Eat, drink, (garden, knit, quilt, think, fix, read) & be merry

2012 in partial review.


Blueberry picking in July.  Life doesn’t get much better.


I shook hands with Bill Ny*e!


I gave up growing carrots because of root knot nematodes (which result in carrots like those above)


But then I accidentally grew these.  Aren’t they gorgeous?


We went to Red*wood National Park.  This fulfilled a childhood dream.  Amazing.


It was the Year of the Fruit in my garden.  70+ lbs of strawberries, rivers of raspberries, and even some blueberries (but those ones at the top were picked at a PYO farm)


Diablo cosmos stole the garden show this year.  The bees loved them, as did I.


A childhood friend got married and had a potluck reception.  I adore potluck receptions.  YUMMY.  I made this lovely fruit salad with heart-shaped watermelon slices and edible flowers from my garden.


I finally graduated from college!


I did this at a county fair.  No regrets.


I learned how to make bath bombs.  And bath salts (not the scary kind).  And body butter.  It’s been a good year in the homemade cosmetics department.


My soybeans nodulated beautifully.  Lots o’ nitrogen fixing going on in those bumps (a non-nitrogen fixing plant shown for comparison above).


The garden.


Sorry for the crummy photo.  It’s dark.  Anyway, I’ve been experimenting with various terrariums.  They’re much more aesthetically appealing in real life.  Promise.


I ruthlessly battled japanese beetles.  They loved my roses, and demolished the flowers before the buds even opened.  Sigh.


Ellie and I did a lot of knitting.  And she developed some very expensive health problems (entirely unrelated to the knitting).  Fortunately, they seem to be under control and the medication itself is very affordable.


We did a great deal of cooking, baking, and eating.  These cuties are homemade ice cream sandwiches made to commemorate P’s 31st birthday.  One is chocolate basil and the other is coffee chocolate.  SO GOOD.

Raptor Release

Raptor Release

We attended a raptor release this fall.  Several hawks, two bald eagles, a peregrine falcon and other rehabilitated birds were released to the skies.  A very moving event.

We also remodeled our bathroom, I started grad school, and we traveled to Mexico and the Redwoods.  But this is a start.  Cheers, friends!  I hope to be back several more times before school resumes in early January.



Hey friends.

The business and busyness of school has started.  But that’s boring.  So let’s talk about something else.  Here’s a little photo catchup.

Scores of bees have been visiting the gardens.  This photo was taken on P’s birthday when we took our birthday breakfast out to the patio and welcomed the day with the bees merrily collecting the nectar and pollen.  This striking flower is the Diablo Cosmos from See*d Savers.  They were planted in a sandy, barren patch of sand and they’ve put forth weeks of prolific blooms.  They’d look a lot nicer if I cared enough to deadhead them, but I don’t have time for fussing.  I’ll grow these again.










Speaking of the patio/pergola, here it is, ready for a dinner with some friends.  Lovely, isn’t it?  Next year it will be covered with hop vines.  


The garlic was harvested late.  And then it sat curing in the garage for months.  I finally got around to cleaning it a few weeks ago.  Disease damaged many of the heads (not sure what it was yet), but they’re still edible.   Last year we grew enough to last us the entire year.  This year we’ll probably fall short.  So it goes.


Here’s the seed garlic, all ready to go back into the ground in about a month.  I do think I got enough seed garlic.  Thank goodness!


I made another pillowcase for a birthday present.  Isn’t it cheerful?


Well, that’s enough procrastinating for now.  Back to the homework!


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Berries and Bombs

Remember when the strawberry patch looked like this?

I finally did a little rejuvenation and it looks much tidier, don’t you think?

Strawberries spread aggressively by stolons and they will take over if they’re not regularly thinned.  They also don’t produce as well when they’re over crowded.  Don’t be shy when thinning, be ruthless.  They’ll fill back in… and then some.  Believe it or not, I started this patch with just four crowns two years ago.  Last year I pulled out nearly 100 extra plants and I didn’t even bother to count this year.  But it was a lot!

Now that strawberry season is over, the raspberries are coming in.  I like strawberries but I love raspberries.  My dad used to take me out to pick wild raspberries and sitting on the soft earth with the sun at my back, smelling ripe raspberries is one of the purest pleasures in life.  Most of these don’t even make it into the house.

And I made lavender bath fizzies using this recipe.  Swoon.  What’s that?  It’s summer, you say?  Well, our (only) bathroom is under construction and we can only take baths.  So these will probably be used up in no time flat.  They’re ridiculously simple, however, and I will be making more.  I suggest you do, too!

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For the love of lavender

This past winter marks the second winter lavender has successfully wintered in my zone four garden.  I had an abundance of blooms this year and here is the recipe for one project.  Unphotgraphed uses included lavender sachets, bottles, sugar, baths, and general enjoyment.

First the stems had to be picked just before the blooms opened.  The buds are deep purple but they’re still buds.  I have another variety that flowered so quickly I wasn’t able the harvest in time and I had to just enjoy it in the garden.  The buds retain their color and fragrance better than opened flowers.

Once the harvested stems had dried I stripped off the buds.  It’s tedious work, but I just picked up a stem here and there for several days and managed it with very little direct effort.  Now you can use the lovely lavender for whatever you want!

I made ice cream!  I brought 2T lavender buds, a 1/3C honey, and 3 C cream to a boil and then let it cool, stirring occasionally, to room temperature.  I put it in the refrigerator overnight and strained out the buds.  I wisked 1 C milk, 1/2 C sugar, and a splash of vanilla into the cream and put it into the ice cream maker for 25 minutes.  The soft mixture is then frozen for 12 hours and voila!  Honeyed lavender ice cream.  Delightful.

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A Homemade Christmas

We had such a lovely holiday.  We had mountains of delicious food, cookies galore, and so many dear friends and family from both near and far.  Many of the gifts given and received were both thoughtful and homemade.  Let me share a few highlights.

P and I made and decorated sugar cookies using this recipe.  So, so good.

We made mint slice biscuits using this recipe, but omitting the chocolate coating.  They’re pretty good, although they’re a lot of work.

P’s family did a holiday gift basket exchange instead of individual gifts.  It was so much fun to put together a single basket rather than running around town to buy gifts for a dozen people.  I made a basket with a “winter warmer” theme and put in a handknit scarf, brownie mix in a jar, homemade hot cocoa mix, alcoholic whipped cream, beeswax candles, and a bottle of irish cream.  It was the one of the most frequently stolen basket during the swap, so I think it was a hit!

I made the beeswax candles from beeswax I brought back from Peru.  They smell divine.

The hot cocoa mix is made using unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla sugar, salt, cayenne, and a little cornstarch.  I no longer buy commercial hot chocolate mix because this is tastier and more affordable!  The “brownies in a jar” recipe is found here.

My sister made this wonderful peppermint sugar body scrub.  I can’t wait to try it – yum!

My foster mom made these awesome pillowcases for everyone in the family.  Mine is this fantastic mushroom fabric.  I love it so!

P and my foster mom share a love of baseball, so it’s only fitting that his pillowcase is made from baseball fabric.

What were your holiday highlights this year?

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Oyster Mushrooms!

I just stepped outside and saw this









Our oyster logs, inoculated waaaaay back in March, are fruiting!  We’ll be having homegrown mushrooms for dinner.  Awesome!

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Down but not out

Oy Vey!  This semester is a doozie.  I’ve either been in class 4-5 hours a day or working every day since… before Labor Day.  But let’s not think about such things.  Let us, for the sake of sanity, think about other things.  Wonderful things like…

Lard!  After some serious hunting around town I managed to track down some pure, unhydrogenated lard with no additives (and cost less than $8+/lb).  That stuff is hard to find.  But it’s worth it…

Have you ever had lard pie crusts?  Divine.  Rich, flakey, and easy to roll out.  We even made some teeny, tiny mason jar pies like this.

But lard has so many other good uses, too, including a batch of homemade soap.  I’ve made two in the past few weeks, but only one (on the left) has lard.  They’re both enriched with coconut, hemp, and cocoa oils to combat winter dryness.

Let’s think about apple picking…

and canning…

and freezing lots of produce.

Let’s think about knitting…

and knitting (this color show a brown hat.  It’s actually a lovely green)…

a wee bit of crochet.  I think I’ve been using the knitting needles for stress relief.  Fortunately, no one has been hurt.  Yet.

Let’s think about harvesting…

bok choi…


winter squash…

sweet potatoes (!!!)….

and watermelons.

While thinking about winter, I bound a piece of wool for a nice winter blanket.  It’s already in heavy rotation around here.

I made some spore prints to verify that our Garden Giant mushrooms were actually what I thought they were.  All tests checked out and we ate them right up.  Yummy!  We’d eat more but the squirrels keep digging up the mushroom bed to plant their fall harvests.

We took a little trip to visit P’s grandma for her 80th birthday party.  Fun was had by all.  These bottles were in the restaurant and, thinking they were silly things, we picked them up for a photo.  They were made of glass and filled with liquid.  SO HEAVY!  But hilarious nonetheless.

I’ve even found a few minutes to enjoy the late fall garden

Sunflower Heliopsis


Jacob’s Ladder

and some lovely roses.  As a side note, this rose plant came to me free last year because it was so poorly pruned and heavily diseased.  A little TLC this year and I’ve been richly rewarded.

And, sadly, now it’s time to think about homework.

*I was super geeked out to find rhizobia nodules on the roots of the soybeans.  If you’re wondering, it a bacteria that lives in symbiosis with legumes (beans/peas/etc) and allows the plant to get its’ nitrogen needs from the air rather than the soil.  A huge advantage and much exploited in organic farming.

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What’s Up?

I love summer, even if it doesn’t include much blogging time.  I have managed to snap a few photos of what’s happening around here.

My ten year high school reunion!  Here is P and I all ready to get drunk at noon on a Saturday.  I was hung over by 10pm, and felt like a million bucks by 6:30am Sunday morning.  Sure glad we don’t do that every weekend.

Homemade caramelized onion, beet, and goat cheese pizza.  We grew the onions and beets!  But not the goats, unfortunately.

P has been up to his eyeballs in house projects.  Most recently he’s replacing our 80+ year old windows.  We’re sad to see them go, as they’re gorgeous, but they just don’t hold in enough heat during our brutal winters.  They’re also going to get new (homemade) curtains – one day.

The garlic has been grown, harvested, and now cleaned and stored.  We got over 80 heads when all was said and done.  I put away 15 heads for planting this fall and we’ve been steadily eating the rest.  It’s our first crop in our new house, and it was a bountiful one.  I think that bodes well.

We went to a potluck BBQ this past weekend and I, thanks to Cook’s Country, made these super fun hostess cupcake knockoffs.  They’re filled and everything!  Someone even thought I bought cupcakes, unwrapped them, and served them.  haha.  The most remarkable part – they tasted very similar, in both flavor and texture, to the originals.  But they had real ingredients, which counts for something, right?

I’ve been drying all kinds of herbs from the garden.  Here a bunch of mint is drying out for tea.  There is also sage, thyme, oregano, and basil hanging from hooks in the kitchen.

We harvested potatoes the other day – about 13 pounds of them!  Aren’t they beautiful?  There are Purple Viking, All Blues, and Carola (I think?).  We still have about 2/3rds of the patch to dig up, so I’m hoping for a 40 pound harvest from our little 20 square foot potato plot.

This one was so fun to find – a 1 pound purple potato!!  You’d never find this in a store.  Too much fun.

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Oh, Summer.

I don’t know about you, but I seem to have a hard time blogging when summer is around.  It’s just so distracting – and short.  It’s really too bad because summer is when there are so many interesting things to blog about…

Recently we had a glut of small onions from thinning the onion patch.  And so I made caramelized onions.

I used the paella pan as I needed maximum surface area to facilitate evaporation.  I used a mix of fats (butter and olive oil) totaling 1 Tablespoon for every two cups of onions.

At first, they barely fit in the pan, but soon they started cooking down…

and down….

and down…  Although I was so excited about eating them, I didn’t get a final picture.

After 2 hours, the giant pile of onions had cooked down to two cups.  They were a rich brown and very sweet.  I say “were” because they are no more.  We ate them in crepes with goat cheese, spread on sandwiches and in hot dogs.  I froze a bit of them to use on some pizzas.  Delicious!  What’s your favorite thing to do with caramelized onions?


100! My, where as the time gone?

Why hello there, friends.  It’s been a while, although I certainly didn’t mean to be gone this long.  Every single time I’ve tried to start a post in the past few weeks, wordpress has reminded me this is post 100!  I kept thinking I needed something more… exciting… and kept walking away meaning to do it better next time.  Well, sometimes you’ve just got to forge ahead.

So much has gone on I’m not even sure where to start.  I hope to be back soon to post some pictures of all the house projects, garden projects, craft projects, etc.  But for today, I’ve got a pic of the enormous garlic our garden is growing right now.  We have almost 60 bulbs planted.  I’m hoping for a good harvest in a few weeks!

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