Welcome to my garden!

I talk about it. I blog about it. I spend hours of my days planning, watering, weeding, and maintaining it. But readers, you haven’t seen enough of it, right? Right.

Up the steps - come on in!

Up the steps – come on in!

There are a couple of decorative pots on the steps. I picked up the pots because I liked the color. It was a rare moment for me: buying pots new at the store. But back to the tour: on the right, you see the Big Pot of Basil. I just trimmed it last week to dry some in the attic. That reminds me – I should open up the attic door and check on the drying herbs.

But back to the tour. You can also see an old re-purposed basket with marigolds growing. Behind the basket is the rhubarb. This is the third location for the rhubarb, and it’s thriving here. In fact, I was going to make rhubarb chocolate chip cookies now that it’s cool enough to work in the kitchen.

But seriously, back to the tour.

Speaking of herbs...

Speaking of herbs…

Speaking of herbs, here is the mini greenhouse minus its plastic cover. From the left, you see sage, thyme, and rosemary. Below is a popcorn bucket awaiting repurposing.

More repurposing!

More repurposing!

Chuck repurposed this chair a few years ago. It’s still going strong, playing host to decorative plants this year. Hanging from the deck railing is a container of oregano.

Scarborough Fair, anyone?

Scarborough Fair, anyone?

More re-purposing fun: an old stepladder becomes a set of shelves next to a picnic basket full of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. The thyme isn’t growing well. Talk about killing thyme…never mind. Back to the tour.

The original plot

The original plot

When we moved here, I started a garden behind the garage. Today, that plot is mainly raspberries, with the space left over planted in parsley, cilantro (bucket), and in the back, zucchini. I transplanted a few marigolds to a blank area to attract pollinators for the zucchini.

The big plot - the new squares!

The big plot – the new squares!

This section is new. Remember the old triangle? Chuck squared it off last fall, and we built up the soil with Buttercup’s litter boxes. I’m not kidding. The decomposing litter and waste formed the base for a layer of topsoil brought in from the garden store. The straw bales are the experiment of the year.

This post is getting long. I’ll start there tomorrow.

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Souvenirs!

Cupcake Mix; in the corner, rice

Cupcake Mix; in the corner, rice

I like souvenirs that we can use and enjoy. The cupcake mix was simple to bake, and it included the frosting, too. I dug way back into the kitchen cupboards and found out I did, indeed, own a batch of cupcake papers. I usually bake muffins without these.

Amigo liked the cupcakes and remembered hanging out with a cat under a shade tree while I shopped.

I bought a coffee cup, too. Picture will come later – when I remember.

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Be Prepared!

In May of 2013, we had a nightmare situation that started when I went to the sink to wash my hands and found No Water. This situation haunts us mainly because it led to an emergency evacuation (gas leak) and months of repair and cleaning. When the water department from my fair city scheduled a time to come over to install a new meter, we combined that with a  from a plumber to get a couple more things done “as long as the water was shut off.”

Amigo and I were home. Chuck, lucky guy, was at work and didn’t have to deal with the immediate effects of having no water. Call me paranoid (and you might have a stroke of truth there), but I prepared in advance.

Steamer: full of water

Steamer: full of water

I knew I wanted to cook fresh vegetables in the steamer for supper, so I filled the steamer with water before lunch.

Canner full of water

Canner full of water

I was planning to make raspberry jam that evening, so I filled the hot water bath canner in advance, too.

I had rice on the menu for supper, too, so I chose a soup stock for cooking the brown & wild rice mix.

I achieved my goal: I was ready to cook supper, whether the water guys were finished or not. This helped with my second goal: keeping both myself and Amigo calm. Since I had everything I needed for cooking and we had enough water in the toilet tanks that we could, ahem, use the facilities, all was well.

Be Prepared; it’s not limited to Scouts. It works for parents, too.

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Vegetables and berries and meat – yes, meat.

Here’s the weekly still life of market produce!

That bag was heavy.

Those bags were heavy! 

And that’s not all we bought. We got adventurous and bought — lamb. You’ve heard of buying half a cow or a side of beef? We bought a side of lamb.

...and an insulated bag from the farmer, too!

…and an insulated bag from the farmer, too!

I even asked her if she knew a family from my school. They live in the same county (almost) and both raise sheep using sustainable and organic methods. But no, they’re not acquainted.

As I’m prepping beans (green & yellow) for the freezer, we’re also doing research to find out how best to cook this delicious new addition to our diets. I love lamb when we’re eating out. Now I have a leg of lamb thawing in the refrigerator. Suggestions, anyone?

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Alien or Native?

No, this is not a post about immigration woes. It is a post about invasive species – plants and animals that sneak into an ecosystem and disrupt it. Zebra Mussels. Purple Loosestrife. Hogweed (not Hogwarts, silly people).

I saw this on a walk near Ashland, Wisconsin. It looks like dill, but it doesn’t smell like dill.

Well??

Well??

It doesn’t appear to be the evil garlic mustard. Ideas, readers? Is this a plant native to the Great Lakes area? Or not?

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Plenty – locavores tell their story

I picked up Plenty: Eating locally on the 100 mile diet because it was mentioned in Low Impact Man. Plenty reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in the theme of the 100-mile diet, but the setting was quite different. Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon wrote Plenty Vancouver. Kingsolver lived and wrote in Appalachia.

I started to draw a comparison to my own location and climate, but Vancouver isn’t like Wisconsin. Vancouver is a temperate rainforest – lots of rain, only a little snow. Here in my locale, we have four clear seasons – or two, if you’re of the crowd that claims Winter and Road Construction.

But back to the story. I laughed out loud reading Plenty because of a parallel to my own life, blog, and locavore ambitions. Alisa and James had bought a large quantity of sweet corn – Wisconsinites also call it corn on the cob for the typical method of serving and eating this favorite. I, too, have been buying a huge bag of corn at its peak every August. Last year I had a hard time finding the time to prep it for freezing, and the final product just wasn’t as tasty as it could have been.  Alisa described a phone call to her mother asking advice on prepping corn. She found out… well, I’ll let her tell you.

“The sugar in corn starts to break down into starch within a few hours of being picked,” she said. “It doesn’t taste as good, and it loses nutritional value.” She was too polite to say the obvious – use it or lose it. She just started describing the process of blanching and freezing niblets. –Plenty; October.

I’d been thinking about corn and considering different ways of attacking this issue. The corn is inexpensive in August (Wisconsin’s corn ripens in late summer), so buying several dozen is a good investment. But here’s the dilemma: do I really have time to husk, blanch, and cut the kernels off the cob within hours of purchase? If I’m honest with myself (and I’m getting better about that), I have to say no. My solution, at least for the current summer, is this: I’ll buy a little extra from the market each week rather than five dozen ears all at once. It’ll cost me a few pence more, but I will be much more likely to get the corn prepped and in the freezer within a reasonable time frame. I handle peas and beans that way; why not corn?

The second laugh out loud moment came during the same corn chapter. It was 10:00 at night when Alisa realized they needed to prep the corn ASAP. Motivated (or mellowed) by a bottle of wine, they went at it. More than an hour into the task, Alisa remarked, “I feel like part of some apocalyptic cult.”

I blog about life, my life, and that includes a lot of gardening, canning, and otherwise preserving summer’s fresh bounty for the long winter months. Every now and then, I get comments or emails from so-called Doomsday Prepper groups. These are people who share my fascination with self-sufficiency, but for different reasons. Many Prepper groups expect the world as we know it to end soon and without warning. Their fears range from the massive changes due to global warming to a complete collapse of our government.

I’m not a doomsday type of person, but I do like to stock up with my own home made goodies now, while I have the chance. This stock-up process gives us good quality jams and pickles and more goodies in the pantry and locally grown vegetables in the freezer. We don’t do it to prepare for some mythical End of the World, but it does ease our winter grocery budget and bring a taste of summer to the table when there is snow on the ground.

Conclusion? I liked the book Plenty. I also enjoyed Low Impact Man and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. One other item all three had in common: the authors were already professional writers when they took on their experiments and chronicled the experiences. Maybe that’s why they were fun to read – and maybe that’s why I’m having trouble finding the time to finish my own manuscript. Ah, that’s another post. I’d better get back to shelling peas for tonight’s supper.

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Friends

When La Petite was in school, we saw her friends a lot. We made them welcome at our home, and they came over in large groups to hang out and drink our lemonade and sodas.

It’s a little tougher for Amigo. His best friends are scattered all over the state of Wisconsin. He met them at the state school for the blind, which serves the entire state. Luckily, Amigo and I enjoy road trips. As soon as we set up our trip to the Great Lake Superior area to see a Big Top Chautauqua show, he mentioned that one of his friends lives in a tiny town close to our destination. Amigo (who is showing major skill in arranging visits – future party planner, perhaps?) got in touch with his friend’s family through Facebook and made all the arrangements for us to stop by and visit.

The next day, they went fishing together.

"Chuck" helps the two young people bait their hooks

“Chuck” helps the two young people bait their hooks

Canes do not do double duty as fishing poles.

Canes do not do double duty as fishing poles.

I’m not much of a fan of fishing, but it was fun to go along and be a spare sighted guide from the car to the end of the dock.

Neither caught any fish — just algae — but it was fun. Her family sent us home with a package of their own home-made Polish sausage. Mmm – it was delicious. We left a thank-you of a few of my own homemade jams and pickles.

Readers, what do you like to bring along for getting-acquainted gifts? Since I started canning, it’s been easy. How about you?

 

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Signs of a Good Vacation

THO?

THO?

We were close enough to the U.P. that a sign in Yooper language made sense. But what is the last word supposed to be? I can translate Mmm, dat coffee! but THO? I’m lost.

Starbucks in the lobby and in the breakfast cafe: what do you think was in the hotel room coffee makers? Close, and if you’re a coffee aficionado, you might know that it’s from the same company.

Seattle's Best, in regular and decaf

Seattle’s Best, in regular and decaf

I made some in the room on the second day — the day we all slept late and actually missed breakfast hours! We’d had a fun and full day, and we really, really needed the extra sleep.

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Home again, home again – and off to market!

Today's Yum

Today’s Yum

From left to right — sweet cherries (imported from Washington), blueberries, flowers for MIL (to say thanks for feeding bunny while we were gone), beans green and beans yellow, peas (the last for the season?), carrots with tops, one tomato, green peppers…did I forget anything?

Raspberries fresh off the vine this morning, a couple of “home”made mixes from our vacation, and a package of brown & wild rice. Since I often mix wild rice with a whole grain or a brown variety, this is perfect.

We’re home! Tales and Pictures later. For now, I’m cleaning and storing lettuce – from the garden, not the market.

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Reasons for a Backyard Garden

One good reason for a backyard garden: bunny food.

Bunny likes parsley!

Bunny likes parsley!

Another good reason for a backyard garden: spinach. Add to salads, omelets, and just about anything.

Spinach! Iron-rich leafy green!

Spinach! Iron-rich leafy green!

I didn’t have a lot of spinach this season. Who knows – maybe the cold stretch ahead of us will trick the spinach into growing a second crop. I’m hoping the lettuce will do that, too. Salads at the O.K. Chorale! What could be more delicious?

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