Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chickens in the garden; shoo, chickens, shoo!

I just went out to shoo the chickens out of our new "garden" (containers on the driveway). I brought my camera along, because I keep forgetting to photograph this garden. The chickens had destroyed the box of chamomile, but everything else survived.

Miscellaneous pots and containers. See the pile of abandoned leaves we never managed to remove this spring? That's what invited the chicken-scratching trouble.

Full of vines that are going to need support soon.

The box that started it all. It's this great old trough-type thing I got at a barn sale once, and have tried to plant before near the house, with little success. Newly-drilled drainage holes and a new spot on this driveway, and it's now full of happy-looking bean plants. Once it was in the driveway, all lonely and small-looking, it needed some company.

I'm happy with my new labels. So far, everything I've tried has become illegible over the summer. But this time I used my new-favorite paint pens (thanks, Carol!) on some beach rocks, and so far, so good!

Returning to the chicken coop, I found no eggs for the day. Uh, oh. What other trouble have you ladies been up to today?

Found them in the herb garden, in the trampled echinacea. Oh, well. I love them all the same.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Independence Days challenge: enjoying the last of the strawberries

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

2. Harvest something:
Eggs. A few black-cap raspberries. A couple peas.
And this is why I need a farm share! Here's one day's "harvest" from my yard:

Now, granted, this was unusually small (and I could have added some greens, but it was farm pick-up day, so they were certainly not needed). But we don't get a whole lot more even on good days! Still working on that. In the meantime, our "harvest" comes mostly from local farms. At our CSA this week, we picked the last of the peas (not nearly as many as I'd have liked to, as we were on toddler-at-the-end-of-the-day time). And we returned to the berry farm and picked 6 more quarts (would have liked to get more, but the pickins were slim this week). While there, we also gathered some red clover growing in the blueberry-field paths.

3. Preserve something:
Dried 1 pt. red clover and 1 1/2 pts. strawberries. Froze 1/2 pint garlic scape pesto, 1 1/2 qts. veggie stock, and 4 pints snap peas.

4. Waste not:
I seem to always skip this section, because we don't do anything noteworthy, just what's become habit. But maybe it's worth mentioning some of it anyway. What comes quickly to mind: all kitchen scraps go to the chickens; everything we can is recycled (not much, as I try to limit purchases, packaging, plastic, etc.); glass containers are re-used for storage of dry foods and leftovers; kids' wading-pool water is emptied with kid-sized watering cans to water the gardens; "craft supplies" lining the studio shelves are actually beautiful stuff saved from the trash; all laundry is line dried; we use hankies, cloth napkins, rags, cloth pads, and cloth diapers rather than disposables... That's some of it, anyway. I think we do pretty well with this.

5. Preparation and storage:
Did some tag-sale and thrift-store shopping this week and found a few basics: cotton sheets, a brand-new pair of shoes for Lucy when she's bigger, a muffin tin to replace my worn-out one (the old one went outside for the kids' mudpie play).

7. Eat the food:
The kids ate strawberry "pops" for snacks this week (the biggest strawberries, stuck on a stick and frozen), and strawberry-spinach smoothies. We ate lots of coleslaw, salads, and rice with stir-fries (mostly greens). And more radish-butter sandwiches on yummy local bread. Oh, and a strawberry cuppa-cuppa-cuppa. We've pretty much been eating strawberries for every meal.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday's Flowers: simplicity

One hydrangea bloom, all alone in a creamer.
Simple...perfect for summer.
That's my "new" strawberry tablecloth, there, too. I had a recent lucky day in the linens aisle of the thrift store. I was looking for sheets, and found 2 lovely, crisp, white, heavy cotton, vintage sheets, old but looking unused. A wash and a day on the line and now they're spotless and fresh and perfect! I also found a great floral vintage sheet and pillowcases set--the pillowcases, with a new white sheet, have made my bed all summery this week. But the best find of all was this tablecloth. Hung inside-out on a hanger in the sheets section, marked as a "full" sheet, it still couldn't hide from my vintage-tablecloth sixth sense! (And this particular store has started pricing vintage tablecloths at $15, but sheets are only $5. Score!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A peek into a morning in the purple house

I've been quieter than usual here in this space, but life has been anything but. With little time to post today, I thought I'd share just a quick peek into our day...

The day began slowly, with just a few children checking out the changes to our resident tadpole (all four legs now, and a shorter tail) and getting our first glimpse at all the river creatures we caught yesterday (the silt has finally settled and the water cleared enough for viewing). We started out with a handy identification guide, pencils, and paper:

As the house filled with more children, the table and couch filled with more evidence of our work. Out came a favorite book about frogs. Talk of frog life cycles reminded us to pull out the frog-life-cycle puzzle:

Pages filled with sketches:

Some of those pages were turned into a book (this page says "A kapl day rlr my teche had kot a talpl," or, for those not accustomed to invented spelling: "A couple days earlier my teacher had caught a tadpole."):

And then it was time for snack (morning snack that is; our day had just barely begun).

The day continued in a whirlwind, as always, and now I've got to be off to tidy it all up and prepare for tomorrow...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Independence Days challenge update: strawberries!

Apparently, I don't blog well on nice-weather weekends! (Didn't help that our camera's acting up and we got no photos of the world's most picturesque strawberry-picking day or our beach-with-friends day...) So, here it is, time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

(back from the farm, we set up outdoors to prep the strawberries for the freezer)

1. Plant something:
Hablitzia (climbing perennial spinach)--I was excited to discover a perennial-vegetable plant stand at the farmer's market this week! I asked what would grow in shade, and this is what he recommended; I remembered having read about it in my forest gardening book, once he mentioned it. I added two of them to my fledgling forest garden.

Roma tomatoes, more double yield cucumbers, and light red kidney beans from seed in pots on the driveway. (My neighbor came home from vacation, and seeing our new pots-on-driveway garden, asked if we needed any more containers. Yes, we do! She lent us two ceramic planters and a metal refrigerator drawer, so we put in more seeds. I know I'm getting a too-late start on some of these seeds, but I figure we might as well put them in and see what happens.)

(peas in our under-clothesline planter box)
2. Harvest something:
Eggs. Good King Henry, swiss chard. Chives and mint by the kids, doing their daily garden snacking. Foraged elder flowers. 15 quarts strawberries (After years of looking, we finally found organic pick-your-own strawberries on a wonderful farm. We'll be back soon; 15 quarts is not enough. But it's what Lucy could stand in the heat.) A few peas from our garden. One black-cap raspberry! :-)

3. Preserve something:
I discovered tons of elder growing at our CSA and worked up the nerve to ask if I could take some flowers. They said yes, so I made elder flower tincture. We also froze 12 quarts of the strawberries.

5. Preparation and storage:
Added a jar of water to storage.

(potatoes growing in a trash can in our garden)

6. Build community food systems:
Nothing much, though we did make plans to bring friends back to the farm to pick strawberries.

7. Eat the food:

(happy strawberry-stained baby)
Salad. Kale chips. Strawberries with corn cake (mmmm). Strawberry lemonade (lemons are my one non-local produce exception, but even still, lemonade is a rare treat for us). Tons of just-plain strawberries. Radish sandwiches. Snap peas. Lots of simple picnic-y fare.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday's Flowers: color!

The garden is finally full of color (in my garden, that means purple, yellow, orange, hot pink, and white). I just barely managed to pick today's bouquet while there was enough light to photograph it--the evening primrose have already closed up for the night--but I think it's pretty all the same.

Blooming right now outside, and in the vase for our dining room table:
day lillies
evening primrose
rose campion

Want to see more Friday's Flowers? Check out this post at FIMBY.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Going to the farm

Wednesday is quickly becoming one of our favorite days of the week, because it's the day we go to the farm. I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it feels to go to "our" farm to pick out the veggies we want, surrounded by new people we're finding we really like who share our values about local food and sustainability (and dear old friends, too!), letting Lucy play with the animals and giving her a chance to see our food growing in the fields... Oh, it's too much. I tried to capture a bit of it in photos this evening, but I didn't do it justice. You'll just have to put up with a few posts on our farm visits this summer.

The board that helps us figure out what we can get.

For the most part, we can just stuff a big huge bag with whatever we choose. Tonight, we got spinach, beets, radishes, turnips, Chinese cabbage, fennel, dill, scallions, kale, and peas.

Our little farm girl. She must have known what day it was when she reached into the drawer this morning and insistently announced "this!" as she chose her chicken shirt. (I love that they have farm-themed toys for the kids to play with while we're there.)

One of my favorite parts--shaved ice from this awesome machine! The ice is topped with fruit syrups they make themselves; I chose strawberry today. How awesome is that machine? And you've got to love a farmer who wears his baby on his back...

Lucy, heading off to the fields to pick peas.

Love this old truck!


Monday, June 14, 2010

Independence Days Challenge: garden in pots

Lavender, ready to be harvested and dried.

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something:
The kids and I planted a garden-in-pots on top of our second driveway, in one of the only tiny bits of frequent sunniness we have. I didn't have nearly enough pots for all the seeds we wanted to plant (our planned-for guerrila-gardening raised bed has been abandoned for now, as the location proved to be much shadier than we'd remembered.) But we made do with what we had, and are trying Kentucky Wonder beans, Moonglow tomatoes, Blondkopfchen tomatoes, Straight Eight cucumbers, Double Yield cucumbers, German chamomile, and Boston Yarrow squash (all of these go toward the Growing Challenge). It rained most of the week, and the beans and chamomile are already sprouting.

Chamomile sprouting. Teensy tiny seeds plus toddler hands equals very crowded seedlings!

2. Harvest something:
Eggs. Foraged elder flowers.

The herb garden, picked over by children and chickens (notice the nearly-leafless comfrey--you can tell how tall the chickens are by how high its stalk is bare).

3. Preserve something:
Froze 2 qts spinach. Drying elder flowers.

Our first tomatoes appeared this week.

5. Preparation and storage:
Added several jars of peanut butter and coconut oil to the basement, trying to restore our depleted supplies.

My potted Meyer lemon tree has doubled in size with all this rain.

7. Eat the food:
I finally made kale chips (well, I've made them in the past, but I finally made them without burning them...) and the kids loved them. Sure to become a regular lunch item. I used up some of our many frozen-last-year red peppers to make a roasted red pepper sauce for spaghetti. The kids and I ate bread with radish butter and salt (yummy for those of us who dared try it. Gotta do the 10-times-more thing for a few of them...). We're eating lots of greens, of course: salad, swiss chard, bok choy and (new at the market this week)--broccoli!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crafting rags for Craft Hope

Craft Hope Spreading seeds of hope one stitch at a time
Craft Hope is back on my sidebar, as I'm joining in again for project 8--making rags to assist in the clean-up of marine animals affected by the Gulf oil spill.

Making rags seems like such a minor thing in the face of such an incredibly devastating event. And yet...it's something. It's something concrete and proactive and easy. It may not make much of a difference, but even if I only manage to help save one animal, it will be better than sitting here fretting about it all.

I've cut up an old towel, and will be looking through receiving blankets and burp cloths for more rag-worthy material tonight (the rags will be discarded, so I'm going for quantity over quality here). I'm thinking about what else I might do to personalize them a bit--I thought maybe a stamped "thank you" on each one might be nice for the workers who'll be using them.

This is the easiest Craft Hope project yet. If you've been thinking about joining in, but haven't yet, now's the time!

And because what's a post without a photo?, here's Lucy, doing her part for marine life, too (she's feeding a seagull a sea urchin, after observing seagulls smash and eat their food on the rocks while we were on vacation).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Late-spring nature table

A visit to the river yesterday resulted in a pair of temporary visitors to our nature table:

See the muddy water there on the right? When the mud settles, you can see two teeny little fish swimming around in there. We're observing them, and drawing them in our nature journals, and trying to identify them with the help of a favorite book.

Here's our late-spring table as it stands right now:

--A blooming milkweed.
--A birds' nest we found on the ground a few years ago, holding a painted egg that was a gift to Lucy.
--A beaver-chewed stick and a stick etched with bug trails, found on walks with the kids (one boy said, on finding the bug stick: "give this to Lise; she likes bug tracks.")
--Friday's Flowers.
--A shadow box containing a dead baby snapping turtle and a snapping-turtle egg. We found these--with the clues that told the story--on our vacation. The turtle was by the side of the road, baked in the sun. I looked around for a nest, and found one--full of ripped-open eggs with cooked yolks! All around were dog footprints. We imagine the dog dug up the eggs, which baked in the sun, and one turtle escaped, but couldn't make it on its own. So for now, it's part of Lucy's book and our nature table. Though the children weren't with us when we found it, they love the story and delight in telling their parents about it.
--A beautiful piece of birch bark from a hike.
--Our temporary visitors.

Nearby, on the coffee table, is a tray of our beach treasures, sort of an extension of this little display.

What treasures have been added to your nature table recently?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Independence Days challenge: first visit to the farm

(my big huge swiss chard "plot"--but hey, I grew them from seed in my shady yard; I'm proud)

Time again for Sharon's Independence Day's Challenge:

1. Plant something:
Beans in a feeding trough atop my driveway.

2. Harvest something:
Eggs. Lettuce. Guomi berries (our first harvest from this planted-last-year bush. Each kid got to taste one.) Chives, lemon balm, thyme, parsley, lovage.

6. Build community food systems:
I went to a town meeting about some nearby fields the town wants to buy, curious about the rumor that part of it might become community gardens. So far, I was just catching up, in my ignorance. But next time, I will be a more vocal advocate.

We went to our first CSA pick up at "our" farm. (In the past, I bartered for food with a organic-farming family in my program, so didn't have need of a CSA; and when that ended, I couldn't get in to the farm I'd chosen, so I stuck with the farmer's market. But I'm thrilled to be there at last.) What an incredible place! We're very excited to meet some of "our people" there--you know, enviro-conscious, local-eating, food-preserving freaks like us. And we're thrilled for Lucy, who gets to hang out weekly with goats, ducks, and crowds of chickens, and to play on the cool play structures they've rigged up for the kids. And me, I get to eat shaved ice with maple syrup while I choose whatever goodies I want to fill my bag! Mmmm. (If I had a spare $1,500, I might have to buy one of those cool machines myself!)

7. Eat the food:
We had a giant bag full of fresh produce this week. What unusual bounty, after the winter! And we bought 6 quarts of strawberries and some asparagus this week, too, so we were in produce heaven. We ate strawberries alone, strawberry muffins, strawberry-oatmeal bake, and strawberry-chard smoothies. We ate roasted asparagus and pasta with asparagus. And fried rice with bok choy, turnips, radishes, and eggs. And green eggs with chard. And stewed rhubarb with honey. Guomi berries off the bush. Lettuce from our garden with dressing made with our herbs.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

On Mount Desert Island, the book

Here's a project I'd hoped to finish on vacation.

A big board book for Lucy, about our annual vacation.

I'd packed the blank book, glue, and double-sided tape,

bought new markers...

gathered souvenirs throughout the week...

and found a place where I could send my photos for next-day pick-up.

Their machine was down (after an hour and a half choosing and uploading and registering...).

So it didn't happen on vacation.
But I was able to get to it last night, and Lucy loves it all the same.

I get my blank board books here (I have no connection to this company, just love some of their products).

I am not a scrapbooker (as I'm sure you can see). What I am is a teller of the stories of children's lives. Lucy loves to hear her days told back to her. I designed this book around the stories I thought would stand out most to her about our trip (tossing a seagull feather into flowing water and watching mama run to bring it back, collecting treasures, watching seagulls smash mussels on the rocks, staying in a cottage...). I envision reading it again and again now, to revisit the stories, and then reading it again and again next year, in preparation for that year's trip. My best review would be her demand for "more!"

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Crochet on display

Remember my crochet class? It's over now (pooh!). And lo and behold, I actually made something! Several things, in fact. (I've got a new one in the works to show you soon.)

Last night was the annual exhibition at the Hill Institute, where I took my class. It was super hot and sticky, as well as crowded, so we didn't spend as much time looking at everything as I would have liked.

(Eric came with us, and Lucy insisted on holding both his hand and mine. See how hot she was?)
But wow. It was really impressive, all that talent gathered into one place.

One of our favorite exhibits was the handmade canoes. Gorgeous. Someday, Andi and I would love to take that class!

Lucy thought they were pretty cool, too.

The botanical drawings and paintings were another favorite of mine. Observational drawing is something I ask children to do all the time, but it's not something I feel confident doing myself. These were amazing!

Beautiful baskets of all kinds. (Why did "basket-weaving" become a joke of a class somewhere along the line? I'd love to try it.)

Many quilts of all sorts.

Two of my favorites.

The pushed-aside materials in the classrooms were just as beautiful as the displays.

Someday, I'd like to try a hand at one of these looms.

And oh, how I'd love to try hooked rugs (but they wouldn't last a second in this cats-rule house.)

Finally, we came to the crochet display. Sadly, it was the one area that hadn't been arranged beautifully to show off everyone's work. And I have to say, it was clear that mine was the work of an amateur. But still, I was proud to see my things on display. (That's my hat, sweater, and soaker on the left side of the table.)

There were many more exhibits I didn't capture well: furniture making, weaving, painting, knitting (oh, the knitting was incredible!), sewing... I can't wait to take my next class there! What should it be? (Unfortunately, I have to wait until next year. It's Andi's turn to take one next.) Meanwhile, I'm still hooking away whenever I get the chance...