Thursday, November 19, 2015

Apple's Cooking

Making a meal in this house these days usually starts with a treasure hunt in Apple's room. Cuz he swipes all the stuff.






Pots. Pants. Power tools. Hand tools. Canned goods. All the spatulas, always.

A while back he took to begging ingredients from us- dried fruit, beans, oats, herbs. 



And it was getting out of hand. I found him red-handed in the red lentils bin once too often after asking him to please stop those are almost gone blah blah boring responsible adult stuff.

So we went grocery shopping just for Apple's kitchen. I'd previously directed him to our herb garden, with his own spice jars. Now his pantry's more robust than sage chunks and chive spears. 







We even cleared his Montessori-type shelf and made it pantry shelves for the cooking interest. I should probably work on getting him actually cooking. He can make his own scrambled eggs for breakfast when he wants to but he doesn't want to lately. As a family, we try not to do much baking, in deference to Apple's apparent wheat sensitivity and our general avoidance of sugar. He goes through periods where he wants to help me with dinner, and periods where he doesn't. Honestly I don't mind having the kitchen to myself while I cooking, but...  

Surely a smart gal like me can come up with something Apple could make on his own that he'd enjoy.

Surely it would be better than being handed a cup of dry chickpeas and barley with a "No, really eat it, Mama."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Herb Garden t + 1.5 years

In spring of '14 we planted an herb garden in some dead space along a stone retaining wall south of the house. The little starts we put in, which we grew from seed, were so tiny, dwarfed by the very thick shredded bark mulch we put down. I wondered if we'd even harvest anything before we moved.

Well, we sure did, and we learned a lot about some basic herbs, too.

Like, what they look like! Ha.

September: the south half

We grew thyme, oregano, sage, lavender, onion chives, and garlic chives, all perennials. Both springs I've bought a pack of parsley starts too, and grown some calendula just to look at. We grow basil also, but that goes in the veggie garden.

July: the big leafy plant to the right is not an herb, it's
a beloved lungwort I was afraid to move for fear of killing it.
So we have an herb + lungwort garden. 
October: The north half.

Sage gets pleasantly bushy, and if it's very happy it sends up beautiful purple flowers on stalks. I read recently that the bushes can get kind of big. Good to know... We don't use a great deal of sage, but my jar is empty. I convinced myself not to pick up some dried sage at the co op and will instead figure out how to make my own from  my happy bushes. I've made two bunches of sage clippings and hung them in the kitchen to dry. Here's hoping.

Oregano spreads. A lot. And then spreads some more. It gets tall and unwieldy and flops over and then spreads some more. The plants are generous and might need to be kept in check. It makes tons of tiny white flowers which were always covered with both bees and flies. Yes, flies! All that permaculture advice to put your herb garden right outside your kitchen door? No!! Flies!! Anyone else have this happen? Geez. We use the oregano fresh often enough, and this year I dried a couple jars of the leaves in our dehydrator. It was easy to do.

July: Both years we stuffed a spare tomato plant in the herb garden as well.

June: Can see the chives blooming on the left, and those misbegotten
hens and chicks
 in the foreground.
Lavender! It has a reputation for being difficult to start from seed. I jumped through the hoops recommended to give it a good start- keeping the seeds in the freezer for a couple weeks, for example. And of the maybe 4 or 6 plants we aimed for, we got one hearty one. (Two more seem to limping along under other plants, an oregano and a sage. I don't know how that happened? I probably thought, Oh these look terrible I'll just throw another plant in this precious space with them and let em duke it out. Dumb dumb dumb.) But very happy it is, and it's in the best spot- right along the steps that cut through the herb garden leading to the stone patio by the basement door. So you can rub your hand across the plant on your way by and then walk around sniffing your lavender hands in a cloud of sensual joy. I harvested two rounds of flower heads this summer and sent them to my sisters, leaving little scent paths from my house to theirs.

Thyme is little and woody and is a small pain in the ass to use fresh. Haven't tried drying any. But we do use it through the summer.

Sage behind some thyme, on the left; spiky-flowered lavender to the right.

September: Herb garden in context, Marcy, a post-painting-the-deck mess, and some dead potted tomatoes. 
Hyssop. We tried growing something called hyssop. We don't know what the hell hyssop is, what it looks like, or what you do with it. But it's a perennial, by jove! So we tried. There is a tiny mystery plant somewhere in there that we figure could be hyssop. Hyssop! The hell is that.

Parsley's not a huge player in our kitchen. We use it more now that we have several jars of homegrown home-dried parsley in the cupboard. They say it's hard to grow from seed. I'll try some day, but for now I've just been buying 6-packs at the grocery store in the spring, which is way more parsley than we need. We had one parsley plant overwinter, which was fun because parsley is a biennial, so it flowered this year. I let it drop its seed- maybe next year I won't have to buy any.*

October: poking the parsley worms, which stick out tiny orange
stink horns when you annoy them. This has the opposite intended effect
on my three-year-old.
Parsley worm! They're baby swallowtail butterflies, and here, they're
welcome to all the parsley they want. 

Chives: They're super good for you, and an easy way to make baked potatoes look way classy. I put onion chives in the first year and then read that garlic chives are even more healthful, so I planted those this spring. The flowers we got on the second-year onion chives were very pretty. I ate one! Now I'm pretty too.

Calendula: I grow these flowers from seed because I bought some calendula seed at the co-op one day. I don't have anywhere to put them really, so I pop a few in the herb garden. They're nice to look at while you're sitting on the toilet in the bathroom above the herb garden. :) They might even be useful and I just don't know it yet. That'd be fun, because their seed is super easy to save- in fact, I had some self-sow the first year and give me surprise calendula this summer.

I've been spending a lot of time lately seriously thinking about Homestead 2.0, mapping out the path to get to where we want to be. The herb garden was so easy to do and rewarding, putting in another is one of the first things in my plans.

Even though our cat still leaves half-eaten rodents there.


* Actually we expect to be moving out of this house around the time we'd be planting parsley, anyways. So I might never know if the parsley seeds took. :(

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Jack's Blog-Club: The Contrary Farmer

"Hardly anyone appreciates the fact that nature is not a loving mother but an impersonal theater of life and death that does not care at all whether humans continue to exist or not. 


I once had a really nice, cultured editor criticize me sternly when I wrote a gardening article in which I said that I killed raccoons and groundhogs in my garden just as readily as I killed rats in my barn. Killing rats she would excuse but not raccoons and groundhogs. She did not seem to see any arbitrariness in that conclusion. Then she decided to take up gardening herself. She wrote to me several years later and asked my forgiveness. She had finally cornered the groundhog that was devastating her garden in her tool shed and beaten it to death with a shovel.


It is a hard lesson to learn. If you want to eat, something must die."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Things My Child Has Asked Recently

  • Is [the lunar eclipse] when we're all going to die?
  • Why are you not an etymologist?
  • Why do I never poke a cactus between its pokies?
  • How do you say "thank you, man" ?
  • Why does fire not come out of spigots?
  • Why does the water coming out of spigots not turn into fire?
  • Are you crazy and I'm funny?

Monday, November 9, 2015

dreaming and planning and reading and thinking







Been a flurry of dreaming and planning and reading and thinking lately. 

Took a break from it all to go play at a small farm nearby and remind myself that it, too, was once just a flurry of dreaming and planning and reading and thinking.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lady Luck

Realizing halfway through a morning session with liquid watercolor paints* that your darling is in a long-sleeved white turtleneck, and not even caring? Wow.


Darling not getting a single drop on his shirt? Wow!

Mama not being able to make the same claim of herself? Shut up.


* They claim that they're washable but they rather kind of aren't.