Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Cherries and Egg and Lettuce Salad for lunch
I tend to go mostly unplugged during the summer. Here's what we've been up to the past few weeks.

Roasted Cauliflower

Soccer Boy planting his bean tipi with a digging stick.

Moon Flowers, Scarlet Runner beans, Calico Limas and Christmas Limas

A never ending game of monopoly.  I finally started trying to lose on the third day. 
Soccer Boy and the Woodsman are STILL playing.

The Class Pets went with us on our River Trip.

Happy 68th birthday Dad!  We celebrated on the river.

Swimming:  the best part of being on the river.

Learning to whittle with Pap Pap

One way to carry less from the campsite to the boat is to wear it all.

Reading Girl decided that this was the best place to ride.  Soccer Boy really learned how to paddle.

A few blueberries -finally.  Garlic.  Carrot, radish and Dinosaur Kale thinnings.
Braiding Garlic

Huge Elephant Garlic!

Drying Garlic on the porch - The Woodsman says this keeps us safe from Vampires.

Summer school is going well. We've written some decent poems, and both kids have been reading machines.
 Reading Girl has whipped through the first four in the 39 Clues.
 Soccer Boy has read a Magic Tree House book and has now started in on The Spiderwick Chronicles. 

I finished reading the third book in the Pelinor Series:  The Crow.

We've also managed to take a trip to our favorite State Park (Trout Pond), had a play date and movie day (A Dolphin Tale) with friends, and visited the library for a special summer reading program (which is why I'm writing today).

 Summer is full of simple pleasures too.  There is plenty of time to clean and reorganize.  I had time to make something fresh and fantastic for dinner.  I get to sleep in (I've been up at 6:00 instead of 4:30), and I still have time for a good workout or hike before the day really heats up. 

Happy Summer Solstice Everyone!  I'm heading outside to celebrate.


Monday, June 18, 2012

So It Begins... a Canning Tutorial: Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and Pickled Turnips

First Real Harvest and First Jars Filled

Last week I hauled in my first real basket of produce - primarily mustard greens and rhubarb.  The mustard greens got turned into beans and greens (sorry - no pics, we we're too hungry!), and the rhubarb was destined to be turned into my Gram's Strawberry Rhubarb Jelly.  Let the Games Begin!
If you don't currently preserve anything, and have been thinking of trying canning this summer- consider making jelly.  It's a fast project, and it doesn't require much special equipment.

All done!

Step 1:  Prep

Read your recipe, gather and prep the right amount of fruit and sugar.  There are great simple jelly recipes on the inside of Sure Jell boxes.  These recipes are a great place to start.
First full basket of goodies.  I love shopping in the garden.

Step 2:  Prepare Jelly

Cook you fruit for the time directed. You'll want a much larger pot than you think you need - it can really bubble as it starts to cook.  Also, cooking on a medium high is usually a good bet.  Be sure to stick close by and stir frequently.
Rhubarb, sugar and pineapple mixture simmering.

Gram's Strawberr Rhubarb Jelly

5 c. rhubarb - chopped
5 c. sugar
1 small can crushed pineapple

Combine and let sit for an hour.

Cook for 15 min.

Add 1 6 oz. box of strawberry jello


Step 3: Sterilize

Lids in pot covered with boiling water.

Prep your jars and lids.  I boil my jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Some people just run them through the dishwasher.  Either way is OK.  Lids should be put in a small pot and boiling water (from tea kettle) should be poured over them.
Jars lined up waiting to be filled.

Step 4: Fill andCover

Line your jars up on the counter. Using a wide mouth funnel ladel the hot jelly into the jar. Then run a wet paper towel around the top of the jar to catch any jelly that may have spilled.  You don't want anything to interfere with sealing.  Place a lid (a jar wand is a great little tool) on each jar, put a ring on each one and tighten it.  I hold my hot jars with a towel or the edge of my apron.

Place lid on jar and tighten ring.

Jars in jelly canner

Step 5:  Can

Fill your canner about 2/3 full of hot tap water.  Bring the water in your canner to a boil.  (When I'm canning jelly I just use a large spaghetti pot with a small rack in the bottom.  You could also put a towel in the bottom.  Just don't put the jars directly on the bottom of the pan.).  Add your jars (use tongs or jar lifters).  Put a lid on the canner and wait for the water to come back to a boil.  Most recipes say to can jelly for 10 minutes.  When the time is up, remove the jars (use tongs or jar lifter) and place on a clean towel to cool and seal.  Leave them undisturbed for 24 hours.  You'll probably hear a few of them ping as they seal.  My mom always says this is music to a canner's ears.

Pickled Beets and Turnips and Pickled Radishes

I also pickled some turnips while I was in the kitchen.  They're fantastic.  Soccer Boy actually cheered when he saw me making them.  Go here for a recipe.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I met the Woodsman at camp.  He was funny (still is), kind (even more so now), caring (ditto), and fantastic with kids (better and better with our own every day). 
Caroline Furnace Staff, 1996
The Woodsman - Standing in back row, 8th over  (with beard and long hair!)
Me - sitting front row, third over (long, long hair)

I knew that I loved him then, but I never imagined how much more I would love him after having children.  Here are our favorite memories from the past nine years of life with kids.  In no particular order...

 1)  Watching him hold both kids for the first time - such love and tenderness and awe in his face.
2)  Nightly games of giant - a game which involves both kids trying to squash their father.  It's very loud, but full of love.
3)  Playing in the waves with the kids and sitting on the beach.
4)  Watching both kids fall asleep on his chest when they snuggled with him in bed on an early weekend morning.
5)  Places we've been all together:  Rocky Mountain National Park, Chincoteague, Yellowstone, Mamoth Cave, Trout Pond and many, many more.
6)  Hikes on North and Mill Mountain
7)  River Trips on the Shenandoah and the Potomac
8) The enthusiasm he shows when cheering at a soccer game or watching a karate practice.
9)  Family games of baseball, football, basketball and soccer.
10)   Lots and lots and lots of jokes and funny moments.
11)  The kicking laughing game played with Reading Girl when she was only a few months old.
12)  He can almost always make the kids laugh - even when they're upset.
13)  Hanging Reading Girl upside down from her feet while she laughed and laughed and laughed.
14)  Blowing bubbles on Soccer Boy's belly when he was tiny.  They both belly laughed.
15)  Campfires and hanging out on the deck - just relaxing together.

Daddy's Girl
Beach Boys
On the tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park

Thanks for all you do!   We love you more than we can truly say.  We're so glad you're a part of our family.  You really make us smile.   We love you.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Breakfast Burritos (and a few other tid bits)

Start of Summer School

Today was the last day of school.  Yipee!  We had our first home (summer) school lessons tonight.  Soccer Boy and I learned how to tune his mandolin and play 5 notes.  We had our first poetry lesson ( I read Ronald Wallace's "You Can't Write a Poem about McDonalds" and Heart Mapping (Atwell).  The kids got really excited about listing all of the ideas that were in their hearts.  I told them that they didn't need to start writing until tomorrow, but Reading Girl couldn't wait, and already has drafts of two poems.  We also planned out our general summer school schedule together.  It's similar to last year:  read 20 min. and write 10 min. every day; workbook (math, grammar, reading comprehension - and for Reading Girl - cursive, science, social studies) and word study (for both vocab and spelling) three days a week, or when on car trips over an hour, and science experiments, instrument practice, karate practice and crafts at least three days per week when we're home.  Looking forward to teaching my favorite students!


Reading Girl

My cousin (from PA) was visiting last weekend, and we were sharing some "Southerisms" with her.  One of them is that you can say almost anything you want about someone, and as long as you follow it up with "bless her heart" then it's not mean. 
 So - Reading Girl says to the Woodsman...
"Daddy, do we live in the South?"
"Soccer Boy stinks, bless his heart."

Soccer Boy

After watching The Three Stooges this afternoon..
While trying to decide which poem topic to start with...
"Eenie, Meenie, Larry, Curly and Moe"

Finally... a favorite year round breakfast. 

Great for school mornings or beach trips because it's portable.

Lay out flour (whole wheat works great) tortillas for the number of people you have.  Scramble the same number of eggs.  Divide eggs evenly in the center of each tortilla.  Add shredded cheese.  Add salsa or hot sauce.  Fold end up, fold side over, roll.  Eat!  Yum!

Thank you chicks - gorgeous eggs!

He wouldn't wait to let me get a shot of the finished burrito.  They're that good.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hooray, Hooray for the CSA

This dinner brought to you by the letters S and F for Shenandoah Farms!

We were very, very fortunate this year to join our local CSA from Shenandoah Farms (Click here for more info about CSAs).  I don't think you can get a better deal than this one.  Every Wednesday a very large bag of fresh, local produce (and sometimes other goodies like eggs, cheese, nuts, bread, etc.) was delivered to our school office.  Most of my "grocery shopping" was done by picking up my bag of gold on the way out the door. 
Our CSA grows hydroponic lettuce, cukes and cherry tomatoes.  So, for the first time in years, we had salad most of the winter.  It was aaaamazing to see so much green in the fridge while still supporting the local economy and helping the environment.  
Today is the first Wednesday since the first week of school that we have not had a CSA bag to go home with.  I"ll miss the mystery of the CSA bag (Wednesday night is the only night I don't have a planned menu) and the delight of vegis we weren't growing, or which had a poor harvest.  Tonight I had to go shop in the garden - I guess that's the best CSA after all.
Even if you grow and process most of your own produce, I encourage you to find a local CSA.  We'll be back next year for sure.

This was last week's CSA celebration meal.  All of the ingredients (with the exception of the eggs, goat cheese, milk, flour, Bulgar wheat, olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning) were from the CSA bag.  The crepe recipe is from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Suppers. I adapted it slightly. 
Tabbouleh, Feta Walnut Beet Salad, Stacked Swiss Chard Crepes with Mushroom Sauce
Quite possibly the best meal I've made all year.

Spinach Crepe Cake

I doubled this recipe (While I was making a mess why not have some to put in the freezer?), used a Vitamix (the super hero of blenders), used Swiss Chard instead of spinach, white whole wheat flour instead of regular, and goat cheese instead of ricotta.

Once you have all three parts ready, stack three crepes with filling in between and cover with sauce. 
Stacked Crepes waiting to be covered and cut.


1 bunch spinach - cooked for a few minutes
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
3 T butter
1T tarragon
1 c. flour
1 t. salt

Combine in blender to make smooth batter.  If you have two skillets - get them both out and hot.  Spray them, pour a 1/4 c. of batter on the skillet.  Quickly lift the skillet and swirl the batter around so it spreads out evenly.  Cook a few minutes on one side, then flip like a big pancake.  Cook for another minute or so.  Keep doing this until you run out of batter.  Stack the finished crepes on a plate until you're done cooking them all.


2 c. goat cheese
1 c. mozzarella cheese
2 T parsley
1 T tarragon
1T chives

Mix together.

Mushroom Sauce

2 T butter
3 spring onions - chopped
1 lb. mushrooms - sliced
1 c. broth

Saute mushrooms, add broth, cook until the consistency you like.


2 c. Bulgar wheat
4 c. boiling water

Put wheat in bowl.  Pour water over.  Cover bowl with plate and leave sit for 30 min.  Add chopped garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Add whatever vegis you would like - tomato and cukes are classic and oh, so good.  But, other vegis work well too.

Feta and Walnut Beet Salad

Put chopped, cooked, cooled beets in a bowl.  Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Put on plate.  Sprinkle walnuts and feta cheese on top.  Yum-O!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Garden Almanac Late May/Early June

All Planted!

There are a few replantings (I used old cuke and summer squash seed - poor germination.), a few bean towers and tipis, and the beans and pumpkins in the three sister's patch, but for the most part - I'm done!
Far Left Bed -Under Row Cover - Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Mustard
In back left - last year's Parsnips going to seed
Middle Bed - Radishes and Carrots, Red Norland Potatoes
Right Bed - Kenebec and Yukon Gold Potatoes
Behind the fence - Blackberries
My garden is not going to win any awards for being pretty, or tidy.  I try to let Nature help me out  when she's willing.  I try to grow only open pollinated plants, then when I'm done with them, I let a few of them go to seed.  These self plantings are some of my favorites.  They almost always do better than seed I plant myself, and I don't have to do any work. I haven't planted Red Mustard for years, and yet I always have a fantastic spring and fall crop. 

Garlic, Onions, Tomatoes and Greens Seed Propagation in Action
Seed Producers:  Giant Red Indian Mustard, Swiss Chard, Beets, Kale, Collards, Lettuce
Catnip and more garlic at the back.
I do practice crop rotation, but I don't worry too much about ripping something out because it's "not supposed" to be there.  I have garlic and onions growing in my tomato beds this year because last year the garlic and onion tops withered in the heat while we were on vacation.  When I returned I couldn't find them.  So, I left them in the ground and I didn't plant much garlic this year.  I knew they would come back to the garden party with friends this spring.

Sweet Potatoes
I love planting in our new beds.  

Winter Squash
Apologies here for the pictures being sideways.  Help!  How do you rotate pictures?  If you can turn your head like an owl you should see that this is an intensely planted bed. There are peas (don't you love my artsy, and free, branch pea trellis), beans, garlic and onions here. When the peas are done I'll take them and the branches out, then the beans will have plenty of room. When the garlic is ready to pull, I'll replant the space with fall greens and Cole crops.

I had great help with the corn patch this year.  Soccer Boy gets a quarter for each fine, straight row he hoes.  

Early Sweet Corn, Pop Corn and Late Sweet Corn
Rhubarb in back
Asparagus to the Right
I love this time of year.  I take a walk in the garden every evening.  I want to see what's growing and what's ready to pick.  It's very meditative  - the garden is my own labyrinth.  I find peace (and peas) there.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The New Girls On the Roost

Thanks to the Pharmer and his kids over at Thy Hand we have some new girls in the flock. I'm so thankful that they're willing to do the raising of chicks.  They love and cuddle them, and keep them from freezing and then when they're ready we bring them home.

 They are settling in pretty well.  We still occasionally hear a squawk when one of the little ones tries to get to the water, food, bug, compost, etc. before the older girls, but overall they've settled in well. Tonight when I shut them in they were all roosted together like one big happy family.

They've been here for a week now and can now find their way out of (and back into) the hen house.  They've also discovered that the wood's edge is a great place to hunt for bugs.  So far, they're not following the lead of the two Ameracana acrobats and are staying off the fence and out of the garden.  Let's hope it stays that way. 

Checking out the new hen house.

Why is this crazy lady taking our picture this early in the morning?