Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hand-grown/made things are wonderful

Along with some other gifts, my son presented me with this wonderful-smelling bouquet for my birthday. The roses are from two of the three rose bushes which he and I planted last spring and which he has been faithfully tending all summer. They're growing gangbusters and keep producing the most beautiful flowers:

And my daughter designed and built (with some help from her boyfriend) an herb-drying rack for me. I've already put it to use with some hyssop, parsley, calendula, oregano, lemon balm, thyme, and peppermint :

This is what I've been using, rigged precariously from an old freezer rack. It's done the trick, but space has always been a problem:

Now, with this new rack, I have loads more space. I hang most of my herbs to dry in the warm, dark garage in the summer. A few I'll pop into a barely-warm oven, but most recieve the hanging treatment:

What a great day I had. It was made even more special knowing that my kids (who are both no longer 'kids', but young adults) are so thoughtful.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Enjoying the harvest

Such as it is. I mean, my gardens weren't huge successes this year, but even saying that, we've been enjoyng several things from them lately.

We've had roasted beets in salads; spaghetti sauce made with tomatoes, herbs, and garlic from our garden; potatoes mashed, roasted and fried; carrots with roasts, salads, and more; fresh sweet corn cooked and eaten just after picking (yum!); green beans; and okra and lima beans coming in slowly (the first few I've frozen), but they'll begin produce in larger quantities soon.

Any day now we'll have enough poblano peppers to make a meal of chile rellenos.

So even if gardening this year has presented some challenges (flooding, weeds, pests), we've still been able to enjoy the modest fruits of all of that work and worry.

And tucked away in our freezer are things to remind us of summer when the weather begins to chill - hand-picked strawberries frozen fresh, green beans, peppers and chilies, okra, and lima beans.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fragrant herbs...

... are scenting my kitchen.

I've been gathering culinary herbs from the garden and hanging them to dry: sweet basil, sage, and sweet marjoram. As they've passed through my kitchen in the process, they've left behind their wonderful aromas.

And I have some other herbs drying in a barely-warm oven. These are medicinal herbs, but just as fragrant: tulsi (holy basil) and chamomile.

And I've begun the maceration process on two herbal tinctures, one fragrant, the other not: lavender (Provence) and plantain.

There are wonderful scents wafting around my kitchen, so sad they'll soon fade.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Been thinking...

... of getting a spinning wheel. If this calming video doesn't sway me, I don't know what will.

If you want to know what the beautiful music is that's playing, it's "Waltz of the White Lilies," by the traditional Irish music band, Déanta.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Half Broke Horses

I haven't even finished this book yet, but I'm definitely recommending it. Maybe it's because my forbears lived lives like this out west, maybe because I've lived out there myself, or maybe because we've just driven through many parts of the country where this book plays out, but the narration seems so immediate and real that I'm drawn deeper and deeper into the scenery and situations as each page is turned.

Half Broke Horses is by Jeannette Walls, author of the acclaimed memoir The Glass Castle, which I haven't read but will right after this. While The Glass Castle is a memoir, Half Broke Horses is the story of Jeannette Walls' grandmother, told in a captivating first person voice.

I've just come to a part where Lily, the subject of the book, has gone to teach school in a little Mormon polygamist town in northern Arizona. She's got her two children, Rosemary and Little Jim, with her. Lily is describing the town and its people:

The houses they lived in, I came to see, were essentially breeding factories where as many as seven wives were expected to churn out a baby a year... The girls were raised to be docile and submissive. In the first few months I was there, a couple of my thirteen-year-old girls disappeared, vanishing into their arranged marriages.

Rosemary was fascinated by these kids with all their multitudes of moms, and these dads with all their sets of wives, and she kept asking me to explain it. She was particularly intrigued with Mormon underwear and wondered if it really gave the Mormons special powers.

"That's what they believe," I told her, "but that doesn't mean it's true."

"Then why do they believe it?"

"America is a free country," I said. "And that means people are free to believe whatever cockamamie thing they want to believe."

"So they don't have to believe it if they don't want to?" Rosemary asked.

"No they don't"

"But do they know that?"

Smart kid.

Oh golly, I love this book. If its not on your bookshelf, go rustle it up. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The new banner photo...

...was taken during our vacation out west. It's of stormy, late-July, evening skies over Petrified Forest National Park, AZ.

Been enjoying a bit of garden harvest

Last night I threw some things from the garden together in a pan, cooked them up, added some ground turkey, and we had it for dinner. I don't have any pictures of garden produce because my camera is acting up, but here's a list of what went into dinner:

Not from the garden:
ground turkey
one small can tomato sauce

From the garden:
three varieties of bush beans

It's a lazy, but yummy, way of enjoying what comes out of the garden.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I love my herbal tea

I've been feeling a little under the weather, but luckily I have a tea for that. Yesterday I woke up feeling horrible with a cold or something coming on. I made my 'Stave-Off' tea and drank it throughout the day and today I feel much better. Not 100% yet, but gettiing there.

I love making teas with the things that I grow. And this year I'll be able to make my 'Stave-Off' tea completely with things that I've grown. For the past two years I've had to use mail-order elecampane, but this year I'll have some from my own garden, as well as some gathered from the wild.

My Stave-Off tea is made with elecampane root, holy basil leaves and flowers, lemon balm leaves, and calendula petals. I drink it when I feel like I'm coming down with something. It hasn't disappointed me yet. It gets me feeling tip-top within one or two days.

I always feel a little guilty when I hear people complaining about how lousy a cold is making them feel. It's like having a little, magic secret as to how they can feel better. But I don't push my tea on anyone. I mean, how would you react if you said, "Gosh, this cold is whipping my butt," and an acquaintance announced, "Oh! I make an herbal tea that will help you feel better!" Yeah. Right.

I've tried to grow quantities enough to offer perhaps a few of my teas for sale through my Etsy shop come fall. It'll be interesting to see if there will be any takers - people who are looking for that kind of thing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Can a public service message about seat belts be thought of as beautiful?


The last of the vacation pics (hurrah!)

Here's the last set of pictures from our excursion out west.

What's a western themed vacation without cacti? We drove through Saguaro National Park in Arizona on the way to see my mom. Here's a close-up view of a saguaro cactus:

This particular one was busy reaching for the sky and didn't pay me any mind as I snapped its picture:

There were lots of other cactus accounted for in Saguaro National Park, like ocotillo, cholla, prickly pear, barrel etc.:

The skies were beautiful, storms all around us in the distance and in the mountains:

I've forgotten where along the way I took this picture. I think it was past Phoenix on our way toward Petrified Forest National Park. Anyway, it was a beautiful canyon in some mountains that we were driving through. Maybe it's the Salt River. It was red with sediment:

At the Petrified Forest/Painted Desert National Park, the trees aren't standing upright as in a real forest. They're lying down, scattered all over the place. They're the remains of trees which fell into a huge river eons ago and were covered by sediment. The organic material eventually was replaced by minerals, preserving the trees so that they look as though they've just been felled and cut up. If you click on the picture below, you can see a bit of a rainbow in the right 1/4 of the sky:

The skies wherever we went were fascinating. Storms in can be seen miles away when there aren't any real trees in the way:

Doesn't this look like a fallen tree that's been cut up to clear a hiking path? Amazing that it's now stone:

Still looks like wood:

Here's my son wandering along one of the trails through the park:

In the painted desert, the earth sometimes mimics the colors of the sky:

As the sun set, a storm was approaching. My husband and son are watching and photographing. What you can't see is the wind and the dust blowing in the plains below:

The dark, distant mass between the clouds and the land is the rain pouring down from the heavens. That's my husband trying to capture the lighting bolts on (digital) film. He did catch a beautiful shot, click here to see it. Below you can see him steadying his tripod in the strong winds:

And finally, a little video clip of the storm:

We had lots of adventures on our trip, but it's awfully nice to be home again. Have you had any adventures this summer?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A few more pictures...

This will be my 2nd to last post about my vacation - promise! But if you want to see some really nice pictures, you can visit the site where my husband posted some of his photos, here, and view them as a slide show.

We visited the Three Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico. It's the spiny, rocky remains of some ancient mountains which are now covered in petroglyphs. The artwork was placed there over 600 years ago. From the official site, "The petroglyphs at Three Rivers, dating back to between about 900 and 1400 AD, were created by Jornada Mogollon people who used stone tools to remove the dark patina on the exterior of the rock." Apparently there are no known descendants of these people. Here is one sample of their work:

Next, we stopped at White Sands National Monument. The dunes are made of gypsum sand blown over from a dried lakebed. It was a full-moon night so the park was open extra late. We watched the sun set and the moon rise over the sprawling white dunes. It was beautiful.

The specks way in the distance are my husband and my son. Click on any of the pictures for a better view:

On our way over to Arizona, we took a detour through the Chiricahua Mountains. They were rugged, and so was the road we drove on:

The sign didn't lie:

I'll present the last of my pictures in the my next post (hurrah!).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

After putting 5,600 miles on the car, we're back

And that is officially the last major road trip I will ever go participate in. Not because it wasn't fun and we didn't get along in the car, only because long-haul road trips really take it out of you, and believe me, we've done our share of them.

The whole point of our road-trip vacation was a family reunion for my husband's side of the family, which was held in Austin, Texas. And so we packed up the car and headed there from northeast Ohio.

My son kept a wonderful travel blog during the trip with great pictures and top notch commentary, done mostly from his iPhone. I would recommend taking a look, to get there, click here.

The first week of the trip was dedicated to the reunion. We experienced some of the Dallas area, the Austin area, and the San Antonio area of Texas.

Here's the aptly named Buckhorn Saloon, not far from the Alamo in San Antonio. Our funky shirts were mandatory reunion wear on this particular day:

The Buckhorn Saloon has a great museum covering interesting tidbits of Texas lore and history, and a huge collection of stuffed and mounted game animals (which was interesting, but creepy).

If you've ever wondered what exactly Prince Albert in a can is, here's your answer, it was among a display of old west artifacts:

I made a little friend in the game-animal rooms:

After the family reunion, we headed further west. The prickly pears were turning ripe. I've always wanted to make prickly pear jelly. The fruits are sweet and yummy, and so is the jelly. I was tempted to don some gloves and gather the thorny fruit, but alas, we had no way to store it on the journey home and so they stayed on the cacti:

We stopped for an underworld foray at Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. Here's the entrance:

Here is just one of the beautiful sites within the huge expanse of the caverns:

It takes almost a hundred years for these formations to grow a fraction of an inch, so you can imagine how long these things have been around. Those stalagmites are much bigger round and much taller than a person:

Some things in the cave looked like frozen swarms of jellyfish:

Or dripping and oozing goop, only it was all stone:

Not far from the caverns is the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We went for a hike, which was cut short by a downpour, but there were beautiful trees there with peculiar bark:

The bark seemed to peel off in layers, red, and cream, eventually hardening into a dark, charcoal bark:

The downpour caught us about two miles into the trail. There was thunder and lightning around so we turned tail and ran back down the twisting, climbing trail. Along the way, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of these trees wet with the rain. If I thought they were beautiful before, they simply came alive in the rain:

Click on the this image for a closer look. It's a bit blurry from trying to hurry the shot in the rain, but the beauty is still there:

What are these trees, you ask? At the visitor's center, where we stopped to dry off, there was a plaque by one with it's name:

I'll have more pictures of our further explorations in my next post.