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Archive for October, 2012

Trick or Treat!

Enjoy our Trick or Treating photos from the last few years as you’re eating your Halloween candy!

Batman, Robin, and a puppy… 2008

Star Wars (Yoda, Ewok, Storm Trooper, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Darth Maul ) 2009

Mystery, Inc.  (Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Fred, a Werewolf, Daphne, and Velma) 2010

The Avengers (Spiderman, Nick Fury, Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man) 2011

Do you dress up for Trick or Treating?  Or do you turn off the porch light?!

 

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Long time gardeners will know the drill. There’s no such thing as this year’s garden. Practically the week it goes in, you’re already planning what you’re going to do next year.

Or, more to the point, what you’re not going to do.

For instance, there’s the successive harvest I was planning for the corn. Except I forgot to plant it successively, so it all ripened at once. That is, all of it except the third of the crop that I killed when I tested doing insecticidal spray for the corn beetles and ear wigs. Turns out insecticidal spray destroys the fibers and the the stalks flop over.

As usual, I tried using the power of positive thinking on the critters, and decided that my force of will would be effective in keeping the rabbits away. What this means is that I was putting up fencing around mature plants, and wasn’t really able to effectively plan for such niceties as gates. Did a lot of high stepping over fencing.

You know how much fun it is to try a lot of different tomato types? Don’t do half your crop in unknown varieties the same year that you cut your planting in half. I usually put in 25 tomatoes; this year I only planted 14, and 8 of them were unknown golds. None of which were any good. So I’ve ended up with only about a third of my normal harvest and ended up supplementing my canning with (gasp, the horror) purchased tomatoes.

I generally water by hand, using the water that’s filled up in the rain barrels in spring and early summer. Of course when it doesn’t rain during the spring and early summer, this does not mean you don’t water. Well, it shouldn’t mean you don’t water. Sadly, it took me several weeks of spotty watering to catch on to the whole “drought” concept. The rain barrels did not fill until late August.

Turns out you shouldn’t prune tomatillos. Who knew.

So what am I doing next year? Well, I was going to skip corn, but I really love growing corn, so I’ll just grow less. Back to tried and true tomatoes. I’m going to figure out proper fencing (I say this every year. I never do it.)

Remember what I said about next year’s garden? I’m already over it. On to 2014!

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October has been a busy month around here. One of the projects I have taken on is raising my raised bed – higher. You can see in the photo below that I have finished about half of the beds. I was really pushing to get them all done before I left for Minnesota and Wisconsin, but that just didn’t happen. In fact, I still haven’t finished them.

Raising the beds higher

I have two full beds of pepper still growing and producing, and I can’t bring myself to pull them out just to finished those two beds. I haven’t been able to find onion sets to plant yet, and usually don’t plant those for another 2-4 weeks anyway, so the peppers can keep on growing.  The seeds I have started (winter veg) are so far behind that I broke down (again – happened last year too) and bought things from a local nursery so I could get some of the beds planted and started before I left town. We have been still quite warm here (high 80’sF) with warm nights in the 70’s and very humid over the past few weeks. I haven’t even thought to start lettuce yet, but that’s alright, some of the volunteers are coming up in the walkways between the beds and I have transplanted them. They are growing really well and I can start picking lettuce!

planting some winter veg

The cabbage, lettuce and broccoli in the photo above where planted 2 weeks ago and are growing really well. They are growing so well that you can’t even see much of the exposed dirt anymore, they are filling out nicely!

Time to harvest the lemon grass (and some comfrey too)

I have epazote (above) that has gone to seed and lemongrass that still needs to be harvested. The comfrey is looking very very happy with the cooler temps of fall. All of my herbs have really perked up after a long, hot, dry summer. I have taken cuttings from some of them and they are ready to get planted around the various herb and flower gardens. Little by little I will take more cuttings of the different herbs to use for plants swaps and also around my gardens.

Peppers are still growing

The pepper plants are also thriving in the cooler temps. I am always thrilled if I can keep the plants alive through the hot summer months because I know once the temps get into the low 90’s and 80’s that those plants will just take off and go wild. They haven’t proven me wrong this fall and I have a counter full of peppers. The hyacinth bean vine is also showing off, finally. It grows well in the hot summer months here, but it doesn’t bloom until late September or early October. Sometimes I get frustrated waiting, but when the temps drop (again, below the high 90’s) the vines really improve overall and the flowers start blooming.

I have many more things to plant and look forward to a wonderful fall/winter garden.

Thursday night we dipped down to 60F (I know that would be a heatwave for those of you living in the north part of the Northern Hemisphere) and all day Friday we hovered around 60F. I finally feel fall!

What is growing in your garden right now?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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I want a pair of pink socks. I need them, because the ones I have are the ankle kind, and I can’t wear them with winter shoes.

Truly, I would wear them a lot. I love the color pink, right down (up?) to my hair. Plus, right now, when I’m wearing a pink shirt, I don’t have the requisite socks that fashion says I must wear with them.

Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it.

But this is why America is wall-to-wall storage bins. It’s why your credit card bill looks like that. It’s what fills the Wal Marts of the world.

Our consumerist society has conflated these terms, where wanting something becomes equivalent to needing it. Just ask anyone on an iPhone line.

Next time you think to yourself, hey! I don’t have such-and-such an item, I need that! think about it. First, do you really not have it? I don’t have a stand mixer. But I do have an excellent hand mixer that so far has been adequate for everything I’ve been baking. My failures at this have never been the fault of the equipment, sadly.

Second, if you really don’t have it, do you actually need it? Or do you just want it. My family’s shopping mantra is “well, we’ve lived without it this long.

As we move into the most consumptive season of our consumptive society, make sure that you aren’t confusing “want” and “need.” If you want it, fine. Buy it. But don’t kid yourself that you must have it.

After all, you’ve lived without it this long.

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I have zucchini. This is happiness to me.

The story is, I can’t seem to grow zucchini at all. The dang squash vine borers are horrible. So I out smarted them and planted zucchini in my neighbors garden.

We watched the plant grown and develop beautiful leaves. Watched the flowers open and then the little zucchinis start to develop. In the blink of an eye – shazam – it was time to harvest (you know how sneaky that zucchini can be!)  The plants are loaded and I had to leave town! No kidding. All that waiting. The thrill to watch the zucchini start to develop and grow… and I leave town. My neighbors aren’t interested in eating zucchini, in fact, they have never had it before, but they will pick and shred it for me while I am gone.

So, I promise to bake them zucchini bread. I promise to stir fry some for them. Promise Promise promise. It will be great (I love zucchini!) I picked the zucchini in the above photo the day before I left town. I shredded them and stashed it in the freezer.

I am dreaming of zucchini fritters or poor mans crab cakes. I am dreaming of zucchini in my spaghetti sauce. Oh, I am dreaming of zucchini bread.

How are you preserving your fall harvests? How about your zucchini… How do you preserve that so you can use it later?

Sincerely, Emily

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Short days, wet patio, warm blankets and hot mulled cider: it’s Fall, y’all which means TIME TO KNIT!

I’ve got two new knitting books checked out from the library for inspiration and am trying my hardest to finish this last pair of socks so that i can dig into Christmas projects and some warm clothes for personal use. On my list to make this season: mug coozies, leg warmers, fingerless mitts, mittens and a bunch of baby things like socks, bonnets and toys. I love knitting stuff for others, and love it even more when i get all those gift projects finished and can work on stuff for me! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

After all, knitting for yourself is the best way to learn. If you keep giving away all your finished knits, you have no idea how they wear: comfie, itchy, good, bad, long lasting, etc. My last project was an experiment that failed, and i’m okay with that. Plus, now i have yarn available for another project after i rip out this non-cowl.

What sort of projects are you looking forward to working on this fall? Do you knit, quilt or sew? Do you like making things for yourself or others more?

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Today the horses got special visit at the farm! Doctor Katy, a local equine chiropractor and childhood friend of mine, came out to do some chiropractic work on a few of my horses as well as some of the boarders horses.

For those of you who are not familiar with horses, chiropractic is not particularly common in the horse world. It certainly has become common for me, as I have seven school horses who work several hours a week for me, toting and teaching young and old riders alike. Those girls (the horses – I own all mares) are such incredibly patient and skilled teachers that I feel that the least I can do is make them comfortable and keep them moving soundly.

The chiropractor does both subtle and larger adjustments on the horses, and it’s always fascinating to watch a non-verbal creature communicate so clearly before and after the adjustments. Generally Dr. Katy will find a spot that is malaligned. She will ready the horse for the adjustment and the horse will pin her ears and look apprehensive. Once Dr. Katy has made her adjustment, however, the horse will lower her head and lick and chew, showing that she is relaxing and enjoying herself.

My sweet horses are simultaneously like employees and companions. In both senses, it’s important to me to keep them happy.

Have you ever used an alternative medicine to “modern” treatment? Have you ever used it on an animal?

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Weekend Fun

So, the husband has a bit of an Ebay addiction…   A few weeks ago, he took #1, and they drove to Iowa to pick up this beauty.  (It’s kind of hard to see in the photo, but it’s a shuffleboard type bowling game from the 50’s?)

That left the younger 3 and me alone for the weekend.  It was an absolutely gorgeous couple of days, so we took advantage of the weather & went out and had some fun!

First on the agenda was the Homecoming parade.  The entire school system is released from school early for the big event!  As a friend stated on Facebook, “If our Homecoming parade isn’t a big old slice of Americana, I don’t know what is.”

We enjoyed the parade with friends.  All of the kids hit the jackpot with the candy!  The theme of the floats was “The Avengers”, so #4 collected his candy in his Iron Man helmet!  He was thrilled to see Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Spiderman.  (You would’ve thought we were at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade!)

Following the parade, we went home to a night of popcorn and candy (of course!), and had a sleepover in our “Fun Room” (which is what we call our family room/rec room).

We were up early Saturday am for #2’s soccer game.  He did a great job, scoring 4 goals, including one for the other team (which has kind of become his signature move!).  His other signature move has been making silly faces for the camera!

After soccer, we headed to our local Farmers Market.  Because we travel for work most weekends during the summer, this is the first weekend we’ve been able to go.  I was so excited!  The weather was perfect, the boys were good, and there were so many good vendors there.  We are truly blessed in our area!  I scored some local raw honey, spaghetti squash, a cantaloupe, 3 native plants for our yard, and a few new flavors of tea to try.  My two favorites of the day were honey crisp apples, and homemade tomales and salsa from a local vendor (our lunch!).

After lunch, we ran a few errands, then met some friends at Sugar Bean Cupcakes for their fall festival.  The boys and I tried Lemon Drop, Red Velvet, French Toast, and Carmel Apple.  Needless to say, a great time was had by all!

The boys fell asleep on the way home, which gave me a nice, quiet drive to  Harvestland, another source for local food I’ve recently discovered.  They “produce organically grown food, while also providing employment for disadvantaged individuals”, according to their website.  I’ve bought from them several times at various farmers markets, etc., but it was nice to go to their actual location to check things out (and snap a few pictures!).

After being gone all day, we headed home to clean the house before dad and big brother returned from their road trip!  Have you had any fun weekends recently?

 

 

 

 

 

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I confess. When Michelle Obama was in Chicago a few months ago, and visited Walgreens, I stood in front of the television yelling at her.

Why was Michelle Obama, of all people, in Chicago-city of neighborhoods, home of the nation’s most diverse ethnic population, in the middle of the richest farmland in the world, and leader of the WW2 Victory Gardens movement-standing in some anonymous Walgreens, praising them for importing tomatoes from Chile.

Why was she not walking down Clark Street in Rogers Park, where there are probably 15 locally-owned mercados featuring produce raised locally, and run by families living in the neighborhood. Why was she not on Devon Avenue in the 40th ward, another strip of vibrant local economy? How about 57th Street in her own neighborhood, and home, until the big boxes shut it down, of the famous 57th Street Food Co-op? In Chicago “food desert” doesn’t mean no grocery stores– statutorily it means no big national chain stores. So you get the absurdity of the Albany Park “food desert” where there are at least 6 full service, locally-owned grocery stores within 5 blocks of the main intersection at Lawrence and Kedzie.

The solution to healthy food systems and urban vitality is not another vast parking lot, where private security will boot your car if you so much as step onto the sidewalk to mail a letter, but small, locally owned grocery stores, with sensible inspection protocols, and family management.

After the ’68 riots, Chicago let its local economies die. Where once there were dozens of family businesses keeping the neighborhoods, especially the African-American neighborhoods alive, a decades-long shibboleth has been sold us, teaching us that “business” happens on Wall Street or LaSalle Street, over-regulating small businesses while letting the big guys get away with murder and the family silver, and selling our own livelihoods back to us in Big Boxes stocked with the fruits of foreign slave labor. We’ve been spoon fed the lie that a “small business” is someone with 5 million dollars in annual sales, and 250 employees. That’s not a “small business.” A small business is the corner store (NOT the 7-11, but the old-fashioned Mr. Gower-type of store), or the local nfp animal rescue, or the neighborhood clinic.

Once “business” is what your grandpa did, in his shop around the corner from his house, or downstairs from his apartment. You worked there on the weekends and after school, learning how to run a business, a business that you would take over, when your grandpa and your pa got too old. We’ve let not one, or two, but now three generations of business acumen just die in service to the supposed “efficiency” and low prices of Walmart and its ilk.

Walgreen’s is not the answer to food deserts or to sustainable economies. Walgreen’s is the problem. Bring back the neighborhood pharmacists, tailors, shoe repairs, appliance repairs, and grocers.

A coalition of local food activists agrees with me. They’ve created the Statement of Local Food Economy (pdf). You can sign the statement, too. Also- World Food Day.

Originally posted on Mahlzeit blog in 2010.

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When we were in England this past summer I took many photos of flowers. I used one of them for a Sunday Photos post, but could not seem to identify it.

I though it looked like it came from the aster family, but an internet search didn’t get me anywhere and I sort of gave up. It was pretty and that was enough.

A few days ago I was going through a stack of herb books reading and studying bits about Elderberry in preparation for a presentation in January (elderberry is herb of the year for 2012.) I was reading through the cold and flu section and ended up turning the page, making my way through hay fever and into lung congestion. Each page has a drawing of a different herb relevant to the topic.  I glanced at the drawing, went on to read a few words and went back to the drawing. That’s it! That was the flower!

Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Family: Asteraceae (formerly Comporitea)

Also known as: Yellow Starwort, Elfdock, Elfwort, Horse-elder, Horseheal, Scabwort,  Velvet Dock, Wild Sunflower, Indian Elecampane, Aster helenium, Anee, Helenium grandiflorum

  • Zones: 6-9
  • Perennial
  • Height: 3′ – 6′, but I have also seen references claiming 8′-10′
  • Bloom: will start blooming the second year
  • Prefers fairly rich, moist clay loam with an acid pH, full sun or partial shade (I’m going to guess that it would prefer some afternoon shade here in S. Texas)
  • Herb  -parts used: root/rhizomes
  • Native to: Southeastern Europe and western Asia, the herb has since been introduced to many temperate regions, including parts of North America

According to Herbs for Health and Healing by Kathi Keville, elecampane was used, up until, 1920, as a common flavoring in English sugar cakes and was itself sold as a candied treat. The book goes onto say that people with asthma would chew a piece every morning and evening, and people passing  by a polluted waterway would chew a piece of the root to keep their lungs from becoming irritates or infected.

I remember this beautiful flower (and now I know it is an herb) growing up against one of the walls at Sudeley Castle in England. I loved the contrast of its lush green leaves and bright yellow flowers against the beautiful old stone wall. Now that I have identified it, I will be looking for some seeds to plant some in my gardens.

Do you grow elecampane in your garden?

Sincerely, Emily

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