Friday, October 31, 2008

Lil Pumpkin

A new member of the 'family' was delivered by the angels just barely a day ago. Jesse and Matthew, my dear friends and partners at the Three Sisters Center for the Healing Arts welcomed Elijah Finn into their arms yesterday morning. Ahhh, it's been such a long time since I held a babe this small in my own arms. I forgot the hope that stirs in your heart from gazing into the face of such an innocent tiny being. Dare it possible that we could look upon every human being with such love and compassion, treat every soul with gentle words and a tender touch? Such a crazy, idealistic dream, eh? But I wish it so for the future of this lil pumpkin today....Welcome to earth, Elijah Finn.
no words needed

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just Pretty

Sunday Pepper Fest

Before the MAN was known as simply the MAN, he was known as the Pepper Man (or the bread man or brew man ... you get the idea) He is the MAN at just about anything he puts his Taurus head to. Horns, I mean head down, full steam ahead. There's just no stoppin' him when he starts a project. Here is his annual jalapeño harvest...hundreds, no lie. When we met, his first gift to me wasn't candy or roses, it was a jar of his pickled hot peppers...heavily laced with his own homegrown garlic and coriander...that he canned himself. Impressed, was I? uh, y-e-a-h. His process is still impressive but I know now to stay outa the kitchen when he sets forth on this project. He has his own way and I find something else to do. I'm sure I've mentioned before that he always leaves the kitchen better than he found it. The final count: 34 pints jalapeños, 12 half pints jalapeños with one habanero and 2 quart jars of jalapenos with extra extra habaneros . There's gotta be someone out there who could tolerate that kinda heat. It's not me.

See this pretty string of tiny Thai bird peppers? This was my crafty pepper project for Sunday afternoon while I watched Shaun of the Dead , the British cult horror-comedy-romance film with Simon Pegg. It is an acquired taste, but the kids and I love to watch his movies. So silly.

I nearly forgot to mention all the cayennes drying in the basement.In a few weeks the MAN will go to it again and grind them all into his highly anticipated "Fire Dust". That will be a day for me to leave the house entirely so there will likely be no photos. You seriously need a mask to survive that project. 'Fire Dust' has faithful 'hothead' followers who buy it for stocking stuffers and their own stash. For all that work, it's quickly gone by the end of December. I think we counted once that it takes thirty ground cayenne peppers to fill a 1 ounce jar with powder. Killer stuff.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Going, Going ...Gone

Look Out!

...MAJOR learning curves in the road ahead...
I have been quietly eyeing up this camera for months...
but when it went on deep discount sale during the week of my birthday with $300 worth of free admission tickets to a long list of photography classes AND a coupon for a free all-in-one printer included, I took the crazy leap. That was Wednesday. Since then, I've barely touched it. I circle and glance at it out of the corner of my eye. The instruction booklet is nearly as heavy as the camera itself. It makes about as much sense to me as the duplicate Spanish language version that came with it. So, with little baby steps...I read about the school and signed up for the intro-to-my-camera class in November. I think we'll get better acquainted then. gulp.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Out and About

Unusual atmospheric conditions produced an eerie but beautiful sunrise this morning....heavy fog up above and
hard freeze down below
within a few minutes of these shots, the sun burned the fog away and it was raining melting frost crystals from the trees...spectacular if you were up early enough to catch it!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Well Said, Neil

With all the recent fears about the financial crash and the future of our economy, here is an issue which hasn't even been mentioned in all the hot debates...and if being able to buy clean, locally raised food goes away for good, it doesn't matter how much money you have in the bank. And that, dear friends, is what keeps me awake at night...Visit the Farm Aid website for more detailed information regarding good food, factory farming, saving the Family Farm and a non-partisan view on how the candidates stand on these issues. Then grab your shopping basket, get yourself to a local farmer's market and get to know the people who work really hard to grow food for you and support them. It's just good for everybody.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Barn Stars and Corn Pies

The MAN and I spent a crisp fall afternoon with family and friends at the PA German Cultural Heritage Center's Harvest Fescht yesterday. My 'lil brother Steve was an exhibitor for the second year demonstrating the fine art of barn star painting. It's a must to go to this festival with an empty's an official rule, I think. We left home without eating breakfast (an unusual activity in this house) in anticipation of lunch there. First course yielded corn pies for my mom and I...mmm so good. But not quite as good as my own recipe! So note to self: Make it really soon! BBQ turkey, pork and saurkraut, chicken corn soup...on and on. I'll spare you the details of all of our trips back to the Old Time Plow Boys Kitchen. Let's just say I don't want to make a habit outa eating like that!
These are small hex signs he brought with himJust love this big one. I'm guessing it's about 7 feet square and incredibly eye-catching at that size. Steve gifted this to the Heritage Center last year after Harvest Fescht.I was excited to be able to pick one out for my birthday. This was my choice. Pretty, isn't it?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just a Little Bit Longer

It's hard to tell from the photo but this Brown Turkey Fig tree started out in May as a rather pathetic little stick with two leaves on it. It was literally no bigger than six inches tall. By October it had grown to nearly five feet tall with four sturdy branches and over forty figs !! What a huge surprise!It was planted in an oversized pot (I thought at the time) but apparently the MAN's compost must have been the right planting medium. A few weeks ago, I worried about the coming of frost and the still unripened figs, so the two of us loaded it into the jumbo wheelbarrow and hauled it into the greenhouse. Been reading all kinds of internet info on getting the figs to ripen...I am determined not to lose them. I am willing them to ripen by also collecting fresh fig recipes. Keep your fingers crossed, will you?
FIG UPDATE: GOT ONE!! It's a tiny baby, but perfectly ripe and sweet.
The MAN and I each got a half. FYI...I gobbled mine. He savored his in a few tiny bites.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thanksgiving in October

Giving thanks today for ...
nobody getting seriously hurt,
hunks of steel that can be replaced,
a great insurance agent and helpful cops,
knowing that my daughter has a posse of supportive gal pals around her,
being able to spend the day jumping through the hoops with her,
not being the mom that got the late night call

Sending prayers today for...
the young gal that hit not just this one, but three parked cars,
the gal pals(?) that foolishly let her get behind the wheel of her car,
her bruised body, ego and dent in her record,
the mom that got the late night call

Did I say I was thankful that no one was hurt??
Well , I'm really, really thankful for that

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sign 'o the Times....

I'm hangin' it up. This ole sweatshirt 'o mine. Being that the Iceman is technically a man now...he doesn't need his mom following him to games wearing a hoodie like this. NOT cool....I get it. But I have loved this sweatshirt. For years, it kept me warm on the coldest mornings at the rink. On days when I feel a little outa sorts, it's a comfort on my back. But, pulling this favorite warm and wooly sweatshirt over my curly locks and walking out into the crisp autumn air today brings on a new world of meaning for the world at large to comment on...and I'm not havin' it. No lipstick, no high heels, no pit bull, no boxing gloves....nope, that's not me. This is not a political rant, I assure you. I just don't want the attention...from anyone waving flags for either party. I'm still, and always will be, a hockey mom, but I don't need a media-driven catch-phrase label on top of my heart to prove it. So, it's gonna go hang on a safe hook right beside my cuddly threadbare bathrobe that nobody else sees, ready when I need it, inside my own small world... where hockey mom simply means hockey mom. Think when I leave the house today I'm gonna be wearing my new lady Carhartt vest instead...and no one will ever look twice at that label 'round here.

My Fave Fall Soup!

Sue’s Curried Pumpkin Vegetable Soup

Sauté together in olive oil for 5 minutes:

2 onions or leeks, chopped

2 stalks of celery chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped


Add 2 quarts of good chicken broth or water

1 ½ cups fresh or (1 small can, if you must) of pureed pumpkin

2 cups fresh or (1 small can, if you must) diced tomatoes

1 small can of chick peas, drained (or soaked and cooked, if you must)

1 peeled, cubed sweet potato

1 cup green beans, fresh or frozen, cut into bite size pieces

salt, pepper, sweet curry powder to taste

Simmer all of the above ingredients together until soft.

Just before serving add:

½ can (or more) of coconut milk

1 cup of leftover cooked brown rice or other nice grain

2 cups of chopped fresh spinach, kale, arugula or escarole

Handful of chopped cilantro

Optional (but necessary, in my book): 1/4 cup golden raisins and 1/4 cup pine nuts.

Heat through and serve.

HOLY SMOKES! This is one awesome soup, loved by friends of the Farm from near and far.For those of you that may already have this recipe, it's true, I alter the ingredients nearly every time I make it...what can I say? It's the nature of the season and my fickle Libran cooking style.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Move Over, Ladies...

A recent neighborly visit brought two women face to face, but one had reason to be wringing her hands enough to shyly knock on a stranger's door and ask for help. A family decision to put their home on the market during these tough times (without much hope for a bite) remarkably resulted in an instant sale- GREAT news for the family. But, suddenly a new concern surfaced that had been overshadowed by the real estate worries: With a move coming in the very near future, what to do with their pet chicken? Admittedly, their beloved gal has some "issues"- once a part of a small flock, she had witnessed all of her sisters fall prey to predators. The trauma caused her to refuse entering the coop, choosing instead to roost in the trees at night. She stopped eating chicken food instead preferring to ' free-range wild-craft' with occasional catfood treats. A family cat became her sole companion. With all these quirky habits, would I, could I consider adopting her? My chickens seemed to be happy and well-adjusted with free roaming rights on this farm and gave her feel-good vibes whenever she drove by and saw them in the yard. (Funny, I do hear that alot) Would it be possible for her chicken to be reintroduced to the flock mentality? Well, sure! I was more than willing to try. No need to apologize for those 'silly' chicken emotional attachments, Dear Neighbor. You're talking to another chicken momma who has shed many a chicken tears. So on Sunday, two neighbors extended their families by sharing a single white chicken who can now reacquaint herself with others of her own kind and have some nice digs to retire on. So far so good. The gals are curious about each other and can co-exist within the same general vicinity. No pecking order threats. No domination. It's gonna work out. A few funny quirks though....the new arrival keeps following my skiddish Juniper cat around who is not too sure she wants the attention and her nighttime nesting of choice is in overgrown barberry bush that is even more overgrown with poison ivy!! Boy, there's no chance of catching her after dark to quietly move her to the coop, I guess. Smart girl! I hope her brilliant white feathers don't draw nighttime attention from above ...namely owl attention. I also hope she chooses one of two open barns to roost in come tough weather. Only time will tell. This hen didn't come with a definitive name but I can't bring myself to call her the obvious 'Whitey', either. Have any suggestions? She's been pretty easy. I had her eating chicken food (mixed with catfood) outa my hand this morning. Welcome, dear chicken, to the Farm! I think you're gonna like it here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


True thoughts have duration in themselves. If the thoughts endure, the seed is enduring; if the seed endures, the energy endures; if the energy endures, then will the spirit endure. The spirit is thought; thought is the heart; the heart is the fire; the fire is the Elixir.
~Albert Pike 1809- 1891

Hot, Hot, Hot !!

or perhaps I should say.....



Garden Treasures by USPS

Hoo boy, it's like Christmas in October over here!! and do I LOVE opening gifts from like-minded friends ! I was thrilled by the email reminder from Susanna Reppert of the Rosemary House that it's the time of year to plant Fall Crocus (Crocus sativa) bulbs. It's these diminutive little beauties that produce the most expensive spice in the world- saffron. Yep, $2,700 per pound! The price tag is so high because it has to be harvested by hand and it takes more than 75,000 threads to make a pound. Even back in the early 1700's, saffron was recorded by the Philadelphia commodities exchange to be equal to the price of gold!! Now, no self-respecting Pennsylfaanisch Deitsch girl should be without this traditional ingredient in her garden-let alone her spice cabinet. (I just used the very last pinch of mine in a butternut squash risotto the other night-but that's another story) In these parts, you cannot make chicken pot pie or chicken corn rivel soup without it...well, okay Mom, you can make it without it, but the broth won't have that rich golden hue unless it's infused with those tiny red strands of saffron. So, when I got Susanna's reminder, I jumped up and immediately ordered 50 crocus bulbs. They arrived with a lovely article about saffron that was written by Susanna's mother, Bertha Reppert and published in the New York Times in 1981. So, now to give some thought as to where all of these little bulbs should be planted. Hmmm, somewhere where winter -hoarding squirrels won't be looking, that's for sure. The other great package that I had been anticipating was our yearly bag of dried calendula flowers from our northern friends Michael and Nancy Phillips from Heartsong Farm Healing Herbs.We grow quite a bit of our own calendula for production of the calendula oil for soap and cream, but rarely have enough to dry more than a few ounces. The MAN needs the most brilliant orange petals to grind up for his calendula soap and these are, by far, the finest quality we have ever found. I am enamored of their tenacity to garden at all in the upper reaches of New Hampshire where the growing season is oh-so fleeting. Michael said they received over 20 inches of rain in a little over one month so this growing season was more difficult than usual. Michael and Nancy dry their organically grown herbs in a wood fired drying tunnel that produces a really high quality dried herb, both in color and taste. I also ordered some seed garlic from Heartsong, German Extra Hardy to be exact, which they label as one of the finer European varieties of garlic (oh, yet another bed to plan and implement shortly!) . If that package wasn't cool enough on it's own, I was really grateful to receive a few of Michael's Lost Nation Orchard 'Sweet Sixteen' apples in the box, as well. With a frost prediction overnight and a fire in the woodstove today, there is nothing that makes me appreciate October more than a tart, snappy apple...especially one grown by a most dedicated organic orchardist.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Extreme Elderberry Envy...

The elderberry giveaway winners are TemplarLadyJane from CT and Deborah from PA.Congratulations! The prizes will be coming your way soon!!! But, don't despair, friends. The harvest baskets have been groaning full this season. Watch for more harvest giveaways this fruitful month of October. It makes me extremely happy to share the gifts of this land.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October Sundown

Nicotiana sylvestris

Holy Basil, Batman!

This summer I made two separate plantings of "Holy Basil" Ocimum sanctum (also known as Ocimum tenuiflorum but not to be confused with 'Sweet(think pesto)Basil' Ocimum basilicum) Holy Basil is also known as Tulsi in Sanskrit meaning the 'incomparable one'. Even though they were labeled identically, it soon was apparent that I was growing two completely different plants. Boy, does that kinda thing make for one grumpy gardener! After a little research and a LOT of discussion on The Essential Herbal Yahoo List I came to the conclusion that I had no need to be stumped or grumpy at all! There are two main types cultivated in India: the light green-leaved (Sri or Rama Tulsi) and the dark green or purple-leaved (Krishna Tulsi). I just happened to get some of each! There is a third type (Ocimum gratissimum or Vana Tulsi) that grows wild in the forests of India. For over 3,000 years this plant has been used in Ayurvedic medicine and is believed to nourish a person's spiritual growth and to promote a long, healthy and balanced life. Turns out, ((surprise,surprise)) after all these years they appear to be right!!One of Holy Basil's many gifts is it's strength as an amazing 'adaptogen'. It helps our bodies adapt to stress (and all those unseen metabolic processes that get outa whack because of it!) Namely, it helps restore cortisol levels to a normal state. Cortisol is known as one of the 'fight or flight' hormones or the 'stress hormone'. It is produced naturally in the adrenal glands (because we would be helpless without it), but can be cranked out at extremely high levels when the body is under constant physical, emotional or psychological stresses. Elevated cortisol levels coursing continually through our bodies can produce all kind of symptoms: high blood pressure, anxiety, insulin resistance, insomnia, an imbalance of sex hormones....and that dreaded middle age weight gain. It can also suppress immune function. Well, Dang. Another great use for Holy Basil is to reduce "mental fog"....and who couldn't use a little of that, I ask?
In actuality, the Ayurvedic physicians prescribe it for the mental fog produced by chronic cannabis abuse...hehheh. yeah. I would tend to believe that the 'fog' created by juggling a home based business while tending to family, gardens, fluctuating mid-life hormones and just living life in this crazy fast-paced culture may produce a chemically different, but decidedly comparable 'fog'. Anything that can deal with that kinda fog, I'm all about! Hence, the many plants in my garden this year and the two very different tinctures produced by the two different Tulsi varieties I grew. My initial impulse was to combine them, but I think I'll try them individually before I do that and see if I can tell a difference....No need to take a tincture if you are thinking of trying it. There are many new varieties of Tulsi tea on the market now. I particularly enjoy the Organic India brand of teas. Especially the one with rose petals. The jasmine is also lovely. Give them a try....
For further reading about adaptogens, I highly recommend a relatively new book by David Winston entitled...."Adaptogens- Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief". Holy Basil is featured along with a great variety of other helpers. Final note: This stress thing, try as we might, is chronic in our society, and with the current state of affairs, it doesn't appear that it's going to go away real soon. ..and that's as political as this gal is going to get on the blog...Take care of yourself in every small way you can !!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Elderberry Endings & Give Away!

One final batch of elderberry syrup (see recipe here) made it's way to be bottled today and I think I can say that the elderberry season has sadly come to a close for this year. The family supply is fully stocked. I salvaged about a cup of loose berries in the bottom of the basket and I'll throw those into my favorite Irish Soda Bread recipe later this morning. I'm so very grateful for the large harvest this year and feel compelled to share the wealth! I will be giving away a 6 oz. bottle of the elderberry syrup and a 2 oz. bottle of the Spiced Elderberry and Peach Cordial to TWO lucky recipients! If you're interested, simply leave your name in the comment box here and I'll choose the winners on Monday, October 6th at noon. Good Luck!!

Incense and Love Beads!!

Saturday, November 1st from 10-3: Incense and Love Beads

We’re pulling out the tie dye and dusting off the old Joni Mitchell albums to hang out with groovy guest teachers ‘The Twisted Sisters’: Tina Sams ( and her sister Maryanne Schwartz ( ) and (
In the morning they’ll discuss the many different ways incense is made and burned and show us how to make incense cones using sandalwood and frankincense. You will take home your own hand-made cones and the knowledge needed to continue making your own incense for holiday gifts and home use. In the afternoon, we’ll learn to make fragrant herbal beads with dried plants from the garden or herb shop. Tina and Maryanne have developed a handy method that can be done during class hours that is limited only by your own imagination. Any plant at all can be used for bead making, and they look beautiful when used in conjunction with conventional glass, wood, or clay beads. You'll take home instructions and some beads that you've made - along with the knowledge needed to go on and make more beads on your own. Feed your herbal head with the Twisted Sisters at the Farm at Coventry pad! It’ll be outa sight! Cost including materials is $40
*Basic supplies for do-it-yourself will be available for purchase from Farm at Coventry on the day of class. Register soon....this is attracting some far-out attention !

The Sky is Cryin'.....

Hit that play button, will ya? I want you to feel my glorious pain....LOL.  After two hours of chopping horseradish root, onions, garlic and ginger the tears are flowing furious in this old kitchen this morning. Whooo, that final touch of the eye with cayenne pepper juice was the icing on the cake that is my Fire Cider called "Dragon's Delight" Tasty Tonic Vinegar. What I won't go through for the love of my appreciative customers !! Two more gallons of the dynamite stuff is finished and put away for later bottling in about 4 weeks. I took this weepy opportunity to miss my hockey boy just a little more...and how he does love the late blues icon SRV. This was the perfect song to have cranking while I chopped my roots. But wipe those eyes, Momma!! The New Hampshire Monarchs meet the Philadelphia Blazers this weekend in Philly, so we'll get to catch a glimpse of the Boy with his new team playing against his former teamates!

Dueling Maypops- For Ellen

Ellen beat me to the Passionflower blog post this year ! Can't imagine how crazy those Passiflora vines must grow on the warm and humid coast of Florida. SE Pennsylvania is on the way northern end of the growing spectrum for these beauties, with some having no luck at all, but I think it's safe to say after 3 years, mine is quite well established. Some may even call it invasive, but because I adore this herb in every way, I will simply call it 'exuberant' !

wowzer...incredible creation, don't you agree?

The vines pumped out quite a few maypops this year, however I rarely get to see one that's ripe let alone taste one. This is where the PA growing season falls short, I'm afraid. Not sure if the critters get them or if they just fall off the vine. This one is the size of a large lemon. They need to be soft and on the yellowish side to be sweet and edible.

A basketful of vine tips was made into tincture last week. I must admit to it being one of my top three favorite herbs because of it's extremely mild sedative effect on the nervous system. When those circling to-do lists keep me from getting a good night's sleep, I reach for Passionflower. Those same unfinished lists will often be the source of muscle tension in my neck and shoulders, which passionflower gently helps to unwind. Yes, unwinding the wound up nervous system. A perfect description. Why this gentle, beautiful helper was ever removed from the U.S. National Formulary in the 30's is a mystery to me. Oh wait, it grows wild, in abundance, harbors no side effects and is mild enough for children to use...sounds like risky business. So very happy that mine is growing exuberant and appreciated in my garden.


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