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, May 29, 2013

New Kids on the Roost

Thanks to the Pharmer, his wife and their lovely crew of chicken tamers we brought home five healthy, happy, friendly girls to add to the flock on Saturday.  My kids have been spending most of their free time with these delightful babies.  They're working on training them to sit on their shoulders and heads. 
If you're wondering why the chickens are in the garden, it's because they're a bit more protected there.  It also makes them easier to catch.  We're not letting them out unsupervised.  We have some hawks that live nearby and we lost two last spring.  So, for the moment they only go outside when one of the kids is playing with them, or when someone is working in the garden.  They need a bit of supervision and predator protection.
The girls are called:  Thunder, Aubry, Jacque, Salt and Vinegar.
Jacque - they have high hopes for this girl and say she's their best chicken trainer.

Hiding in the garlic - Aubry, Thunder and Salt

In the iris - Vinegar

Oops - this one needs to learn to sit still -flying chickens!

Thunder - a Black Australorp, quite possibly the prettiest chicken I have ever met.  Her glossy black feathers are irridescent green in the sunlight and she has beautiful black legs.

New braces, new earrings, and a new chicken accessory?

Vinegar tries to eat The Girl's earrings - Yikes!

Farmer Dan gives lessons on how to keep a chicken calm. 
Then when they tired of chicken training and cuddling they invented "the best swing ever" - their words - using a rope and an old pillow.  Tell me again why I buy these two toys?  I swear next year I'm just giving them duct tape, ten dollars to spend at the thrift shop and a free trip to the dump.  No problem entertaining yourself around here.  Oh, and just in case you wondered... yes, those are snow boots.  No, it is not that cold here.  Apparently, they're good protection from any possible chicken poop.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Garden 5.27.13

The garden is really coming alive.  Here's what's happening out there...
Soccer Boy eating raw onions - he must get this from his great grandpa.  If he had his way there wouldn't be any onions in my garden to pick in the fall.

Rhododendron looking glorious - a gift from my uncle when we moved in 12 years ago.

Baby grapes!

We finally put down weed block fabric and mulch on the center path. 

Strawberries - we're eating our fill and still having enough to can and freeze. 

Our poor ignored blueberry bushes are properly weeded and mulched for the first time in their lives.

Lettuce, cilantro, greens, garlic and a volunteer sunflower - look how lush they're all getting.

Radishes - every year I realize I need to plan more.  We just can't get enough of these.

Swiss Chard - growing back from last winter's freeze back.

Letting nature do the work - parsley going to seed.  Should mean a bunch of little parsley plants in the fall.

Cole crops under row cover looking beautiful

Egyptian Walking Onions - These are supposed to spread themselves, which is good news for me since I have a hard time growing good onions.
I planted iris along the fence row and peonies by the house.  This year I finally remembered to bring them inside.  It was like aromatherapy when I walked in the door this afternoon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garden Almanac May 2013

Amazingly, despite the rain and our current busy schedule everything except the late corn, the peppers and the eggplants are in the garden. Most of the weeds are even pulled.   Both the kids and The Woodsman helped and youth group was cancelled on Sunday so I had an unexpected, uninterrupted five hour stretch.  It feels really good to have the majority of the work finished.  Now we can concentrate on finishing the weeding and on mulching.  Here's what we've planted so far...

Lettuce:  Red Deer's Tongue, Pine Tree Lettuce Mix
Herbs:  Large Leaf Cilantro, Flat Leaf Parsley
Miscelaneous:  Celery, Fennel and Silver Queen Okra
Flowers: Jewel Mix Nasturtium, Alyssum, Scarlet Lady Runner, Cosmos, Columbine, Foxglove, Wildflower Mix, Old Spice Sweet Pea, Forget Me Not
Corn:  Quickie, Incredible, Bloody Butcher
Winter Squash:  Queensland Blue, Blue Hubbard, Carnival Acorn, Early Butternut, Autumn Harvest Mix
Summer Squash: Cashcrop Zucchini, Yellow Straightneck
Radish:  Minowase Daikon,French Breakfast
Sunflower:  Great Grey Stripe, Sunflower Mix, Earthwalker
Beet:  Detroit Beet, Lutz Winter Keeper
Greens:  Red Russian Kale, Green Wave Mustard, Giant Red Indian Mustard, Fordhook Swiss Chard
Tomatoes:  Cherrry:  Sweet Million, Sun Gold, Chelsea, White Cherry, Black Cherry  Paste:  Roma, Opalka, Linguisa Eating: Pineapple, Kellogg's,  Stupice, Oklahoma Spring, Rutgers, Cherokee Purple, Beefsteak, Pepper Tomato, Helen's Lebanon
Peas:  Mr. Lincoln, Tall Telephone, Cascadian Sugar Snap
Beans:  Green:  Provider, Roma, Lima  Shell:  Jacob's Cattle, Black Turtle
Onions: Red and Yellow
Garlic: Inchelum Red and Elephant
Sweet Potatoes:  Beauregard and Georgia Jet
Potatoes:  Red Pontiac, Katahdin and Kenebec
Cabbage:  Glory of Enzhuiken, Danish Ballhead, Krautman
Broccoli: Gypsy
Cauliflower:  Cheddar
Brussel Sprouts: Jade Cross

I do practice crop rotation.   I loosely follow this method.  However, because tomatoes and corn take up so much space in comparison to other crops I'm usually juggling the space to make it all fit.  This time of year the garden is never big enough.  Come the middle of July when the weeding seems to never end, and even more in August when I practically live in the kitchen processing - I'll think it's entirely too big and I'll be dreaming of an empty garden.  It's so easy to be ambitious when the plants are so small and the days are so pleasant. 

How's your garden growing?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Three Simple Spring Dishes

Here are some great ideas for the greens in your garden.  They're so simple they barely qualify as recipes at all.  I pulled the last freezer meal out this evening - I'll be counting on these quick, no fuss recipes from now until the end of school.

Spinach Feta and Red Pepper Omlet

Saute some spinach and roasted red pepper (frozen or canned work fine).  Remove from skillet.  Scramble two eggs with a little milk.  Pour into a skillet that is well greased.  Cook until partially set, add filling and some feta.  Fold in half, then microwave for a few seconds to finish setting the egg and melting the cheese.

Asian Salad

Inspired by Easy Vegan Zee


Combine in a jelly jar -  1/4 c. olive oil, 2 T maple syrup, 2 t. lime juice, 1 T tahini, 1 t. sesame oil, 1 t. soy sauce, 1 T. sesame seeds and some fresh chopped ginger.  Shake.


Layer greens, green onion, peanuts or sunflower seeds, and currants or raisins in a bowl.  Top with dressing.

Roasted Asparagus with Goat Cheese and Walnut Topping

Inspired by Simply in Season

Toss asparagus with olive oil.  Place on baking sheet.  Sprinkle garlic on top and roast at 350 until crisp tender and carmalized. 

Mix goat cheese, walnuts, salt and chives together to taste.  Sprinkle on top of warm asparagus.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pittsburgh: Marathon, Gateway Clipper and the Zoo

We were in Pittsburgh, PA the first weekend of May in order to visit with my sister and brother-in-law, and so The Woodsman could run his third marathon.  Pittsburgh is a great city for kids.  If you're looking for a good destination for this summer and you'll be in the area you can't miss with a visit to "the Burgh".  Here are some highlights of our weekend.
I always drive the same route through town when we go to visit my sister even though it's no longer the most direct to her house.  I just can't resist driving through Chatham's campus - especially in the spring when it's blooming with hundreds of tulips and is popping with green. Many of the campus buildings are Pittsburgh Robber Barron houses - like Carnegie and Frick, they're regal and ancient - like a beautiful elderly woman all dressed in her Sunday best.  Picture a British prep school and you'll have the image of the campus.   I have so many good memories of my years there.  I'll admit, I like letting Reading Girl see the campus too- who knows, maybe Chatham will be her Alma Mater one day.  But, the other reason to drive that way is that it's the only way I can go where I know I won't get lost. 
On Saturday my parents took the kids to the Carnegie Science Center where they spent all afternoon jumping and running in the Highmark Sports Works.  They explored the climbing tower, bungee jumping, and lots of other sports related science activities and information.
While they were enjoying some much needed grandparent time (my parents had been gone for a month on a trip to the South West), the other four adults headed to the Strip District.  No, we did not head for an Adult's only bookstore or anything crazy like that.....  The Strip District is an Ethnic food market just a few blocks up from downtown Pittsburgh.  I'm not sure why I forgot to bring my camera along... boo!  You'll have to check out the links for images.  Highlights of our wanderings included:
- the Korean Deli - where I was tempted to bring home several gallons of KimChee - oh the choices
- the Polish Deli - I tried a traditional Polish donut (Paczki), and The Woodsman had his first Periogi.  One misses so many things growing up in the South.  /sigh/
- Penn Mac (Pennsylvania Macaroni Company) - I could have stayed in here for hours!  Every Italian ingredient you could want or imagine - including an entire section of olives in 5 gallon buckets where you could serve yourself.  My sister and I chose to have our lunch here - olives, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.  I can still taste the deliciousness.
 - Penzey's Spice Company - I happily spent at least 20 minutes sniffing every option, then settled on Zatar (the Middle Eastern Spice used to make Fatoush salad - my favorite), Sandwich Sprinkle (salt and a bunch of herbs - I'm now completely addicted), and Smoked Paprika (which I've been missing since I ran out of my carefully hoarded stash from two Christmases past).
 - A store that only sold sausage.  I really wanted to buy the traditional U.K. sausages used in Bangers and Mash.  Why do the Brits have such great sounding names for food?  Who doesn't want to eat Bubble and Squeak? 
 - Lots and lots of street food choices including a Pizza Roll the size of a ten month child for only two dollars.
 - A chocolate shop with wonderful exotic and imported choices where I bought myself an early Mother's Day present of chocolates that have a shot of liquor (like Grand Marnier or Kirch) in them.  The perfect evening choice - a cocktail and dessert in one.  Don't worry, I have them hidden far, far away from the children.
That evening The Woodsman and I went out for dinner to our favorite Middle Eastern restaurant where we ate our fill of Falafel and Fatoush, and then went to bed early in anticipation of the next day.
Before dawn we got up, dropped The Woodsman off at the starting point and headed to a Pamela's in Oakland (where they make the best breakfasts I've ever had).  From here, while eating a Chorizo Egg Sandwich and Crepe Style Pancakes with Strawberries, Sour Cream and Brown Sugar, we watched the early elite runners come through.  Something ironic there about that isn't there?  High calorie breakfast, sitting around on our behinds, watching other people get A LOT of exercise. 
Kenyan James Kirwa as he approaches the finish line Photo Credit A.P.
If you've never watched a marathon you need to at least once watch the front of the pack.  Those early runners aren't even sweating.  They look as if they're just taking a simple little stroll.  When in actuality they're going about 13- 14 MPH.  Where we were watching was near mile 12 at the top of the first really big hill (and Pittsburgh has some doozeys).  The early runners looked like they could run several marathons - the human body is amazing.  When we were done with breakfast we staked out a spot on the sidewalk to cheer for, and encourage, the other runners and to wait for The Woodsman.  The rest of the family was spread out along the course so we all managed to see him two different times - he looked great and was really pleased with his performance.

This was how I found him - totally understandable.  26.2 is a long, long way!

Vertical and smiling - amazing.

Post run celebration at Auntie H's house - don't you love the chalk work on the steps!
After lunch we all headed to the South Side to take a river tour of Pittsburgh on the Gateway Clipper.  This was the perfect family activity (especially since one of us really, really didn't want to do much walking).  Pittsburgh is a really gorgeous city - especially when seen from the water.
Waiting to disembark.

The Point - Pittsburgh's iconic skyline image.

Our favorite Pittsburgh hosts - Thanks guys!

Heinz Field - Steeler Territory

Mom and Dad sporting their new South West Gear (Chaco Canyon and Roswell, NM)

The next morning we headed to the Pittsburgh Zoo before we had to leave town.  I'm so glad that the kids haven't gotten too old to enjoy the zoo.  We got to watch the keepers giving the elephants their baths, and saw a sweet baby gorilla nursing and napping with its mama. 

We ended the trip as we always do, with a stop in Squirrel Hill to pick up real bagels from Brueggers.  Four years in college in the Jewish section of town made me really, really spoiled for good bagels.  I wish I could perfect the art of Jewish bagel making, but alas, it continues to escape me.

Other great kid activities are the Children's Museum (Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood is my favorite - you can get on the trolly), the Carnegie Natural History Museum (in my opinion the best dinosaur display on the East Coast - way better than the National Natural History Museum), the Carnegie Museum of Art (I could stay in the Monet Water Lilies Room for hours), Phipps Conservatory (love the carnivorous flowers) and the National Aviary (Penguins!).

I'm definitely NOT a city girl.  I was glad to get back to open spaces, unlocked cars and quiet nights without traffic, but I loved visiting in Pittsburgh.  Of course 90% of that is the B and B we get to frequent when we visit.  Sorry... I don't think my sister is taking reservations. 

What are your favorite kid friendly cities? 

Happy Travels.
My mom's favorite animals (the giraffes - not the kids).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Introducing the two new boys in my daughter's life.  Mouse and Peach. They're sweet, fuzzy and they make me sneeze.  We're all rather smitten.

New use for the chicken tractor - rabbit exercise yard in the fenced garden.

If only I'd brought my camera...

A few years ago we started celebrating my Mother's Day on Saturday instead of Sunday.  This means we can honor my Mother-in-Law on Sunday and I don't get grouchy about having to cook dinner on Mother's Day.

I've noticed quite a bit of back lash against Mother's Day out in cyber world lately.  And, I get it, I do.  I know that there is certainly the potential for people who wish to be mothers, or for people who have lost their children to feel hurt.  I hope that those individuals, and all those who are hurting, have people who love and nurture them.  Not just on one day, but every day.  I don't want fancy gifts (but I never really want those).   I don't want to go to an expensive restaurant (in fact, taking the kids to a fancy restaurant is sometimes more stressful than cooking at home).  I don't want to be worshiped and praised all day (a little of that goes a long way).  But, I do want a day off.

Around here there are two days that each of us get to have the day just the way we want it - birthdays and Mother's/Father's Day.  Those days are usually simple.  The Woodsman often chooses to celebrate Father's Day by having a large portion of the day to himself to run without feeling guilty that he's leaving us behind.  Then he likes to get to decide what's for dinner (a decision which is usually firmly in my territory).

On Mother's Day I ask for very little.  I don't want to cook.  I don't want to do laundry.  And I want the house to be clean.  Usually there are some sweet handmade cards and breakfast (which get increasingly better each year as the kids improve their cooking skills).  Often, if the weather is good, there's a hike and maybe a picnic or lunch at a favorite restaurant.

This year everyone let me sleep in (until 8:30 - that's about 4 hours longer than I usually get).  Then they made a breakfast of soppy eggs, bagels with cream cheese, strawberries and coffee.  After breakfast I tooled around on the computer and took life easy while they did their morning chores (supervised by Daddy so I didn't have to fuss at anyone).  Then we headed off to The Boy's soccer game.  After the game we went to a local employee owned restaurant called The Little Grill.  With our bellies full of good food (I had the Tempe Ruben - to die for... yum) we headed off to Shenandoah National Park for an afternoon of hiking some of the waterfall trails.

Here is when I started kicking myself for not bringing the camera.  I would have taken pictures of:
 the glorious waterfalls and sparkling rivers
 the kids dipping their heads in the ice cold streams when they got too hot and the water streaming down their backs
the trillium - pink and white and perfect
the Jack in the Pulpit
the myriads of other wild flowers whose names I don't know (because I also forgot the wildflower identification book)
the sunlight peeking through the trees and making each water droplet look like a little diamond
the kids climbing on every rock they could find and bounding over them like little sure footed mountain goats
the green green green of mosses and fiddle head ferns
the view across the valley with shadows cast on the mountains
the view of the Shenandoah slipping away below with the ripples flashing white foam
the rainbow that came out of the clouds and stretched across the sky to end at the top of Kennedy's Peak
the coffee double chocolate banana strawberry and hot fudged topping ice cream sundays we had for dessert

So, I understand disliking the commercialism of Mother's Day.  I understand not wanting to cause pain in others who might find Mother's Day to be a difficult one.  But, I don't understand not wanting to celebrate and thank our mothers.  Much of what we do for our families isn't glorious and it isn't noticed.  We do a lot that's "behind the scenes".  Everyone craves and deserves the chance to be thanked and to be spoiled just a little.  I think we also disenfranchise our children when we don't give them the chance to share their little efforts.
the pot of dirt sitting under the grow lights that my kids swear has cactus seeds planted
the Acrostic Poem the Boy wrote
the glitter bedecked card created weeks ago by The Girl and carefully hidden then presented at breakfast

We all need to know we're loved.  So, I say, instead of disavowing  Mother's Day why not just love on someone who needs to be Mothered?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Little Things

It's been really busy around here lately.  We're fully immersed in our spring soccer schedule - that means practice and games.  The Woodsman ran his third marathon (more on that in a later post).  The garden is popping with greens, asparagus and lots and lots of weeds.  And, as teachers, May is the most hectic, stressful month in our year.  Time seems to be at a premium and life seems like it's on fast forward.  One of the reasons I started to blog was so I wouldn't forget to document the little things in life as well as the more epic ones.  So, here are some little things...
Loving Chester! 

Greens and Garlic in the Hoop House

The Boy's long hair - love these curls.

We attempt to make cheese - it fails...

It's supposed to stretch - well, maybe next time.

The best part of spring - salad from the garden!
Or, maybe it's asparagus.  We can't decide.

Happy Spring and Happy Mother's Day!  Hope you're feeling loved today.  My crew cleaned the house, cooked breakfast and they're folding all the laundry as I write.  Plus, if it ever stops raining around here, The Woodsman promises to help me finish the spring planting.  It doesn't get much better than this.