Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Blank Canvas...

I long for the blank canvas of Spring which the sun and rain have prepared for the painting of summer...
Freshly turned garden...the chickens were first to explore it's possibilities

Our new future planting space in the pasture behind us. Approx. 40' X 100'. Plans for 3 thirty foot rows of strawberries (225 plants have been ordered), asparagus and potatoes, too.Communal effort here with friends and neighbors chipping in to plow, plant, weed and share the wealth.

"An empty canvas is a living wonder...far lovelier than certain pictures."
~Wassily Kadinsky

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Big Sigh of Relief...

You know that kind of sigh that emanates from your toes when a three or four month project that looms daily is complete?The 2009 Herbal Hands Workshop Schedule is FINALLY finished, copied onto several calendars, published on the website and on several hundred paper copies that sit waiting for distribution today and tomorrow. The classes are always held on the first Saturday of every month, but this year, I decided to add in a sprinkling of Wednesday evening classes, as well, for those who don't want to give up a precious Saturday. Wait, did I just finish booking nearly every Saturday of 2009?? Gulp, well... yes I did, but I can't think of a better way to spend glorious Saturdays and Wednesday evenings, spanning three seasons than with cool friends who love herbs, too! Time to kick back for an hour or so on this dreary afternoon and revel in my accomplishment... At least until I go out to the barn and start unpacking all those enormous boxes with greenhouse parts in them that arrived today!!! I need one hour though...just one.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Victory Garden!

The big news on all the yahoo group lists and social network sites this past week has been about the organic vegetable garden being created 'from the ground up' by First Lady Michele Obama and student helpers on the White House South Lawn. Tina Sams, of the Essential Herbal, a woman with her finger on the pulse of herbal trends, was way ahead of her time last year when she published the Victory Garden issue. To celebrate the new gardens at the White House, Tina is offering her sold out issue as a free download on her blog. Click on the magazine cover to open the pdf copy. Tell your friends! Post it on your own blog! Share the wealth! It's a great issue.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Braggin' on the The Ice Man

He hates it when I brag him up... he really does. So I'll make this short and sweet cuz I just can't help myself. It's a momma's right, right? The Massachusetts Maple Leafs kicked butt in Pittsburgh last weekend and bumped the first place team to win the CHA Junior B Championship and the Continental Cup. The last weekend of March the National Championship will be held in Marlboro, MA and we'll be there! The IceMan is the one holding up the #1, with a big smile and bleach blond hair....oh, well...his skates are the furtherest to the left. GO LEAFS!!!!

Suzie Picked a Peck...

...of pretty posies

Patience, Please...

Yippee! Our new greenhouse is on it's way and it can't get here fast enough for me. This the Hobby Grower "Enthusiast" which is the same one that blew away a few weeks ago. This time around,we decided to add the four foot extension and the fancy 'automatic vent openers' (that used to be my job title-minus the fancy part). We can certainly benefit from these few extras. There are plans to bolt this beast to rock solid 8X8's partially sunk into the earth for a better foundation and to assure that this one will not have a chance of blowing eastward. A wind block of some sort will also be positioned on the west side of the greenhouse-most likely a four foot wooden fence that I can grow morning glories or a climber rose on. This is the photo I sent to the insurance claims adjuster after the fact. Ugh, I can still barely look at that pile of debris without wincing but when I do, I am again reminded how eternally grateful I am to the guys that chased down the pieces for me. The MAN, on the other hand, sees this pile of plastic and twisted metal as potential. "Necessity(and disaster) is the mother of invention", I suppose. He stood up there staring at it until the inevitable MAN Brainstorm started to brew up and he created his own tornado of activity. In this case, he recycled the pieces of plastic windows, doubled them up for durability and insulation, and created new cold frame tops. Once the south-facing boxes are finished and set into the soil, they'll be ready to go. I imagine that surrounded by a few hay bales, they'll serve as a nice place to grow winter greens,too. Since he's already tackled the task of greenhouse construction before, he's hoping that it will go together easier this time around. That's my hope, too. I have my own vague memory of the last construction day, watching from the window. It's best not to interrupt a man when he's in his own mental world of construction and ask him if he needs any help. I'll likely watch from the window again this time around but I'll have my camera close by, for sure.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Winning the Herbal Marathon !

Homestead Herbalism Saturday Class!!

Homestead Herbalism Sunday class!!

What a cool, jam-packed weekend we had here on the farm. This was the first of the Homestead Herbalism classes for 2009 and unofficially dubbed the "Marathon" by the MAN and I. I can't imagine a better way to run a marathon than by talking to passionate people about herbs! Of course, running a marathon of this variety while juggling a box of Kleenex, cup of steaming, hot tea and losing one's voice could have been disastrous, but my new herb friends didn't seem to mind. Outside, the mild weather was perfect for exploring the new green sprouts in the gardens and pasture. Inside, we explored the tastes of sour, sweet, bitter, pungent and mineral salt herbal teas and our brand new issues of the Essential Herbal Magazine. I'm already looking forward to Marathon weekend in April and sharing Violet jam, Spring Tonic Soup and dandelion delights! Ooooh, it's gonna be a GREAT year!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Switcheroo Number Two

This is the photo of the banana bread that I made yesterday and posted the recipe for here a few days ago. But many of you have asked for the zucchini bread recipe, too so I'd be glad to oblige:
Zucchini Bread
Preheat oven to 350* Butter two standard loaf pans
In a large bowl combine:
3 1/4 cup of organic unbleached flour, germ restored
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
In a separate bowl combine:
2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
4 beaten eggs
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup applesauce
2 heaping cups grated zucchini (probably 3 cups, actually)
1/2 cup golden raisins, soaked in warm water or rum overnight
Mix wet ingredients into dry, add raisins and fold in. Bake in 2 loaf pans at 350* for one hour.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tea Cup Charms

This weekend I will open my home to 24 new Homestead Herbalism students! The tables are set, name tags ready, the handouts are being printed and the notebooks covers finished. Ahhh, the first day of school. I love the excited feeling that comes with the first day of a new project of any kind. Always a fresh start! This year I decided to make personalized tea cup charms for everyone so that when the cups get put down, they can be easily identified for refills. Always an issue since all the cups are the same. I snooped around Michael's and found pretty Martha Stewart labels and a few packs of basic sterling earring hoops. I rubber stamped the labels on both sides: teacup and leaf on the front along with the student's name and a teapot on the back. Then I laminated them so they wouldn't be damaged too much by the inevitable spill. Simple but pretty and personal,too. No more mixups on the teacups! ((I'll also immediately know who forgot to wash their cup at the end of class,too!! hehheh....Sneaky, aren't I?))

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Old Switcheroo...

It was a Friday baking frenzy! The cheesemaking class was coming Saturday morning and my dear neighbor Mrs M was turning 90 years young. She loves my zucchini bread so I whipped up a few loaves. The MAN loves my banana bread, so a few of those got made, too. During the frenzy, I grabbed my camera and got the zuke bread, but forgot to shoot the banana bread. I remembered just as 12 people were lifting their pieces to their lips! oh well...here is the banana bread recipe but with a switcheroo zucchini bread photo instead. When I bake again this week, I'll switch out the photos before the MAN dives into the first loaf, if I can. It's a doozy of a sweet bread with goat cheese inside. MMMMMmmmmmm!The MAN's Favorite Banana Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
8 over-ripe bananas
2 sticks of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 heaping cup of sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans finely chopped
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter two standard size loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda and salt. Mash 4 of the bananas coarsely with a fork, so they still remain chunky. Set aside. In the mixer whip remaining bananas and sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat another minute. Slowly combine wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a spatula until just mixed. Do not overblend! Fold in nuts, chocolate chips and chunky bananas until well blended. Divide the batter between the two prepared loaf pans. Bake one hour and 15 minutes, but start checking with a toothpick after one hour...it might be done early!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Decisions, Decisions...

This quilt rocks on both of these new walls...
Can't decide.
What do you think?

Dessert in the Garden, Anyone?

Take a seat...I can throw this together in no time...
Your "Basic" Snow Ice Cream:
7 cups of clean snow
(a rare commodity in these parts!)
Whisk in one whole can of sweetened condensed milk
Simple as that.
The MAN will like this...for the 'very cold and very sweet' cravings

Your "Fancy" Snow Ice Cream:
7 cups of clean snow
Whisk in one 14 oz. can of full fat coconut milk
3 big TB of ginger jam or little chips of candied ginger
a few TB of maple syrup
I like this one because it's less sweet and I love anything with coconut milk in it.
Think I'll stir in some coconut flakes before I put it in the freezer

Okay, lemme just add a brain freeze disclaimer here. Farm at Coventry is not responsible for the inevitable excruciating headache that comes from scarfing this yummy stuff down outside as you are whipping it up for your waiting guests. I am positive the chickadees were laughing at me from the rosebushes as I did the bbbrrrain frrreeeze dance around the garden. The cure is to put your thumb on the roof of your mouth to coax those constricted blood vessels back open....but that only works if your hands are nice and warm! Mine were not...
hmmm, wait a minute...14 cups of snow ice cream for two people???
I better make a few phone calls, eh?

Before Nine....

Morning is my most productive time of the day. Call it biorhythms. Call it a 'new day' kind of energy. Can't blame it on the MAN who gets up in the middle of the night to go to work, either. I've had this rhythm as long as I can remember and nearly always turn off the alarm before it ever goes off. My eyes pop open before the light of day regardless of what time I go to bed and I just roll with it. If I happen to wake and daylight is beginning to peep over the horizon, I feel 'late' to the day. So by mid-morning, if all goes well, I've already accomplished enough that I can take a tea break with a little computer time....
Here is the run down before nine today: First things first: Tea water on and all else follows...
~Built two fires in two woodstoves (brrrrr, dang it's cold in here!!) When the fire gets going the tea pot goes on the woodstove, but I can't wait that long for the first sip. Patience is not one of my strongest virtues.
~Put a big turkey in the oven. That'll help warm up the kitchen
~Started two batches of cheese for Saturday's class (one goat chevre and one fromage blanc)
~Poured, labeled and shrink wrapped a big batch of lip balm and started two batches of rose cream.
~Packed out a big wholesale order set out for delivery this afternoon
~Typed up final class lists for Homestead Herbalism Saturday class, Homestead Herbalism Sunday class, and Homestead Herbalism Grad Classes...wow! Thirty six full time students this year. *Note to self- mix up Gingko, Rosemary, Holy Basil tea to help me remember all those names!!! Better add name tags to my Staples list, too.
~Pushed all the furniture back in the new Green Bedroom and hung new lace curtains. Looks so yummy. (I'm rethinking this as the official guest room instead of preparing it for the Iceman's return home. He sorta called dibs on it once his sister moved out but, you know, he's hundreds of miles away from home and I'm here doing all the work...so, I think I gotta pull out the 'Who Rules the Roost?' rulebook here. We'll duke it out when he gets home, which could be as early as next week or in a month, depending how playoffs go. Yesterday Green Eyes gasped and threatened to move back home after seeing her old room with a new face, too) ummmm....no.
When I finally decided to get outa my pj's and get outside another few tasks were waiting:
~Fed, watered and cleaned the chickens after I shoveled yet another path for them to walk through the drifts and stuffed my shirt pockets full of eggs when I finished! I then followed a bunch of animal tracks around the property to see who came to visit during the night. See these at the end of the post.
~Ate a few sweet maple sap icicles...mmm and brought in some clean snow to try and make some quick snow ice cream for dessert tonight. Thanks Susanna and Nancy from Rosemary House for the inspiration. I'm gonna put a spin on your recipe using what I have in my pantry! Recipe and photos to follow.
My break is over...so gotta get back to the old 'grind'. Yeah right. I love my life. I can't ever say I'm bored in this big old farmhouse and when I fall into my down pillows and multiple quilt layers at night, I KNOW I've earned a good night of rest. Carry on friends, and Seize the Day- all before nine, if you can! And if you're lucky, like me, there will be a warm turkey sandwich waiting to be had by lunchtime!

the tracks...Mister fox...he's a regular. Tiny tracks. The size of a cat's but obviously canine. Foxes always step into their own tracks forming a single set , like this.

Can't be certain but I believe these may be the tracks of the mysterious white faced coyote that all the locals are yacking about over at the feed store...and it was running fast. The paw prints are canine and the size of my palm and there is at least six feet between each set of tracks. It was definitely on the move. Fortunately, he had no interest in the chicken coop...last night anyway.the elusive MAN tracks circling the woodpile. Guessing he was figuring on how to best tackle this latest pile of four cords.

Which way did he go? An obviously confused meadow vole left his mark here.
Wonder if he found some fermented beer grains on the compost pile? And if you look around the perimeter, he had an audience too!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fair Winds Blow This time Around!!

Good news blew in just in time for the weekend. The insurance agent called to let us know that our wind-demolished greenhouse will be covered, so it looks like it's safe to order my seeds after all! My claim agent, Tabitha was based in Atlanta, but she was downright neighborly.I have to give her kudos for making me feel like I wasn't just a number in a corporate computer system. She had the same cheerful attitude whether it was first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon. We looked online together at the specs of my greenhouse and she also did research on her own. Most surprisingly, she was genuinely interested in all the things that we grow! Very cool. We bonded during our talk about elderberries...a friend of elder is always a friend of mine, dear Tabitha. Friday's call was to say that the reimbursement check is on it's way! The greenhouse will be replaced, along with a little extra compensation for debris removal and installation of the new greenhouse! Yipee! Perhaps outstanding customer service is coming back into vogue again 'cuz I am one very satisfied customer.


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