Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cheating...

...Spring in the greenhouse. I went in to check on things and found that despite the chill outside, it was 85 degrees in here! Everything is growing vigorously, including the beloved weeds.The dead nettle (Lamium purpurea) was teaming with ants who apparently like the nectar in the flowers. It is said that a tea made of the fresh leaves and flowers can 'lift a melancholy mood'. If the ants won't mind, I might give that a try today.

Dead Nettle and happy ant

Elders

"Saaz" Hops

'Cascade' Hops

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Silly Saturday

Not sure why this tickles me so much. The last long rays of the sun before it goes down below the horizon have a strange way of altering our perception of everything. Sort of like a mirror in a funhouse. Our 'shadow side' is something that we generally try to hide or look away from. But tonight, for some reason, I can't get enough of this one. It makes me giggle. Maybe it's the thought of all those cars driving by while I shot a variety of other poses...yeah, that must be it. hehheh. I'll share some more traditional photos tomorrow on Serious Sunday.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tending the Flames

I'm not sure, but I think we're done burning wood for the winter. At least inside, anyway. I do enjoy starting the day with a fire in the woodstove, but recently have had to let it die out before noon because it was so warm outside. Yesterday I lit the first fire in the outdoor pit as I cleaned up more leaves and continued my pruning. The boy hauled at least four overflowing wheelbarrows full of downed sticks and branches from around the yard. We kept that fire blazing high for a good four hours in the afternoon, water buckets at the ready, due to a few errant wind gusts that caught us by surprise. The day ended in the dusky hours, sitting nearby as the fire burned down to embers. I resisted the call to go inside to clean up and start making dinner. The warmth on my face and hands made more of an impression than the cold air on my back. Guess that is the real mark of spring for me...sitting outside by the fire, instead of inside. Yep, spring is here. Time to clean off the chairs around the pit.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Green Hellebore

I found this beauty at the local grocery store, one of a kind, sitting all alone nearly hidden by the happy tulips and daffs wrapped in pink and purple foil. It looked so intriguing with it's green flowers. Sort of mysterious....so I brought it home with me. I'll tell you more about it once I figure out where I put the nice little booklet that came along with it.

UPDATE: Found the booklet. The mystery deepens. Clearly this plant is NOT what the booklet describes here. These flowers are absolutely GREEN, not white. I have done a little more research into the origins and old uses of the Hellebore. Oh boy, seems another powerful plant with a shady reputation has wooed it's way into my garden this year. So far, she has my full attention.

News from the Hop Vine...

UPDATE on the 3 latest: MaHoney Light, Pughtown Pub Ale and the Sowbelly Steam Beer have finished their fermentation in the buckets and have been 'racked' and are awaiting the bottling process....

We sampled a Woodstove (Holzhaufe) Lager over the weekend. It is still bottle-conditioning (which means it will get even better with age) but it was superb...
...as was the "Lights Out" Lager. This one was incredibly clear with tiny champagne-like bubbles. Hats off to the Brew-meister, once again....Really looking forward to those late-evening, after-gardening, Frosties this summer!

Monday, March 24, 2008

First Planting

The garden beds have been nicely workable for over a week now, so the first sowing of calendula seeds went into the ground on Sunday. See the decidedly frustrated look on Goldie's face? For some reason, chickens believe that a garden bed isn't finished until they are finished digging in it. Hence the creative placement of plastic trays over the newly planted seeds. They will remain in place until the plants are big enough to stand on their own and the chickens have moved on to other freshly dug beds. We purchased a large quantity of calendula seeds from Horizon Herbs this year but this particular bed was planted with seed saved from our local Kimberton CSA last summer. It seemed remarkable to me that with such a huge bed of calendula planted for the members, no one seemed to be taking advantage of it. Late in the season, the hubby and I spent a Sunday afternoon at the CSA . I picked some late blooms to dry and he gathered the seed heads for planting this year. One bed done, many more to go.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Must-Have Hollandaise

from the Joy of Cooking...


Melt slowly and keep warm:
1/2 cup butter
Barely heat:
1 1/2 TB lemon juice
Have ready a small saucepan of boiling water and a TB with which to measure it when ready.
Place in the top of a double boiler over-not in- hot water:
3 fresh egg yolks
Beat the yolks with a wire whisk until they begin to thicken.


Add:
1 TB boiling water
Beat again until the eggs begin to thicken. Repeat until you have added:
3 more TBS of boiling water
Then beat in the warm lemon juice. Remove double boiler from heat. Beat the sauce well wil the whisk. Continue to beat while slowly adding the melted butter and:
a pinch of salt
a few grains of cayenne
Beat until the sauce is thick.
Serve at once...
don't stop to take pictures...
don't let it chill...
go directly to the table...

Run, Forrest...RUN !!

My egg basket...

Late yesterday afternoon, I found another hidden clutch of eggs.The bane of raising free range girls is their fickleness to lay in one spot. There are a few predictable, orderly girls amongst the ranks, but most of them are deeply in touch with their feral side, preferring field grass and sky over fresh straw and a coop over their heads. As frustrating as it is to search sometimes, the discovery of a sweet pile of hidden eggs, always provokes a gasp that rivals finding a basket filled with synthetic grass and chocolates.

MythBuster #1

Scary, six-foot, pink bunnies do not bring Easter eggs...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

First Good Pickin'

I found a nice variety of early spring greens to throw into my soup today. I needed to give 'em an extra good soaking due to all the grit and mud they accumulated during the heavy rains recently. There was a nice harvest of nettles growing along the south side of the barn wall. I also added garlic mustard leaves, onion grass, dandelion leaves and bitter cress. MMmmmmmm~



Bunny Dance

Rabbits under the Moon...

Under the moon, across the snow

the little rabbits come and go.

Out of the forest, deep and white,

Their shadows follow them at night

into the clearing. To and fro

under the moon the rabbits go.

There in the silent silver light

They hold their midnight rabbit rite

as one old rabbit leads the rest

in secret, soundless rabbit fest

and, lifting ears to some high tune,

they raise their tails to greet the moon.

They are not secretive as mice

But dance all night upon the ice

Beneath the moon and leave at dawn.

I find their footprints on the lawn.

Under the moon the rabbits go,

Leaving stories in the snow.

~Margaret Menamin

*This hooked rug is part of an exhibit that I enjoyed recently with my pal, Hilda:
Rags to Rugs: Pennsylvania Hooked and Handsewn Rugs
Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum
through December 31, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Call it Evolution?

"The first day of Spring was once the time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for nature to follow. Now we just set the clocks an hour ahead and change the oil in the crank case."
~E.B. White

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Lily, revisited


I just had to leave that first Lily post without words. Photographing this flower combined with the heady scent it is releasing this afternoon has left me all but speechless...but I will persevere. I have been infatuated with lilies for some time. It started with a white Casablanca lily I bought years ago for my Moon garden, simply because it has a white flower. I had no idea that it also had such an intoxicating fragrance. Even though the white Lily has associations with the Virgin Mary, the Resurrection and the Holy Trinity, it is also deeply rooted with symbolism that is much older. The white lily is considered sacred to the Goddess Eostre/Ostara/Astarte (Easter) thus representing the Spring"Passion" (fertility) of the Vegetation God with the Earth Goddess. The PA Deitsch also used the stylized lily (or lily-tulip) in their folk arts and fraktur. It is often depicted with three petals which represented the Holy Trinity (or the Triple Goddess to pre- Christian cultures). Regardless, of the chosen symbolism, this particular flower is literally dripping with fragrant fertility today... and no one can deny a flower that in Spring, right?

The Lily


Ranger Jim

Now, here's a guy who follows his dreams. When Ranger Jim sets his sites on the mountaintop, he climbs them...literally. Jim has spent the better portion of his life seeking out and climbing to the highest point in every state. Additionally, he has climbed the highest mountain on every continent in the world, except Antarctica. He is planning to achieve that goal this fall...by climbing Mount Vinson for his eightieth birthday. But his travels don't take him to the mountains only on off-season holidays. For the past forty years, Ranger Jim has served as a seasonal ranger-naturalist in sixteen of our national parks. I've also heard tales of the Taj Mahal, climbing to the tops of the great Pyramids of Egypt (and promptly getting fined when he came back down!) , traveling the Trans-Siberian Railroad and walking the Great Wall of China. But for all the tales of world travel, Ranger Jim's local roots run deep into Chester County soil. Generations of his family have lived in this area. Jim's father was a railroad engineer who gifted Jim with a life long fascination with trains and the rails. Another of Jim's dreams has been fulfilled recently with the completion of his self-published book "Sowbelly Railroad". The Sowbelly was a short line RR that ran right through this township in the 1890's. It took twenty years in the building, but only ran four years before advances in technology caused it to become obsolete. It's history was fleeting but incredibly important to this area. Jim has tirelessly gathered historic documentation and photographs for this book for many years. Last night, Jim stopped by to deliver a personally autographed copy of the book. I am thrilled to finally have one in my hands. The first edition printing of thirty copies sold out before I got one. He took a 'risk' and ran a second printing...thirty more. You won't find it on Amazon or in Barnes and Noble. But he's got a box full in the back of his car if you're interested. Sometimes it pays (in unimagineable ways) to go directly to the source for your purchase. When the final mountain has been conquered, Jim plans to work on a book about his travels. I can't wait to read that one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

A bit of Irish Lace...

I didn't bring back much from Ireland:
a few rolls of film, a handful of stones (okay, a bag full) a shawl, and a lace panel from Galway.
It's the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning.

Song for Ireland

This is a montage of photos taken on a few different trips to Ireland since 1997...mine and later my daughter's. The trips represented various life transition moments in our two lives. We are born and bred Pennsylvania Deitsch women, but a piece of our hearts belong to Ireland. If I don't spend my retirement years on a little homestead in Berks County, PA, it'll be in a salt sprayed thatched roof cottage on the west coast of Ireland. Listen to this song by Mary Black while you view. She is the Queen....Sorry, Aretha.




Sláinte !
That's me on a lush green expanse in the west- March 1997

My travel buddy, Beth, a dear classmate from David Winston's Center for Herbal Studies, and now the CEO of Herbalist & Alchemist. A fine Irish lass if ever there was one.


The rugged west coast Cliffs of Moher


wild, wet and wonderful...a 'soft' day

Ireland is not known for it's fertile farmland...they had to create it with generations of sweat and hard digging. The miles of stone walls throughout the country are a monumental testimony to the tenacious Irish spirit. This farm on the Aran islands uses mostly seaweed for compost. The beds here are a good 12-15 inches deep.

Fresh Caught Fish and Chips in Kinsale...

The finest dessert available on the Island


*Cheers

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Here's lookin' at you, Kid

This is Lenore. She was our tiny nubian mascot for the first day of class. When Lenore came into the world earlier than expected, she endured a bit of a rough start. Her human mama, Lisa suddenly had a helpless newborn to nurse around the clock. A few days of nursing care combined with more kidding in the herd produced some serious 'goat mamma' exhaustion. Lisa didn't want to miss the first day of class but Lenore couldn't be left alone. So a new chapter in the Homestead Herbalism annals was written today: "Lenore Goes to Herb School". Lenore was very well behaved and slept quietly on a sheepskin most of the time. During the breaks she drank her goat mamma's milk from a bottle and kissed those who held her. There is probably no better medicine for a teeny preemie than lovin' from fourteen cooing women...and no sweeter ice breaker for the first day of class.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Countdown...

Tomorrow morning I will have thirteen new
*'Blanze Schweschders'

*'Plant Sisters' Happen Here

Freidaag*/ Samschdaag* = Market Day

Friday and Saturday are days to go to Market. Shopping or selling, as is the case for those who have a market stand. Later today I'll run down to Kimberton Whole Foods and pick up a few things for the weekend and also check on my product shelves in the Apothecary department.
KWF and I go way back... Back to the early 90's when the store was literally a farm store. I worked in the Apothecary for many years and designed the logo. They helped finance my way to herb school and gave my kid a job. Good deal. All these years later, we are still supporting each other... as local business owners. I have grown my business and they have grown theirs: Three locations now and planning more. I don't wholesale my products many places, but this is my neighborhood...and they have my stuff, front and center. They know my products and use my products and recommend them to customers. They even have a picture poster of me on the wall ((insert snicker here)) a very LARGE poster. It's embarrassing, and I can't look at it when I'm shopping, but it works. People recognize me, put a face to a name, and a name to a product that I make with my own two hands. That is supporting local business at it's most basic. We're good neighbors. I like that. I will be working on an educational bag stuffer in the coming week that tells customers about the 2008 Herb of the Year Poster Child, Calendula. I'll describe it's benefits and list a variety of in-store calendula products, ahem, including mine at the top of the list. Goood neighbors!
*Friday /* Saturday

Paint Away, Madame LeFeye #2

Freidaag* = Baking Day

The idea behind baking on Friday is that the inevitable weekend visitors get the freshest selection of fine baked goods. The Deitsch like their sweets, so Friday means baking plenty of desserts and bread to last for the entire week. No wonder they created the 'pie safe'...to keep the flies (and tempted fingers) off the pies all week long. I know this isn't an herbal recipe, but it's one of my favorites, so please indulge me...it's Friday and I have a few guests coming tomorrow!
Old Fashioned Coconut Custard Pie
Have ready a single crust for a 9" pie
Filling:
2 cups milk (my tweak: 1 cup raw milk-1 cup coconut milk)
3/4 cup organic sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Farm Fresh eggs (no problem)
1 cup unsweetened coconut (with a little extra to sprinkle on top)

Scald the milk until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Add sugar and vanilla stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add 4 beaten eggs. Keep stirring! Add 1 cup of coconut and stir again. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. The last 15 minutes, sprinkle the reserved coconut on top of pie . It should toast nicely in the final 15 minutes.

*Friday

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Magic in the Making

...or should I say...2008 Herb of the Year, Part 3? I'm making a few batches of calendula cream today. Not quite sure the reason behind the surge in orders for it in recent weeks. But it matters not! I do truly look forward to making this particular cream. The finished product always pours into the jars in glossy pale-yellow ribbons that look like the best vanilla pudding, only better! Our calendula cream and calendula soap both use the infused calendula oil that we've made the previous summer. To make the oil, we fill gallon jars with freshly harvested calendula flowers. The flowers are then covered completely with good olive oil. Those jars sit right out there in the garden, close to the bed they were harvested from to absorb the sun's rays for a complete lunar cycle.They are tended daily by shaking the contents well, wiping down any dirt or condensation or singing a little song. There is just something magical that happens in that jar when the sun and moon shine on it for a month! It's just not possible (in my humble opinion) to get that same lovely infusion by doing it on a stove top. In fact, I've tried. After the month has passed, the oil is carefully decanted and strained twice. The final product should be clear and a lovely shade of sunshine gold. The jars are then wiped down and stored in a cool dark place until it is needed. Last year we processed 15 gallons of the stuff and have used nearly all of it. Time to plant the new bed for this year so we get the earliest harvest of flowers. According to the planting calendar the next few days are perfect for planting the seeds. I'm going out to scratch up the soil.

Dunnerschdaag* = Cleaning Downstairs

If you've followed through the pictorial days of the week so far, you may have picked up that each day is dedicated to a specific domestic task in the life of the Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch Hausfraa**. I keep this orderly list of days hanging in my kitchen, as a simple reminder that many generations of women have structured their domestic lives in this way. Yes, I even know a few.
Being a busy, home-based, self-employed woman with a family, I am known to write (and sometimes complete) long lists of wildly diverse daily duties. Anyone who shares a similiar lifestyle knows how chaotic it can be to juggle it all. But if I can afford time in the day to tackle even one small task from the Hausfraa's 'orderly list' and focus on it completely, I feel instantly connected to generations of industrious women. Women who never uttered the currently popular phrase "multi-task". Another benefit to the "orderly list" is that it allows me to reap a few moments of blissful satisfaction that comes only from engaging in a single task and following it through to completion. No physical interruptions or mental distractions; certainly a small rare gem in the big proud world of "multi-tasking". In the middle of a chaotic day, I consider that to be the kind of relaxing meditation that I can really look forward to.

*Thursday, ** housewife

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Impatience Satisfied

Forsythia is pure joy.There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Mittwoch* = Cleaning Upstairs


*Mittwoch literally translates to 'mid-week' or Wednesday

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

For Clare...

This is my second wooden ironing board. It's a child size version that I use for display at the Farmer's Market.

Dandelion Discovery

I was happy to find this nice clump of dandelion greens on the sunny side of the springhouse yesterday afternoon. The leaves are just the right size to harvest for eating. Dandelion is a bitter green (Bittreselaat*) but it is 'perfectly' bitter at this stage. Waiting until the familiar yellow flowers appear or worse, when the flowers turn to seed and float away, will produce greens so bitter, eating them will contort the face of even it's biggest fan. This is what I plan to do with mine:
HOT BACON DRESSING
1 egg, well beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup of cider vinegar
3/4 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon of salt
4 strips of bacon, cut into 1" pieces
1 Tablespoon of water
Beat the sugar into the egg.Add the vinegar, water and salt and beat well. Meanwhile, brown the bacon in a small saucepan. When crispy, stir the flour into the bacon and drippings until smooth. Add the vinegar water to the bacon mixture and cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Serve hot over clean dandelion leaves or endive.
*Bitter Salad

Dinschdaag* = Ironing Day

No, I'm not that much of a homesteader. I also have an iron that plugs into the wall. I don't limit myself to ironing on a Tuesday, either. The pile seems too daunting. However, I do confess to enjoying the task when it needs to be done. The secret to success lies in the steam.
*Tuesday

Monday, March 10, 2008

Plant Names and Plant Lore...

...Among the Pennsylvania Germans. This is a book that I have wanted on my bookshelf for a very long time. I finally found it and splurged. big time. It's an oldie but goodie, published way before the age of internet herbal knowledge, in 1927 by the Pennsylvania German Society. The information within was gathered for nearly twenty years before it was finally published. There were several reasons why I wanted this book: All the plants mentioned are strictly native to Pennsylvania (with a few brought from Europe) making this a valuable study in useful local plants. The plants are listed by their common names (and Latin names) but also list the dialect names, which are increasingly hard to locate. When talking to old-timers about useful plants, they may only know them by their Deitsch name, making identification much more difficult unless we are both looking at the plant at the same time. Having a list of Deitsch names will help me immensely. Finally, to quote one of the authors, Thomas Brendle, in reference to their interview process for the book: "We found that "the women" are the household oracles and much of the lore which we recorded is "Alderweiwerglawwe". In other words, 'a granny's belief'. I think it safe to say that the women who were "herb grannies" at the turn of the century are gone now, possibly even the daughters and granddaughters who inherited their wisdom, making this book an invaluable resource to the cultural heritage. My cultural heritage. The book is very fragile, but I read it from cover to cover like it was a delicious novel. I will page through it more slowly now, and absorb it, little by little, and learn the dialect names of plants that I handle everyday. I hope to share some of it here on these blog posts. I'm not a granny...but I really like that word 'Alderweiwerglawwe'... because I tend to believe what the Grannies have to to tell us. And, someday I wanna be a granny who is heard, too.

Muundaag*= Washday

If Noah's wife had been Pennsilfaanisch Dietsch she would have washed Monday morning,
forty days' rain or no forty days' rain...
~Frederic Klees
*Monday

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