Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Eating fresh locally grown and produced food is refreshing to the taste buds as well as to the feelings of community. The two are wholly intertwined.

These pictures are of today's lunch. The salad was made with mesclun greens, walnuts, and chive flowers from farmers at our local farmers market. We dressed it up with some homemade lemon balm vinegar, and the only thing not locally produced, olive oil. The quiche crust is made with butter from Wisconsin, and flour milled in Effingham. The filling is asparagus, onions, and chard again from the local farmers market, along with milk from Illinois and eggs laid by happy chickens at Bear Creek Farm & Ranch. We also had some Ropp Jersey cheese (their blue ribbon winning recipe green onion cheddar) on the side, with plain old yummy sweet local strawberries from Live Springs for dessert--so delicious that no sugar is needed. Most all this food was bought face to face, sharing good conversations with the people who harvested it. It feels good to know and financially support your farmer.

We shared this lunch with a friend, one who has been very nice and thoughtful, and it was nice to be able to share this kindness back to someone whose friendship we value. Food and community, there's just no separating the two.

And here's a goofy picture of me and Kaleigh chopping strawberries (the picture of us diligently working was too boring). We made six gallons of strawberry wine, so far. See that fan behind me? We needed it! I am still in the process of making rhubarb wine (and doing dishes). Tomorrow is hopefully the day we make low sugar strawberry jam for Kaleigh and leftover wine pulp "butter" for Don & me. The scraps are going to our worms, who will probably really enjoy the sweet ooshy rotting goodness in a few days. And we harvest the worm poop and turn it into food! No part of the strawberry is wasted. Kaleigh's had many strawberries at this point. Can you tell? I would think I've had too much coffee, but actually, we got up early so we could get strawberries at market.

Last here is the most beautiful edible pea I've ever laid eyes on. It's called the blue-podded pea, and I ordered the seeds from Baker Creek. The blossoms are these beautiful pinks and purples. The pods are a dark indigo blue. They're good dried for soups, and also the pods are edible. We ate the pods in some breakfast eggs the other day. They are by far the healthiest peas I've ever grown. I stuck some regular dollar store seed packet peas in the ground, and they are quite smaller plants and not yet producing pods.

My friend Kaya is visiting Friday, and I am really going to enjoy that day! Saturday we are tabling at the Earth Awareness Fair, handing out copies of our basic comprehensive gardening zine and hopefully parting with the rest of the bulk seeds I've been carting around with me for over a year now.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

rain barrels!!

Oh yeah. Don got the first rain barrel hooked up last night. It's a reclaimed food grade 55-gallon plastic barrel we got for $4, with a flexible downspout to go from gutter to rain barrel. This was given to us. We paid for miscellaneous parts which include a spigot at the bottom, and I'm not sure what else. Even the concrete blocks were given to us by a friend and our neighbors. Friends are fabulous!

The rain barrel got a good test run last night and today. Water started whizzing out the small hole near the top Don cut for an overflow earlier. With more storms on the way, we attached the hose and ran it out to the garden, and slowly the water drained from the barrel. Now we're waiting for more rain. And it looks like the weather will not disappoint. It's in the mid-70s, with almost 100% humidity, if I remember this close feeling correctly. Oooh! And we're sandwiched between tornado watch areas. Fun! We haven't had enough quality time huddling in the basement this spring.

The other picture is a yard remodeling project we've been working on. After giving away hundreds of daylilies, we now have a 10 by 12 patch of ground clear, except for a plum tree that we planted there last year. I planted a wee redbud tree there, along with a few widely spaced daylilies. You can see parts of our old sweet gum tree, which Don sliced into rings to be used as planters. I planted a TON of seeds here, mostly perennials and self-seeding annuals. I am hopeful they will sprout in this heat, humidity, and rain. We entered the Springfield in Bloom contest, and this is where I am hoping to put the sign, at least if the flowers can out-compete the weeds.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

spring on the homestead

Here are some more pictures of life going on, as usual, here in Zomba. We had nice weather for a few days, followed by lots of wind, then a couple inches of rain, then a few days of cold (you know, spring!). We managed to get a few tomatoes and peppers planted despite the ceaseless wind, and they seem to have survived the beating rain. It is warming up outside, so maybe they will start growing again.

Coming up in the garden now are peas, onions, garlic, asparagus (too young to eat, but growing), and potatoes. I planted a ton of garlic this spring, experimenting with it. We had a fall crop of garlic last fall, with the weather being so mild so long. I don't know what will happen, but it'll be interesting. In addition, we have lots of fruit happening, raspberries, red currants, and strawberries. The cherry, pear, and apple trees bloomed this year, and I hope we get fruit on them. The mulberries are just starting to pop out wee plops of green.

The ground was too wet to work today, but I did manage to dig up a few more bucketsful of daylilies; I've given them away to more than a dozen people through freecycle. I'm going to divide them up and space them out, but I have way too many.

Don and I whacked weeds and grass today. With the rain, it's been hard to get much done, plus everything is growing so fast. I used the hand scythe, and I really like it. I managed to only nick myself once. It's more fun than a lawnmower, although it takes a lot longer to be "done". But I get to find what's hidden in the grass, like lilies of the valley and healthy strawberry plants. Kaleigh and Merry used the reel mower on the inside of the yard, and Don used it on the outside. Don also used the wedge trimmer, which is used with the same stroke as a golf club. The yard is looking a lot more kept up. I like the wild and free look myself, and I'd surely let the weeds and grass grow up because I think it looks nicer, as well as is a lot healthier if a diverse and functioning ecosystem is your goal, rather than...what's the goal in maintaining a lawn? But, here we are in town. It's still pretty wild, as what we have growing is not "grass", nor does whacking it manually with various implements result in a smooth 1.5" carpet of sod. The hand scythe is fun because I'm not only mowing the grass and pulling weeds, but also I am making mulch.

The seed swap was yesterday. I got some nice plants. We had a lot of people, although a smaller crowd than last year. There was a rush at noon, then the rush left with most of the plants. It was unfortunate that the cool vibe of mass sharing did not go on for more than 30 minutes. Actually, there was a lot of sharing after that, but more of time and connection than plants. We had several kids coming through to get their mom's birthday presents or plants for their gardens. They were excited. There were a few young moms who seemed interested in growing food, but didn't know where to start. Well, it was very nice talking to people.

Kaleigh has been interested in a lot of summer camps. Her grandparents are graciously paying her way. I know she will have a lot of fun, and I will enjoy the quiet while she's gone, and hopefully get some work done.

We haven't had the woodstove going, and the weather was damp, followed by hella windy, followed by rain and cold--not so good for the drying clothes on the solar-powered clothesline. Our basement got water in it with the mass rain, and I had to wash the clothes that were sorted down there that got wet. It was a super windy day, so I put extra clothespins on all the clothes. Nothing blew away, and the clothes were dry in two hours. Yesterday and today I did laundry and hung it on the line, and got it all done. Ah, I love the clothesline. The clothes smell so good, and it's nice to know when I am out working in the yard, there my clothes are, drying themselves.

Hmm, seems like mother's day is coming up. I think I am visiting with my mother.