Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back in the Apples

We got a call this week from Sierra Glen about the miraculous recovery of the Braeburns. They were hit with apple blight earlier in the season and that, coupled with a late frost, killed a lot of the blossoms. No thinning this year! But, they rebounded and we were called in to think about ten percent of the apples. It was a quick job. Of course I forgot my camera, again, but I got this shot of the apples we brought home to feed to the chickens.

Chicken update. Two are now broody and sitting on eggs. The first batch of fertile eggs was a bust and by this weekend we'll know if we get any action from the others. We aren't very optimistic.

For anyone who happens to be in our area and wants to adopt some apple trees, Sierra Glen is looking to expand the co-op program next year.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Squirreling Away Summer's Bounty

My first trip to Europe a friend and I visited Granada, Spain. The entire trip was very magical (probably because it was the first real travel experience for both of us and we still had the suffix teen attached to our ages) but what made Granada very special was this amazing little vegetarian restaurant (and the Alhambra too) that was close to our pension. We had mint lemonade with our dinners and I've been recreating it ever since. This weekend I switched it up a bit and used honey to sweeten it instead of sugar and the results were fabulous. Here's the rough recipe.

5-6 lemons
a cup or so of honey
a big handful of mint leaves

Steep the mint leaves in hot water and then strain them. I used to just throw the mint in the lemonade, but it would turn brown after a bit and look a bit unpleasant. Add the honey to the minty water and heat to dissolve. Fill your container about half full with cold water, add the mixture, add more water to fill the container, chill and serve with a sprig of mint and ice. My favorite vessel for ice teas and lemonade is a Strauss Milk Bottle that I keep around for such occasions. We've also experimented with making pops out of the concoction.

This look pretty much sums up the way I felt when I woke in the morning, not feeling well at all, to a MOUND of blackberries and strawberries that needed to be turned into jam.

The jam making was a success, even though I wasn't feeling so up to it. I made 7 jars of blackberry jam and 7 jars of strawberry jam. The quickly turning plums were staring at me, but i didn't have it in me to cut them up. I used Pomona's Universal Pectin which allows you to use less sugar or honey (my choice). The results seemed good, but what really impressed me is that I called the JamLine to ask a questions. It was a Saturday, no one answered, so I just hung up. It was the business line, but also a personal line. About 3 minutes later Pomona herself (that's not really her name, but I'm pretending it is) called me back. Recall that I had not left a message at all. She asked if I had a jam question and we proceeded from there (answer: you will end up with a lot of left over calcium liquid). Very impressive customer service Pomona.

Last year a friend of mine and I made blackberry jam from a recipe she found using cranberries as a natural pectin. It was very tasty, so I hope I'm not disappointed. I liked the tartness. I didn't use this recipe this year because we couldn't find frozen cranberries in this small town and I was pressed for time and couldn't look any further. Here is the recipe though. Maybe next year.

strawberry (or whatever else) jam
makes 2 cups

4 cups strawberries, hulled, washed dried and sliced
1 cup frozen, unsweetened cranberries
1 1/4 cups honey
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. in a medium-sized pot over medium heat, bring the strawberries, cranberries, and honey to a boil.

2 stir and reduce the temperature to low. simmer for 20 minutes.

3. at the 20-minute mark, stir and break up the cranberries by mashing them against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon. this helps release all their pectin.

4. raise the temp. to medium and boil for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't scorch.

5. after 10 minutes, if it is somewhat thick and no longer runny, turn off the heat. it will thicken as it cools. if it is not thick enough, lower the heat and continue cooking, checking every minute until it thickens.

6. squeeze the lemon over the warm jam in the pot and let it cool to room temp.

7. spoon the cool jam into glass jars and refrigerate. this jam can also be frozen.

We did the full on can for this and it lasted us all year.

Last item to comment on (can you tell the grandparents are visiting?). I was listening to the Splendid Table today because that's what I do when I get a "break" to clean the house. My treat is to crank up a podcast, clean like there is no tomorrow (or more accurately, like the house won't be clean again tomorrow) and usually cry (maybe it's the heartfelt NPR stories or maybe it's the emotions of finally getting a bit of time alone). I usually listen to This American Life or Radio Lab, but have recently added the Splendid Table to the mix. Anyhow, today her word of the day was Femivore: A woman who considers herself feminist, but also devotes a serious amount of time to the old-time woman's work of feeding her family the cleanest, freshest food — even if she has to grow it herself — is a femivore. Hmmm. So I did some poking around. Here's an article in the NYT.

Again, a long post. I'll be off for a few weeks and probably won't be doing any updating. But, if anyone is actually reading this, I'm sure you already know that. So, see you in a few days Dad.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Gleeners

The house next to us is empty and the owners has given us full reign over the fruit trees on the property. Which is fortunate because we have had terrible luck with fruit trees at our house (another lemon tree is looking in sad shape). We picked a pile of plums, thinned the pear tree and then walked down the street and cleaned the blackberry brambles. I wish we could somehow transplant their fruit trees and divert their natural spring to our house. We can only hope that the house doesn't sell too quickly.

Speaking of houses selling, we met our soon to be new neighbors across the street. They are a couple about our age, have a daughter that's two in the fall and are attendees of the Waldorf sing-a-long. Just another example of what a small town we live in. We are relieved that they don't seem the type to let their pit bulls run loose and remove the mufflers from their cars.

To continue our day of collecting food from the community, we drove up to collect some fertilized eggs that we put a posting for on freecycle. We pulled up to this house way up a gravel road and a pack of dogs greeted us. Brian opened the door and a little dog immediately jumped in the car and proceeded to urinate all over. Lucky for us (yes there is luck in this story) the dog managed to pee entirely in the cup holder, avoiding all upholstery. Unlucky for us, Eason was very thirsty but not thirsty enough to be tempted by a water bottle tainted with dog pee. We received five fertile eggs and then proceeded to our next stop for some Diestels Compost to juice up our beds for fall plantings, all the while I held the eggs between my legs to keep them warm.

Why the fertile eggs? We've got a VERY broody hen and since they don't lay if they are broody (news to us) we decided to slip some eggs under her, make her happy, relieve my guilt of pushing her off them every day and see what happens. We may, just may be ready to thin our flock a bit in time to have a nice roast chicken in the fall.

In other news. Eliot is on about week two of potty training. Yes, our 15 month old has decided he is ready to be like his big brother and is well on his way to being potty trained. The other day I asked Eason to use the bathroom before we left to do errands and Eliot went tottering into the bathroom, sat down on the toilet, peed and said "bye". Wow. Can it really be this easy?

And lastly, the first photo is my newest favorite item in the house. Last year when Brian and my mom were insulating the attic we found this old wall paper, which looks like it's from when the house was built in 1951 (I need to do a bit more research). We've been talking about framing it, but it's been sitting in the corner for ages. We finally took it in and the framing shop had the PERFECT frame for the paper. He said it's an old antique maternity frame. I was delighted. If we hadn't of procrastinated we never would have found this frame.

Okay, sorry for the long post.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Today we made bird nests. When we arrived home from Europe there was a bird's nest, with five baby birds, in the rafters of our carport. We watched the birds, would run to the window when we'd hear them chirping for food and got the ladder out to peek in on them every day or so. We also got to watch the Cliff Swallows that built nests on the sides of the building at Brian's college. Eason was amazed at the construction (they make almost little caves with mud). So we decided to build our own, using red play dough and what ever we could find in our backyard. Eason and Eliot set out on a quest and came back with lots of goods for nest building. Eason was particularly excited to find a bit of orange yarn. The nest in the carport was cushioned with yarn and Eason was determined to find some for his nest. Much to my surprise he found a little piece in the backyard.

On a mommy note. I FINALLY went to a yoga class today. I had all I could take and huffed out of the house for some yoga. On my walk down I thought "well this will be nice, but I'm sure I'll return home and still be peeved." But, after an hour and a half of yoga, I was a new woman. Two other frazzled moms of little ones were my classmates and the instructor tailored the class to work out mama stress.

This is my goal, to make it to this class once a week. I know know know how much better I feel but there is some block to just making myself carve out the time. Luckily, I have a husband that is fully supportive of me taking this time. It's one of those "duh, why haven't I been doing this all along?"

Monday, July 19, 2010



Czech Republic




I couldn't just breeze on past our trip to Eastern Europe, although it's tempting. We had such an amazing time, it's hard to sum it all up in just a few sentences. I'm completely overwhelmed with attempting to organize all the photos and realizing that my goal of FINALLY completing those baby books and previous travel albums this summer is just not happening, not to mention my new idea of a web page to organize all our travels. So here is a little glimpse of the trip. I limited myself to just one photo from each country visited. Again, these are in jumbled order. Can anyone help me on this? Also, won't let me add the USA photo. I'll try to add that later. Too time pressed too start it over.

Too sum up our trip...

We asked a lot of our kids and they were such troopers, on the other side of things it's really tough to have all of your children's tantrums be in foreign public arenas.

A Long Time Gone

Jack and Jill ran down the hill and Jack got a really nice shiner

Eason's very own 4th of July accessory

I've done a terrible job updating. Since we've been back from our trip it's been go go go. I'm just not sure, not sure at all, how those blog mamas manage to update their sites daily. Just in the time it took me to upload these photos (not in order again, what gives) Eliot ate about a golf ball size piece of play dough (homemade at least). Eason tipped me off that he had it in his mouth. Eason tried to remove it himself, he's a very very good big brother. Then Eason replied "hey, where is the piece I gave Eliot to play with?" Not on the floor, not on the counter, must have been consumed. I will try try try to be better about updating the blog. We are doing very interesting things, so many interesting things that I don't have time to write about it. I also suspect that the blog mamas don't have kids who need much less sleep than their mothers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Istanbul or Bust! (or anywhere else we can get to on standby)

Dubrovnik-site of a major meltdown where imitating the pigeons saved us from being thrown off the wall

Throwing stones in Mostar

Slovenian Beehives-Slovenia was a gardener's mecca

Enamored with the garbage boats in Venice

I've been feeling some deep anxiety about our upcoming, fly standby, not yet packed in any way, trip to somewhere in Europe trip with our soon to be one year old and our three (going on seven) year old. I decided that instead of moving forward on any preparations, I should instead check out the photos of our last trip to remind myself of just what an amazing time we had when we took our little urchin on a European vacation for the first time. It is so worth all of the work that is involved in taking little ones abroad.

Some of the pictures did remind me of some major tantrums that were thrown, and I expect there will be more on this trip, but we've got a better idea of what to expect this time. For example, when the parents need a little down time, just give the toddler the keys to the room, prop them up on a stool and let them work away at the lock.

In many ways it feels so important to keep up the travel because it feels like who Brian and I were when we first met and really how we spent the first years of our lives together. Sometimes it feels like this is the fantasy life that we are faking our way through. That sounds super cheesy, but there is a shred of truth in there and I'm too brain tired to make it sound less so.

We are determined to keep travel an important part of our life and to make it so interwoven into the boys lives that they won't really know any different (insert menacing laughter).

So here we go!

FYI I finally finished the Rick Steves book and it was excellent. It reminded me of why we sacrifice other things to travel.

Hope you enjoyed the photos from our last trip.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Time

It's been feeling like spring around here for quite some time (although today it's dark and stormy). Here a a few of my favorite pics from the last month or so. This week is also the chickens one year birthday. Happy Birthday chickens! Another sign of spring we've been enjoying is the return of prolific layers. We're back to six or seven eggs a day! Luckily we have several families now that are getting eggs from us on a biweekly basis. We've got another very important one year birthday just around the corner. I can hardly believe Eliot will be a year old already. Look for some photos of our birthday preparations soon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A natural history of our chickens

An oddity enjoyed by my eldest who loves all things tiny

A young Rhode Island Red

First fried egg

First egg!

Brian built a hatch in the back so we don't have to enter to collect eggs.

The girls went missing. Found in a coil of chicken wire.

I intended these photos to be sequential, but they are not. Just learning how this all works. So here is a scrambled natural history of our chickens. Posting name is inspired by this documentary The Natural History of the Chicken. Although a documentary that I like better for inspiring one to eat a happy chicken is Food Inc.

Stay tuned for a picture of our finished coop. A few books and websites have been pretty instrumental in gathering all the information we needed. Backyard Chickens and My Pet Chicken are great places to find out everything you ever wanted to know about raising chickens, from how to boil an egg (this can be tricky with fresh eggs) to how to convert a VW van into a coop. I also stumbled across Grow It! some years ago and it has been a huge influence in all of these farming ideas that I aspire to. It's out of print, but you can still find some around.

Having the chickens has been such a great experience for Eason. I'm amazed at all of the questions it's generated, and his enthusiasm for participating in any and all of the chicken chores. One day Eason was floored to find out that roosters don't lay eggs, and he feeds them all on his own (while we are out there) each day. Eliot is getting very into them too, but his main interest is in chasing and possibly riding them if he could figure out how.