Friday, August 28, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I recently read this book. It was fascinating (even if felt a bit preachy at times) and as a result of reading it I've begun to look at the things in my grocery store differently. And I've ordered some heirloom seeds for my garden next year.

Barbara Kingsolver and her family decided to live for one year on food that they either grew or raised themselves, or could find locally. This book details that year-long experiment and opens the eyes of the reader to some of the underhanded tricks of agribusiness and to the consequences of the big business conglomeration of our food sources.

If you want to go for a double whammy, I would recommend the book, In Defense of Food, as a companion. Together they may change the way you think about the food you eat.

It's funny that Time came out with an article in the Aug. 31st '09 issue titled, "The Real Cost of Cheap Food," which details some of the issues brought up in the book. I recommend the article, too, while you're at it. (The link will only take you to a picture of the cover, because at the writing of this post, this is the current issue of the magazine and so the article isn't available online yet).

So read, and then go to your local farmers market, or begin planning your garden for next year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adding Apple Jelly

Last night I added apple jelly to the list of jellies that I've made recently.

So far, between my daughter, her boyfriend, and I, we've gathered fruit for and made elderberry jelly, blackberry & elderberry jelly, and apple jelly. Still on my list of jellies to make are crabapple and apple & rosehip.

I'm running out of places to store all of the little jars. I like the small jars for jelly because they make nice little gifts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Night Life

I still live a life of begging time on my children's computers whenever I need the use of one. My computer - which broke, um, I don't even remember how long ago - is still broken.

So while my son is at work, I have stolen into his room to check email, etc., before I head off to bed. The room is dark, the window is open, and I can hear a chorus of frogs reaching me from out there, somewhere, in the darkness.

I like to go out at night and look up at the stars. The other night my son and husband and I snipped out to see if we could catch any of the Perseid meteor shower. We saw a few, quick, faint meteors, and then one bright one which streaked across the width of the sky.

And tonight there is a froggy concert.

A lot goes on around here when the sun goes down. I wonder who books the talent?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gardening Gone Wild's August Picture This Photo Contest

Gardening Gone Wild's August photo contest theme is "Down on Your Knees," encouraging gardeners to view the world from a different perspective.

Here's my photo entry, Flower Power Froggy:

To view other contest entries, visit the Gardening Gone Wild August photo entry post and view the links in the comments section.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Adventure

Yesterday my daughter and I went out in search of a crabapple tree we had spotted on the wild side of a farmer's fallow field last fall. We've recently put away several jars of elderberry jelly and wild blackberry jelly and we are anxious to get our hands on some crabapples to make our favorite jelly in the whole world.

Last September when we were out in the field, it was full of shoulder high goldenrod. This year the field had been mown:

But we found all sorts of interesting things in and around it anyway. Like this tiny frog with a fallen blossom on his little bottom:
And a red-eyed tortoise:

Blackberries, yum! They were tasty and juicy:

A dragonfly:

And butterflies:

It's unbelievable, but we weren't able to find the crabapple tree again. We were very disappointed, but we decided to go into a certain part of the forest in order to do some exploring.

To reach it, we had the option to blaze a trail through thick, torso-high growth which hadn't been touched by a blade, or to cut into a thick barrier on one side of the forest which consisted of tangled, close-growing, shrubby growth.

This picture shows what we chose - that's me, hunched over, trying to find the best way through woody stalks, and, of course, Strider at my side:

My daughter broke through at one point only to discover a pond blocking our way:

Finally we reached a point where the growth opened up and we were able to make our way into the forest:

Some of the trees there are very old, and some are very tall, like this one:

After wandering around in the forest, we decided that blazing a trail through the tall brush would be a better choice than back-tracking through the thick, woody shrubs:

I can tell you that Strider was happiest in the open forest and in the mown field. He's wearing a bandanna in the picture below. He doesn't usually wear one, but for our adventure we doused a bandanna with Deep Woods Off and tied it around his neck.

We also doused our own clothing with it in hopes of keeping the ticks off, and sprayed Strider's legs and hind quarters with an all natural repellent - I dread any of us getting Lyme disease:

We were all bushed when we finally made it home. And no crabapples, but we know where to find other crabapples. We'll get some before the season is over.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Elderberry Jelly

Yesterday I made a batch of elderberry jelly. Actually I, my daughter, and her boyfriend made the jelly.

I harvested the berries from a couple of very large bushes that grow nearby. I had exactly half the amount called for in the Sure-Jell recipe, but my daughter and I spent the afternoon picking wild blackberries so I thought we would make up the difference with blackberry juice.

It turns out we didn't need to because I cheated a little when processing the elderberries. The recipe calls for you to crush the berries and simmer them for fifteen minutes to juice them. I added a little bit of water (just shy of covering the berries), and in the end I ended up with the exact amount of juice needed for the recipe. I worried that it would set/taste all right - but everything worked out well. The jelly set perfectly and it tastes wonderful.

Now to turn all of those lovely blackberries into sparkling jars of jelly!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happiness at the side of the road

Last night my husband, dog, and I drove to a hike a bike trail for a walk after dinner. I took along a small back pack with plastic bags in case we came across anything interesting to gather. We didn't. But on the way home I spotted a woman and her son gathering something at the side of the road.

My heart soared. Someone else out there was like me. I wanted to stop and talk, but evening was coming on and it looked like she and her son were feverishly trying to gather all that they could (blackberries, I think) in the remaining light and I didn't want to disturb their concentration.

And now I know where some more blackberries are : )

Off to gather what they missed...

Monday, August 10, 2009

My garden, such as it is...

I had such plans for gardening this year. I was going to grow mostly veggies in the plot at the back of the yard, and prepared a new plot in a half-circle design in which to plant herbs.

Well, we left for our marvelous vacation at a bad time garden-wise, and in the rush of a million things to do (one of us didn't have a passport until three days before we left because this particular person had to send in more proof of citizenship before the passport was processed - slowly; and we had a large, dead tree taken down, the aftermath of which had to be cleaned up; etc., etc...), the grand garden plans became drastically altered.

The back garden plot didn't get turned or planted, and the new plot was barely prepared enough for me to throw seedlings into mere days before we left. The result:

Our only garden plot, a haphazard mix of herbs and veggies, before:

and now:

The veggies consist of four varieties of tomato - three of which we started from seed - peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and I just planted some peas and some bush beans, as an experiment. They are sprouting as we speak and it will be interesting to see if they produce anything before the frost sets in.

The herbs here are medicinal, evening primrose, elecampane, holy basil, motherwort, calendula, and sage. The sage, of course, is also culinary, and we have a few other culinary herbs in pots around the patio.

In one large pot we have two types of basil and a pineapple sage. Here's the pineapple sage, not only is it pretty, it smells just like pineapple:

I also have a couple of gladiolas growing alongside the patio which are beginning to bloom:

Here's a bud ready to unfurl:

One of my favorite medicinal herbs that I'm growing is the holy basil it smells wonderful, I wish the picture was scratch and sniff:

And, of course, the calendula is always so bright and sunny. It just started blooming in the last week or so. It'll continue to bloom until the frost finally takes it:

Unfortunately, the Japanese beetles have been a huge problem this year. Whole trees have been denuded by the pesky buggers. They really like my evening primrose, too, darn it:

The garden plot in the back has reverted to the wild, but wonderful things can be found there if you take the time to look:

The black-eyed Susan is the state flower of Maryland, where I grew up. It's nice to have it make an appearance back there:

These tiny beauties, baby's breath, are a remnant of some mixed wildflower seeds I spread out back there several years ago, they were the only things to grow from the seeds I spread:

And so goes the gardening this year. I had such grand plans, the half-circle herb garden laid out so nicely, and wonderful veggies in the back. The reality turned out a bit hurried and mixed up, but there's always next year!

I've already got my eye on several varieties of heirloom seeds I want to try out in the back, and I'm planning on doing my little medicinal herb garden right, and with a few more varieties of herbs.

I was able to plant a small patch on the side of the house with some yarrow and two types of lavendar, which are doing very well and I hope they overwinter and come back in the spring.

In gardening, hope springs eternal.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Walk in the Cuyahoga Valley

We went for a walk along one of the trails in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park today. It was a bridle trail, but we only met a few people on horseback toward the end of our walk. My camera batteries were low, so I only got a few pictures. One was of a stream with only a little bit of water:

Strider liked it, even if the water only cooled his feet:

There were all sorts of wildflowers, and blackberries ripening, and other interesting things, but you'll have to take my word for it.

Afterward we stopped at a small drive-in restaurant so that we could get a little cup of vanilla ice cream for Strider. That's the only reason - the sign advertising homemade strawberry and banana ice cream had nothing to do with the decision : )

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Hobbit wouldn't cut it in today's market!

Over at literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog, there's a funny guest post - a rejection letter written to J.R.R. Tolkien for his children's book, The Hobbit.

I'm afraid poor old Bilbo would have a hard time seeing the light of day in today's publishing atmosphere.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Farmer's Market

Yesterday, hubby, dog, and I strolled down to the farmer's market. We had a very pleasant walk, the weather was beautiful. We even bumped into my son's girlfriend who was on her way to the market too.

The market was busy with people. This is the market's third year in our quaint little downtown. In its first year I was a participant and sold homemade candies and fudge. I really enjoyed the experience, lots of happy people all enjoying the market on a Saturday morning.

Yesterday we came away from the market with these various items:

Honey from two sisters (I would guess teen and pre-teen) who have been keeping bees for the past four years. They started beekeeping as a 4-H project.

A sixpack of fern cakes from the local owner of a Gaelic Imports shop who sells pasties and pies and confections at the market on Saturday mornings.

Three breakfast cakes from a seller of all-vegan treats.

A package of double ginger almond biscotti from a local baker's booth.

A small bag of green beans.

And not pictured here because I forgot about it when taking the picture, a bag maple coated puffed spelt which I bought from an Amish man. It was homemade and the maple syrup was locally produced.

Also not pictured, a little package of homemade dog biscuits - peanut butter- for Strider. He enjoyed them while we sat at outside a local shop and hubby and I slurped fruit smoothies.

Today it's back to the damp, drizzly weather we've had for most of the past week. It's nice that the damp took a break for the market.