Memorial Day and the backyard

Ah, Memorial Day. Ceremonies, parades, and somber reminiscence.

And maple seeds. The helicopters have arrived! Chuck saw me picking up a handful and announced, “The Next Season of the Compostermom: Maple Seeds!” and well, he isn’t wrong.

I love the idea that there’s free food in the backyard. I cooked burdock roots a few weeks ago, just to say I did it. The smaller roots were more tender and tasty, so I’ll remember that in the future.

Now that the seeds are falling, I’ll pick up as much as my knees can handle, and I’ll roast them. These roasted seeds can go in anything that might call for sunflower kernels or pepitas or similar yummies. Trail mix, bread, cookies, you name it.

They don’t last forever. Maple seeds are seasonal, at best. I’ll roast as much as I can handle during the next few weeks, and we’ll be set for most of summer.

The Next Season of Compostermom? Probably weeding season. If I want tomatoes (and more!), I need to weed.

Say, readers, do you have a backyard in which to forage? What do you find there?

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Rhubarb galore!

Rhubarb thrives in a cool spring. A snowstorm on the first of May qualifies as cool, if not cold, right? My rhubarb sure thinks so. It’s sending out shoots right and left and center, and going to seed, too. I keep pulling the stalks that are flowering, and the next day I ask myself, “Self, did I miss that one yesterday?” Truth is, the plant wants to reproduce, and it keeps trying.

Yesterday I spent much of the day picking, cleaning, and chopping  rhubarb. I filled the sink with stalks, topped the compost heap with those huge leaves, and ran two batches through the food processor. Eventually, I dumped all the chopped rhubarb into a big bowl and covered it up for the night.

Today I tried three new recipes: Rhubarb Slush, Rhubarb-Ginger Jam, and Rhubarb Pie Filling. The slush was pretty easy. It’s in the freezer now, and I take it out and stir it about once an hour to prevent it turning into a block of rhubarb-flavored ice.

The Jam and the Pie Filling should have been easy. After all, I’ve made jams and jellies for years, and pie filling is just like a chunky applesauce, right? Right – sort of. I managed to print both recipes with metric measurements. Our stubborn United States insists on using the old fashioned “customary” measurement system, so I had to work to interpret the amounts on these two British style recipes. Fortunately, I have a scale that can measure in grams, and my glass measuring cups have metric measures on the side opposite the customary.

The end results were excellent. I’ll definitely make these again. In fact, I may need to do it again in a few weeks if the weather continues and the rhubarb continues to grow like a bush. The metric recipes, in fact, were for small batches. I will probably double them – or more, if the rhubarb plants keep thriving.

Readers, I wouldn’t mind hearing your rhubarb stories. The plant (a vegetable, not a fruit, I’m told) can be legendary.

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The Garden Begins!

My knees hurt.

Why do my knees hurt? We had a couple of really nice days – warm, dry, sunny days – and I knew there would be rain and cold on the weekend. I pushed myself to work outside as much as possible, and now I’m really achy and sore. It’s a good kind of achy, though. It’s the kind that makes me say to myself, “Hey, self, you’ve really accomplished a lot. You’ve earned a rest.” A rest, and a little ibuprofen, and coffee, and peanut m&ms. Right? Right.

During those two nice days I got outside and dumped compost on several sections of garden. I pulled up a lot of creeping ivy (Jenny or Charlie? Don’t know, don’t care), and spread the compost where the ivy had been.

The barrel near the garden edge is planted with spinach now. This barrel, scavenged from my old office before it could hit the dumpster, has grown kale, parsley, and more. This year it’s spinach. Lettuce is ready to grow in a long and thin planter that hangs off the deck railing. That’s an easy location; we can step outside and gather a little for a salad or sandwich any time we want it. Fresh lettuce: yum!

I have some larger pots ready to host peppers (jalapeno, mainly) and cherry tomatoes. The weather isn’t consistent enough to put them out yet, but when it warms up mid-May, I’ll be ready.

Meanwhile, I’ve left Earth Month recommendations behind, but I’m practicing what I preach by preparing to be a little more sustainable every day. Hey, readers, have you started playing in the dirt yet? What are you doing outside?

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Spring Show Weekend!

Let’s take a weekend off from Earth Month and look at what’s going on around the O.K. Chorale. Chuck’s spring model train show is done, and we were all focused on the barbershop chorus’ spring show. This is a Big Deal. Pre-pandemic, the guys would put on two performances – an afternoon and an evening show, often selling out one or both. Then came Covid19.

Covid19 cancelled everything. Shows, rehearsals, social gatherings, and the works. Singing was a super spreader event, so in-person anything was off the calendar completely. Eventually, Zoom rehearsals and social events began. After a long, long stretch of rehearsing through their computer screens, the guys were able to gather and sing – as long as they wore masks. Vaccines became available. Virus numbers went down. Concerts became possible once again.

In 2022, the spring show came back. Yesterday, the 2023 spring show came back with a full crowd and a great concert. They had a James Bond parody theme called James Blond; Anyone Does it Better. The bumbling James staggered his way through a casino, totaled the Aston Martin, and gave an excuse for lots of songs. The audience loved every minute.

It’s a post-pandemic relief to have the chorus on stage again. This is a bunch of amateurs who love to sing and do it pretty darn well. Amigo thrives in the group, as do many, many others. We are all very grateful to have this part of our lives back in place.

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And more Earth Month! Go, Green Freaks!

From Earth Month Challenge: 30 Easy Actions:  

Day 14:  Read the Directions on Products

By reading the directions, you can avoid overuse. For example, you probably don’t need as much detergent in the laundry as you think you need.

But I’m not focused on reading packages (or manuals) right now. We are having a rare streak of warm, very warm days, and I’m getting outside every chance I get to do yard work and garden prep. So far today, I’ve loaded up a few large containers (five gallon ceramic crocks, for example) with yard waste and compost. This fills each one about half way. The rest will be potting soil, and I will transplant pepper plants and cherry tomatoes into these containers so they’re easily accessible for cooking and salad-making.

On that note, I wish I could find the manual for the worm farm set-up sitting in my garage. It’s a perfect example of good intentions being the way to you know where. In a handbasket, no doubt.

Stay tuned for more eco-friendly actions throughout April – or go to Treehugger yourself!

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Earth Month: No Food Waste Today

From Earth Month Challenge: 30 Easy Actions:  

Day 13: Have a Zero Waste Food Day.

This one will take some focus. I’ve never insisted my family “clean their plates” if they’re not hungry, but I can still address Zero Food Waste. Come to think of it, my habit of using the last drops of leftover coffee to water my plants prevents dumping it down the drain. That counts. A few more suggestions:

  • Serve realistic portions.
  • Save leftovers to eat or add to another leftover later.
  • Serve carrots scrubbed, not peeled.
  • Save odd scraps for broth.

It’s all fairly practical. We can do this.

Stay tuned for more eco-friendly actions throughout April – or go to Treehugger yourself!

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Earth Month: Day 10 – Laundry!

From Earth Month Challenge: 30 Easy Actions:  

I hinted earlier that I addressed Day 10 a bit early because it was laundry day. Day 10’s action suggests that we Think About Air Drying. I’m glad Treehugger said “Think” because I just don’t need to feel guilty about not having a clothesline. With the environmental allergies in my family, there is no way I can hang sheets and most clothing outdoors to dry.

I can, however, use a drying rack indoors for a lot of our laundry. One of my habits is to wash jeans and heavy items first, hang them to dry during the rest of the process, and put them in the dryer last. By then they’re partially dry. The jeans won’t shrink as much, the wear and tear is minimized, and they’ll dry faster, too. The drying process adds a bit of humidity to the indoor air, too. What’s not to love? All in all, it works for me.

When my dryer was on the fritz and we could only use it for short periods of time, I was hanging everything on drying racks and dressers and end tables to shorten the machine drying time. It was a bother, but I realized I could do this if I had to. I’m grateful, though, that I don’t have to hang everything every time. I’ll keep air drying jeans and heavy sweaters to save energy and save wear and tear on the clothes.

Stay tuned for more eco-friendly actions throughout April – or go to Treehugger yourself!

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Catching Up With Earth Month

I posted Treehugger’s suggestions for April 1 – 5, and then got lost in real life. Here we go; days 6, 7, and 8 of Earth Month’s actions.

From Earth Month Challenge: 30 Easy Actions:  

April 6: Check for leaky faucets. One dripping faucet can waste a lot of water – treated water. This is an environmental and frugal action. Check the faucets and the toilets for leaks!

April 7: Cook pasta in its sauce, not water. This, again, is a water saving and money saving action. I’ll add my own suggestion: use homemade broth for cooking pasta – or rice. It adds a hint of flavor and uses a resource that’s available and created from potential waste products. At least, my broths are made from scraps that would otherwise land in the compost.

April 8, today: Skip meat and cheese for a day. This one is tougher. I can handle skipping meat or minimizing meat to a side dish portion, but cheese? I’m a true blue Wisconsinite. Cheese is everything! But since Chuck developed a lactose intolerance, we haven’t eaten as much cheese as we used to. I don’t top the spaghetti with parmesan and mozzarella automatically – just to my portion and maybe Amigo’s. And where do eggs stand in this challenge? I had leftover rice and beans with fried eggs for lunch. Delicious! I need to give this some thought.

Stay tuned for more eco-friendly actions throughout April – or go to Treehugger yourself!

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And More Earth Month!

From Earth Month Challenge: 30 Easy Actions:  

Today’s advice is interesting: Read an owner’s manual.

Indeed. I do keep mine. I have a stack of manuals in a cupboard, just in case I need them for reference. Appliances, especially the big ones, operate more efficiently when used according to directions. What a concept! I’m still learning the details of my new dryer so I can waste less energy heating it. Reviewing the manual helps me choose the best settings to do that.

Stay tuned for more eco-friendly actions throughout April – or go to Treehugger yourself!

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Earth Month: Day 3

From Earth Month Challenge: 30 Easy Actions:  

Today’s action is easy: turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. Fellow green-conscious types probably already do this. Folks who brush their teeth twice a day can save up to eight gallons of water this way.

Handle the challenge the way you might if you were camping. Grab your cup full of bottled or boiled water, and use that to rinse after brushing. Task accomplished – without wasting treated water down the drain unnecessarily.

Try it, folks. We can make a difference.

Stay tuned for more eco-friendly actions throughout April – or go to Treehugger yourself!

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