 1/2 cups.
I kept at it and made 5 batches, 1 1/2 cup of pecans in each. (you can add that total up!)
That pecan price is enough for me to pull up every bit of candy off the counter. I wasn't leaving a man behind on waxed paper!
But, pulling it up it isn't fun and your vocabulary suffers in the process.

I'm done for today, it's 5:03 p.m. and the last of it is cooling on the counter. I haven't checked it yet, the last few pieces, but I know what to expect.
My husband, the official tester of this house, has advised me that it was "sorta chewy", and "not like the perfect spoonful" he tried another batch ago.
He should know....he's eaten enough of the mistakes today to make him a candy genious.

I just saw him go into the bathroom for an alka seltzer.
"I'm just trying to save your Christmas reputation, he said. "Someone has to do it".

As he walked away grinning I heard him add, "what I go through for you!"

He won't sleep tonight, he's had more sugar than the sugarplum fairy locked in a Macy's candy store.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Rose and Lavender Cookies

My most recent visit with a local study group, The Attakapas, was great fun! We discussed how to use culinary herbs and the proper way to make a pot of tea. I served our signature blend, "Summer's End", which went well with their menu of scones and cookies.
The members were very gracious and well informed. I wish that I had time to join their group; but my job, building the new house, harvesting, making winter medicines and packing the apartment are all I can manage!

Here is the recipe for the herb cookies I served .

Rose and Lavender Cookies

1 and 3/4 cups and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup , 3 tablespoons and 1 tsp confectioners sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup of fresh fragrant rose petals (the unsprayed variety)
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
3 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 and 3/4 cups unsalted walnuts, or almonds, or macadamia nuts (your choice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 drop of rose oil
1 and 1/2 cups of confection sugar for rolling
Zest of one lemon.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Put roses, lavender and nuts into a food processor and process until very finely chopped.
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir until combined, then mix with your hands until dough stays together. Spoon out by tablespoons and roll into balls.
You can bake at least 16 at a time on a standard cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes,until brown around the edges
Cool cookies for a few minutes.
Zest your lemon into the confection sugar, toss until mixed.
Roll cookies into sugar, let cool completely, then roll again.

40 servings

You can use almost any culinary herb for these cookies. In the past I have used: lemon balm, lemon grass, rose geranium, pineapple sage, violets, purple basil, lemon thyme, bergomot, chocolate mint, spearmint, peppermint.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

a door and a fine porch

This week we went to visit our new house in progress. I was amazed to see that I now have a roof, walls and a beautiful porch. I have to share it with all of you who have been so supportive of our new farm. Don't you love it? That's me smiling in my office. I can smile easily now!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

dreaming of cool nights , simmering apples, and a pot of beef boogie woogie.

The heat is hanging over the land like a wet woolen blanket, my skin is so damp as I stand out in the middle of our field, that it makes trickles of sweat pour down my spine. As I water the trees, and herbs that we have left, I wonder when summer will end.
I love summer; the smells, the sound of the bees, the abundance of herbs it usually brings, but..this year...we are having a record heat wave that I have not seen in many decades.
The tender herbs have given it up, they have shriveled and died before I could save them. The only thing we have left at our new farm is the lemon grass, oregano and rosemary who all thrive mightly in this desert-like season.
When I plan my products for the upcoming fall festivals I use what has survived and flourished in summer. So far, it appears that the thai and mediterranean herbs have lived the longest and made the most decent harvest. (does that give you an idea how hot it is?)
Wildcrafting the passion flower leaves, honeysuckle, blackberry, and soon- to-be
saw palmetto berries, will help give us a surplus with our cultivated herbs.
I will use all that I have to make teas and tinctures, balms and salves.
Here in town, the garden survived better with more water. I have been able to harvest the bergomots, lemon verbena, mints, basils, thymes, savories,
roses, St. John's Wort.
Today I am deciding whether or not I actually want to do a booth at the Rice Festival, the pickings are half of what they were last year.
Perhaps the new herbal flavored cookies and cakes that we plan to make can be doubled, the apple butter and jellies tripled.
The end of summer makes me tired.
We are all longing for the sweet cool evenings that fall will bring.
I think that I will take a little nap before I make my proposed list of sellable items; the heat has made me sleepy.
I can dream about autumn leaves, simmering apples, pots of stews, chowders,and chili. My husband, who loves Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon says, "When are you gonna make that stew? You know, that beef boogie woogie"?
He knows I only make it when the wind turns cold and the kitchen won't turn into a sauna. He's waiting for that.
yep...a nap is good.
I can hear the bees humming around the basil flowers..such a lovely sound to fall asleep to...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

lovely afternoon with a chicken

Spent the afternoon with a recipe from Rachel Ray.
Mediterranean Chicken Stack recipe"!
It can be found on her website for a 5 ingredient skillet; I just received it on my email.
I can't say enough about this recipe. It was fun and very tasty!
I did have to cut back on the amount of olive oil and the amount of breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat bread instead of white) and since I couldn't find a low fat goat cheese, had to use half the amount called for.
it was delicious!
And....very pretty to look at.
I was so proud of myself when I finally stacked it up on the plate.
It fulfilled my envie' to cook and kept itself within the limits of my new low carb diet. (I have missed cooking since I've started the low carb way of life.) Working on it this afternoon satisfied my creative cravings.
I'll say it: food is like artwork to me when I plate it up.
I know that's silly to most people, but I find it makes me happy. (I would rather create it now than eat it!)
The only thing I changed was to add a little bit of Cajun seasoning on the chicken, sauteed portabella mushrooms, sprinkled finely sliced basil and a added touch of fresh parmesean.
If anyone reads this blog and can't find the recipe, I will print it here.
I'm sorry to say, the picture is a poor one (I never know how to stage food, darn it!) and does not do it justice!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

passion flowers

Yesterday I found some passion flower vines and flowers in a small area of our farm. I had seen them before but did not mark their place. This summer, they re-appeared delicate and purple, vines twisting around other summer weeds. It was very comforting to see them, survivors they are, no one to tend them, orphans in a wild landscape.
We have had a drought in this part of our state, no rain for weeks and weeks, but this month rain found its way back to our parched ground. The passion flowers took advantage of the water and bloomed in glorious profusion amongst the yellow and white honeysuckle. I will mark the vines this year, so that I can them find next again next spring.
The blooms are very near the elderberry flowers, whose dainty yellow and white petals I have long searched for.
Our house should be started in 3 weeks, I am looking forward to it, but these wonderful herbs are making the wait so tolerable!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Creative Italian with a low carb twist!

Since my diet has changed and I have to re-learn to eat; it's been a challenge to invent new recipes.
Saturday, I had most of the afternoon to get creative. It turned out to be a lot of fun and very tasty things came out of the oven!

Here are a couple of high protein, low carb ideas .

Squash Stuffing for Chicken
1 TB olive oil
2 cups diced acorn squash
1 small green pepper, diced
1 medium onion diced
1 stalk celery diced (try to dice all vegetables the same size)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 bratwurst turkey sausage, casing removed.
1 TB basil, 1 TB thyme, 1 TB oregano, 1 leaf of sage, finely chopped(1/2 of each if dried)
Salt and pepper to taste
Spray skillet with a little olive oil cooking spray,add turkey sausage and cook till done. Remove turkey from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside into a bowl. Heat olive oil, then throw in squash, onions, green peppers, celery , saute till tender.
Add garlic and herbs, stir throughly. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a minute, then add turkey sausage into vegetables.
Stuff loosely into a large whole chicken. (Suggestion: Season your chicken with salt and lemon pepper, sliced lemons on top of breast.
Put extra stuffing into a sprayed casserole dish and bake beside chicken. (take casserole out after 30 minutes) Bake chicken, covered with tin foil at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Uncover chicken, baste with juices, and cook at 425 for 30 minutes or until thigh is at correct temperature or juices run clear. Chicken should be browned.
Remove stuffing and mix into the casserole of stuffing you cooked on the side. Serve with your lovely browned bird!

Eggplant Rollatini
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise about 1/4 of an inch.
3 TBS of Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound of chicken,turkey, or tofu sausage, casing removed
1 cup of low fat ricotta cheese.
1 cup of low fat mozzarella cheese, or any low fat shredded cheese
1/4 cup of parmigiano cheese. (not the stuff in the can)
1 handful of chopped fresh herbs: your choice, I use basil, oregano, thyme or winter savory, parsley. (if using dried, use about 1/2 the amount)
1 recipe of marinara sauce, (recipe given at end of this blog.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray, lay slices of eggplant on sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over eggplants. Turn slices over and repeat.
Roast in oven for 20 minutes, flipping them over midway.
Remove from oven, let cool.
While eggplant is cooking, spray a large skillet with olive oil , brown the sausage. Remove, drain and cool.
Mix together mozzarella, parmigiano, and ricotta in a bowl, adding your fresh herbs. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add your cooked sausage and stir together.
Time to put everything together!
Line up eggplant slices next to your cheese and meat mixture.
On a cutting board place a slice of your roasted eggplant. Mound a large spoonful of your cheese, meat mixture on one end and roll up.
Place seam side down into a sprayed baking dish. When all rolls are in baking dish, spoon marinara sauce over rolls. Sprinkle with a small amount of whatever low fat cheese you wish. (I used low fat mozzarella)
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.
Marinara sauce:
1 large can of crushed tomatoes, 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes, 3 cloves of garlic crushed. 1 handful of fresh basil, torn into small pieces,leaves only.
Put 1 TB of olive oil in a saucepan. When oil is hot, add red pepper flakes and garlic. When they begin to sizzle, add crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 1/2 hour.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sunflower Herb Farm: spicy hummus

Sunflower Herb Farm: spicy hummus: "We live in a very small town and I can't always find tahini. I improvised with this recipe and it came out great! 2 cans of chick peas (gar..."

Monday, May 30, 2011

farm work makes u strong

Yes. This is day 5 of my low carb, high protein diet. My headache is a dull distraction, but I think I can get thru this. I have for years, eaten very little meat, but now I have to do this. It's a bit hard, but I can change my carb addiction.'s an addiction.
I am going out to the farm to work until I drop. I will sweat the cravings out!
Have plenty to do today, many tasks that I haven't had time to do. Lots of weeding and harvesting today. If I keep harvesting like this, I will have lots of Italian Seasoning to sell in October at the Rice Festival. It was a great seller last year, but I didn't have enough for everyone. Gonna make much now!
I will go over my last year's sales at the Festival to see what profited the best and try to concentrate on that. It's my favorite festival.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Small creatures and silly humans

May, almost June. The balmy, cool evenings are turning into warm humid nights. Yarrow is up for a second crop, valerian and pineapple sage are spreading nicely. Borage is heavy with blue blossoms and the basils are out of control! This year, a new herb that I am very excited about, Hibiscus Sab, is green, lush and growing with the idea that it belongs with the rest of my old friends in the garden.
I have no idea what is going to happen in the next few months..but I am no longer agonizing about the time that's passing. Something strange and wonderful happened to me when we lost that last farmhouse loan.
No longer running a race.
I just...............
let go.
Took a felt full,and good.
Now that I am calm, peaceful, I know that everything will happen in the time it's supposed to.
Life is beginning to make sense.
My husband was offered a full time position with the company he had taken a temporary job, they gave him a raise and a plan for his future.
He has relaxed, and become more like the man I know and love.
We are closing our new loan on the 3rd of June and next week I have an appointment with the builders to pick out finishes and floors.
I am even working on myself. Yesterday started going to a weight loss clinic. Lots of pounds accumulated while I despaired about the direction we were going in.
I don't feel like I'm running after a dream, I feel like I'm catching up to myself.
Why didn't I remember the verse in the bible that said "He looks after the smallest creatures in the world, why wouldn't He look after you? Worry not, for it changes nothing."
O Lord, you are wise. You had it all figured out before I came along.
Thank you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mulberry Wheatgrass shake

I am still experimenting with healthy shakes. This morning I made one that I was almost afraid to drink, so many ingredients! But, it turned out so tasty that I have to post it.
1/2 tsp wheatgrass
1/2 tsp spirulina
6 oz of low calorie peach yogurt
1 banana
2 leaves of raw Kale
1 TB of honey
1 small handful of frozen blackberries, and mulberries. (ours were still good from last summer!) Any frozen berry will do.
1 tsp coconut extract
1 tsp of ginseng, powdered
4 ice cubes
As I started my blender I thought, "Oh my, thats a lot of stuff. Will it clash?
It was so good!
My husband, who like a lot of men, don't eat many raw greens, drank it easily. He said,"It makes all those hot days of berry picking worth it!"
Of course, I think this one is my best, but tomorrow I may feel differently when I experiment with pineapples.
For my friends who asked, I always buy my powdered wheat grass and spirulina from Mountain Rose Herbs. They have a reliable reputation and great organic products.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

marshmallows and healthy shakes

Did a demonstration today and was asked to post the recipes from them on this site.
My sincere thanks to all my friends who showed up to support me during this demonstration! It made the speech so easy! Love you all!

Healthy Sunflower Herb Farm Shake:
1 cup of vanilla yogurt
1 mango peeled
1 banana, sliced
1 or two large leaves of Kale, or 1 large handful of fresh uncooked spinach
1 tsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of coconut extract
2 or 3 TBS of honey or whatever sweetner you like
1 TB of Spirulina powder
1 tsp of Bee Pollen
1 tsp of powdered Panax ginseng
1 large cup of ice
Blend all together on high speed until mixed.
I love this shake, gives me a kick all day!

Homemade marshmallows

The trick to homemade marshmallows is to read all the instructions first, and gather all the materials you need to make it ahead of time.
When you start making it, everything has to be waiting for the next step.

3 packages of unflavored gelatin
1 cup of cold water, divided
12 ounces of granulated sugar, approx 1 and 1/2 cups
1 cup of light corn syrup
1/4 tsp kosher salt, or sea salt
1 tsp of vanilla or whatever flavor you like
1/4 cup of confection sugar
1/4 cup of cornstarch
non stick spray
Place gelatin in bowl of your standing mixer with 1/2 cup water. (If you dont have a standing mixer, place in a bowl with your hand mixer close by.
In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, sugar and corn syrup and salt. Place over medium heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. (use your timer)
Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, about 7 or 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches 240 degrees, immediately remove from the heat.
Turn on the mixer on low speed and while your mixer is running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl, (If you are using a hand mixer, use a very big bowl) into the gelatin mixture.
Once you have added the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is trying to climb the sides of the mixer, about 12 mins. (I time it)
Add the flavoring (and color if you want it) during last minute of whipping.
Before the mixture is whipping prepare the following:
Combine the confection sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray your 13 by 9 pan, metal or glass, with the nonstick spray.
Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and shake pan around to cover bottom and sides. Return the rest of the shaken mixture into the bowl for later use.
When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly sprayed spatula for spreading evenly in pan. Dust the top of the marshmallow with the reserved cornstarch and confection sugar. Reserve the rest to roll the marshmallows in after cutting.
Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for 4 hours or overnight.
Turn the marshmallow out onto a cutting board, and cut into squares. (I use a cornstarch dusted pizza cutter) Once cut, dust all sides with the remaing cornstarch and sugar mixture, using additional if necessary. (the main thing is to keep them from sticking when you bag them.) Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Have fun with this! I have infused them with green tea, rosewater, any herbal infusion I like! My favorite is lemon coconut marshmallows!

PS: Jill, I can demonstrate them at the Assisted Living if you want to see first hand how they are made. Your children will love making them with you!
Mountain Rose Herbs are on the web. You can buy the spirulina, bee pollen and ginseng from them! They are totally organic and very reliable! Just type in their name and the site will come up.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I feel like I'm in Tuscany...

Got up early this morning, but had to literally roll out of bed onto the floor because the muscles in my body were screaming, "Are you crazy, don't you think you planted enough yesterday?" Arms, legs, rear end and back are all sore and stiff. Took a bit of valerian and some Advil before I rolled out.
Yesterday, a beautiful sunny day,we planted 24 san marzano,and beefsteak tomatoes, 2 black mulberry trees, 1 mock orange, frilly soft chervil, lemon verbena, flatleaf parsley, buttercrunch lettuce. Today green beans, more tomatoes, genovese basil, tall lemon grass, Greek oregano, white yarrow, heavenly scented lavender, rosemary, spearmint, purple bee balm, delicate St. John's Wort. Have one white climbing rose, purple echinacea, great yellow calendula, German chamomile, black cumin, and wooly mullein to put in. We also hope to plant 2 fig trees and 2 plums. Whew!
I hope my body can hold up until dusk, but as we all know, the daylight will last 1 hour longer today!
Maybe I can plant a couple of olive trees to make the illusion complete.
If I do plant the olives, to celebrate, I will open a good bottle of red italian wine, and eat simple soft goat cheese with bread for supper.
Life is good.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

summer roses and bees

This week we went out to the new farm and started to till different spots for our gardens. We have tilled up 2 spots so far and plan to make more.
I have not started new gardens in many years and have forgotten that this is back-breaking hard work. After we have the ground tilled and the fences put up I will be able to relax and start planting. I know this is silly.... but I so want a garden bench and a rose trellis as much as I want to build up my new herb boxes.
Natural green beauty makes me happy, comforts me in many ways.
In my imagination, the roses are already spilling across the trellis and the bees are happily buzzing around.
The real world sees that my roses are still in the their pots,the trellis and garden bench still reside at the lumber yard; but I know it's only a matter of time before we get the bench and plant those beautiful pink and white climbing roses.
Right now the hard work of building boxes, mixing compost, manure; tilling more spots and putting in fences are my reality, but my dreams of scented summer days are coming closer and closer.....
I have a bottle of Advil on my bathroom counter where it will remain until the end of planting season, my tinctures of valerian and St. John's wort sitting beside it, a big supply of our herbal arthritis cream in the medicine chest; all necessary items when you are 50 and putting in a new farm!
In April the flowers will be blooming and I will start to harvest some winter herbs, the roses may not be profuse; but I think we will see a few..
Can you see me sitting under that tree, iced tea in hand, homemade bread spread with the last of the mulberry jelly?
I can hear the bees singing to me there.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

bunny suit

I ordered an extraordinary amount of seeds,plants,trees and plugs this afternoon.
The price took my breath away.
When I had my little farm, I was able to propagate many plants, collect many seeds and graft many trees. Since we have not had the farm for 2 and 1/2 years, we are starting again from scratch. All of our trees were left there, all of the established roses and many of our years-old herbs, left behind. The people who bought the home and grounds stated to me that they were very interested in herbs, so I left them, to live and prosper with them. Sad to say, the realtor must have tipped them off for the sale and told them to show an interest. They have since mowed and cut everything down. It felt like my children were cut down in the prime of their of lives. (I felt that connected to my herbs and trees.) We would have worked much harder to take all the living things with us, had we known they would be killed.
But..on to the future..
Starting over is costly, but today I made a huge purchase to begin again.
Got some elderberry trees, some bay, lemon verbena, southernwood and more.
I look forward to my new deliveries and saving seed again.
We will be very busy this year!
I can't wait.
Until everything arrives, I don't have a lot to do.
I am driving my husband crazy....
Going to make a red velvet cake this weekend, for him, who loves me despite my OCD behavior.
Seriously...I am such a pain right now.
But spring he will complain that I won't look at him unless he comes into the garden bearing mass quantities of compost and manure.
I told him if he dresses up in a rabbit costume tonight, bringing a pack of carrot seeds, we may be able to work something out......

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Yea! Seedlings are up!!!!

Glorious Saturday!
On the kitchen table, in front of the biggest window, two greenhouses are sitting with small green sprouts!

Purple and green basils, and two types of tomatoes: San Marzano's and Beefsteak. Hm..this sounds like a great beginning for Mexican or italian sauces, salsa and yes.......PESTO!!!!!!
Today, in two more miniature greenhouses, we will plant lots of peppers: serrano,giant jalapeno, cayenne, poblano, long slim red pepper and hot banana pepper. The pepper seed arrived yesterday from our favortite grower, "Pepper Joe." I have purchased these organic seeds from him before and have always had an abundance of peppers.(He always includes two free packs of seeds!)
It's been a very cold winter, ( it tries my patience as a gardener), but all this ice and sleet will make spring so much more dramatic!

Soon the iron rich herbs will be peeking through the short frozen grass, and the struggling dandelions will begin to multiple quickly. I love to forage (wildcraft) in early spring, so much to pick!
Going out to the farm today, will check on the purple martin houses and fill up the container with bird seed. The pond is almost full. The ground is saturated with water, so no earth will be turned or tested today. Expecting lots of mulch to be delivered soon.
February is such an antsy time for me... I feel that spring is coming and my daydreams are beginnning to carry me away from my everyday desk job! My rubber boots are sitting in the doorway of the apartment, clean and waiting for me to put them on. (They are much too clean and are begging to have a layer of mud on them!)
Does anyone else love the smell of fresh plowed dirt? I can't wait to crumble it up in my hand!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

purple martins are coming

Today we put up the purple martin gourds. We follow the Puple Martin flight map on a website and it shows they are close to us now. They usually come in at the end of January or first few weeks of February. This is the first time we've put up our six gourds since we sold the house.
Hopefully we will see a scout this week.
At the old farm we raised many generations of the little purple birds. We dutifully put up their habitat, counted the eggs and recorded how many babies they had.
Those little purple guys were my constant companions during spring and early summer. They were with me, swooping close by or watching with heads poking out of their little houses as I walked the herb rows.
Our cat "Fuzz" used to watch them with a twitching tail and ears laid back, but he never came close to catching one of them.

The "dawn song" they sang in early sunrise was beautiful. Other calls were the "scolding" song, the "I love to fly" song, the "come out and learn to fly" and the "lets go to sleep" song. We often felt that they were talking right to us.
Their housing was on the southern side of the garden, a perfect place for us to watch them and them to scold us.
Since purple martins love to be around humans they made a lovely addition to the natural show that awaited us every morning.
I can't wait for them to come back!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blending the tea.....

Tea blending is such a quiet pleasure for me. I feel very happy as I handcut and stir together leaves,spices and flowers .

The wooden spoon makes a shushed sound as I sweep and fold the herbs in my old brown ceramic bowl. It is comforting, familiar. The aroma of the tea brings back the memory of a long summer season.

In winter, the tea herb selections are few because I use only the most recent summer's harvest.

This is all we have left since the last festival:

Autumn Mint Morning: Spearmint,Culinary Hibiscus,Cinnamon Chips.

Summer's End: Roses, Pineapple Sage Blossoms, Bergomot leaves,Lemon Verbena.

Winter Dreams:Calendula, Lemon Balm, Mugwort, Organic black tea leaves,with dried Apricot.

Stress Less:Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Red Clover, Calendula, Organic black vanilla tea leaves.

In late spring some of the tender, sweet new blossoms will have bloomed, and the fresh green tonic herbs . I will then make these fragrant teas:

Sweetheart Rose Blush : Rose Petals, Rose Hips,Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Pineapple Sage, Vanilla.

Spring Zing: Lemon Verbena, Rose Hips, Dandelion leaves, Peppermint, Lime and Orange mint,organic green tea.

Serene Lemon: Chamomile, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm, Pineapple Sage blossoms.

Strong Woman:Red clover,Dandelion leaves,Stinging nettle leaves.

If you would like to try your hand at blending and don't grow your own herbs, begin with the freshest you can find.

If you start with dry herbs:
Ask the store owner to smell the dried herbs. If they don't look vibrant and smell like the flower and leaves they are supposed to be, don't buy them. A good supplier will gladly let you look at and smell their loose herbs. If they smell and look like musty brown herb, they will taste the same way in your cup. Hot water will not rejuvenate an old herb.

When you start with fresh:
Buy from someone local to ensure the freshest harvest.
If the supplier or farmer can't tell you about the herbs, they probably have no interest and no real talent for growing them.
As an herb farmer, I always offer to let the customer pick a leaf to smell the wonderful aroma. It is a wonderful thing to smell a fresh herb! Crush it gently in your hand and inhale!

I enjoy and lovingly tend each herb I plant, take real pride in the dried plants we process. The herbalist or grower you buy from should be able to give you an abundance of information about the herbs you choose.

Give it a try, making up your own tea blend. It is very satisfying and will you happy too!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

winter blues..and greens...and....

My ability to write this blog has been a bit diminished lately.
A very sad thing happened to us on the very week,
no, no, on the very day we were supposed to close our house loan. My husband had an oil spill with the company crude oil truck. This means he was pumping oil into the container on his truck and a valve caused a hose to burst and it spilled out many gallons onto the ground. Lots of crude oil on the ground.

He was fired.

He is a much better person than me. The bank and the lawyers closing our loan would not have asked us about our jobs on this day. We were already approved.
They were ready to give us the money.
My husband said it was wrong to take the loan because he lost his job and it would be lying.
I did not see it this way. I was frantic, panicked. Absolutely crazy. I lost -my-freaking- mind.
The day the spill happened, he came home very late. I knew something had happened.
He tried to explain,but I held up my hand in front of my face and said,
"No...Kyle...I can't talk to you right now. Please don't tell me anymore. I can't hear what you want me to know."
Honestly, I don't think I could have held my tongue. I would have said every terrible thing I was thinking. It would have changed our relationship forever if I had spoken what my burning brain was thinking.
We didn't speak to each other for 5 days.
That's a very long time when you live in an apartment that's only 500 square feet. A second floor apartment with 12 steep concrete steps. (pure hell when you buy groceries and you're 50 years old.)
At the end of those terrible days, we forgave each other. We talked and talked all night. We decided never to go so long again without forgiving each other.
My heart is broken tho..
I feel broken
all over.
Another spring in town. No plowing, no planting, no anything.
Had to call everyone. The builder, the bank, the lawyer. It was so humilating.
My friends and co-workers ask me about the house and I just say, "oh, it's coming along". It's hard to lie. Not much of a lie, but it feels like a big fat one.
The good news is, we have 4 months to accept the loan, the bank will just run our credit again. Thank God we won't have to start all over with the loan process.
That means I have until March. Not very long. Hmmph.
My husband is looking for a new job, may have one in February.
I sincerely hope he gets it. I don't know if I have the strength to start a loan all over again. It's so hard, so very hard to start over.
Valuable lesson learned tho..
I learned that no matter what happens in a marriage, you have to forgive your partner. He is your lover,spouse, your friend.
He is the person you can not live without. The man that looks after you when you are sick or angry or discouraged. The person you've been looking for. The guy that loves you when you are very tired at the end of a long day.
When you know that you are married for life, have a true partnership; a real, honest- to- goodness, " I love you more than my own life" relationship,
you just have no option but to forgive .
No matter what happens. Ever.
I love him like that. I love him forever, until my life is over.