“Ch-Ch-Ch-Cherry Tree!”

(Gotta throw in a little Rock-and-Roll once in awhile)

Lo and behold!  There are a few things in flower at the Country Mouse House!  One appears to be a cherry tree.  A couple of years ago, we spotted cherries on it, but it’s so close to a bunch of other trees, we never could remember which one it was.  Last year, our tree fruit was sparse at best, and I don’t think this tree went into flower at all.  Well, just look at it now!

From a distance:

Up close and personal:

Those are cherry blossoms, yes?  I sure hope so!  Although, with the bird and other wildlife sightings these days, we might not get to taste any.  We’ll have to see.

Here is our little “grove” of cherry plums:

Farmer Joel discovered these quite by accident a couple of years back.  They were the tiniest plums I’ve ever seen, but very tasty.  The only not-so-great thing is that the pit is almost the size of the fruit itself, so it’s a lot of work for a little fruit.  If we get a good harvest this year, I’ll try to can something with them.  Maybe jelly.

And now for some other spring blossoms:

I love my daffodils and narcissus!

  

Anything blooming in your garden yet?

Wendy

Friday With Finn

Happy Friday to everyone!  It’s beautiful here in the country today!  On my walk with my trusty companion, I happened upon a couple of plants with very similar leaves: Gooseberry and Viburnum.  Can you tell which is which?

Which one is Viburnum? Which one is Gooseberry?

Hmmmm……the one on the left is the Viburnum.  This gets enormous and is a bird habitat.  The flowers look like snowballs.  In fact, some people call it the “Snowball Bush.”  The gooseberries can get out of control if I don’t prune them.  They produce a tart berry that is great in pies or jam.  One of my Grandmothers LOVED Gooseberry pie!  Birds love these, too, and have been responsible for planting several baby gooseberries all over our little farm.  Often I find them springing up underneath apple trees.

Right now, there are only leaves, but soon there will be buds.  Looking forward to that.

Here’s what my buddy loves to do on a day like today:

Have a wonderful weekend!  Blessings to you all.

Wendy

Another Friday with Finn

Yes, it’s been awhile.  I’ve moved twice in the last two years….just from one “Town Mouse House” to another.  We’ve spent a good deal of time fixing up the “Country Mouse House.”  This year, we concentrated on the gardens and planted a wee orchard.  Of course, our goal is to continue to find ways towards better self-sufficiency.  Growing more fruit could help us do just that.

Here is a little peak at what Finn is doing right now:

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What a life he has.  He does have a very expressive face, as well.  Here is Finn with a smile:

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Now that we have the Finn update, I’ll fill you in on the orchard.  We already inherited several types of OLD apple trees.  Among them are crab apples, and what appear to be Golden Delicious.  The main type of apple tree bears a fruit that resembles MacIntosh apples, but they seem to be a bit sweeter.  We put a tree in the ground several years ago and forgot about it.  Last year, it was filled with apples.  It is a “Columnar” tree, and almost just as soon as it fruited, the fruit vanished.  It is a fairly tall tree, so Farmer Joel decided it must have been the work of a giraffe :D.

This year, the trees we planted were: 5 heirloom apple, 2 pear, 2 cherry, 2 paw paw, 2 mulberry, 2 walnut, 2 hazelnut.  We also planted 4 blueberry bushes and 3 red currants.  Of these, it looks like we only lost 1 walnut, the 2 hazelnut, and 1 or 2 of the currants.  Since we already had 4 blueberry bushes, we hope to increase our blueberry yield.  Blueberries are very popular in our family, as you know.  We also already have established gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, and rhubarb.

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That’s our little orchard.  We put chicken wire cages around each tree, as well as mulch.  We’re hoping to increase the number of trees next year, but not by such a great number.  As Farmer Joel was digging the holes(I did help with some of them), he was muttering something about being able to live long enough to actually eat some of the fruit and nuts.  Hehehehe…….

Plant your food trees and shrubs and perennials this spring – don’t wait!  The sooner you do, the sooner you will reap the fruits of your labor!  Also, you have the whole winter to plan where you’ll put everything.

Since we are in the Northeast, we had good luck with the trees we ordered from Fedco, as well as from Raintree.  Enjoy the nice weather while we still have it.  And happy weekend!

Wendy

Wenz Day

Finally the snow begins to melt at Country Mouse House!

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We have had one heck of a winter.  And I don’t believe it is quite finished yet.  Today, however, the sun shines.  See the rose garden in the foreground, below, and the vegetable garden in the background:

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This past weekend, Farmer Joel and I took the first module of a class in Permaculture Design.  It was offered by the Hancock Permaculture Center.   This has been a dream of mine for a few years now.  Permaculture is a Design Science, and is based on 3 Ethics:  1- Care for the Earth, 2- Care for People, and 3- Sharing the Surplus.  How wonderful!

Here is my herb garden, which will be changing as I learn more in my class:

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Do you see how it is a straight, old feeding trough?  As you know, we are renovating the house, so this herb garden will not be configured into the new design.  I will be looking to build, as per Permaculture, an Herb Spiral.  I recommend Googling the term “Herb Spiral, Image,” and take a look at the numerous ways to design and build them.  This straight 15 feet of trough can be curled, enabling not only a more efficient use of space, but a very lovely-looking garden as well.  Spiral shapes occur in nature, and nature is what Permaculture strives to mimic.

My little bed of rhubarb, asparagus, horseradish, primroses, columbines, lambs’ ears, and hosta looks about ready to awaken as well(all beside and beneath my hemlock tree):

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Upon closer inspection, I see the rhubarb just beginning to peek through:

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See the little red nubs?  Notice, also, the natural mulch created by the nearby tree.  Unbeknownst to me, I had already begun what Permaculture calls a “Guild,” by planting certain plants harmoniously which will benefit each other, as well as benefit the soil.

If you’d like to see a short (less than one minute) video of the property from a different perspective, I invite you to this link:

In our class, we met so many interesting, knowledgeable people.  One person keeps bees, and is very involved in helping others learn about them.  I have a strong interest in learning about bees.  We need to help the bees- now more than ever.  See my previous post, Yellow Flowers and Bees.

What are your plans for this Spring?  Have things begun to awaken in your natural surroundings?

Wendy

 

T. G. I. R.

Thank God It’s Rhubarb!

We made a Vegan Rhubarb Cobbler:

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It really was very good.  The way to “Vegan-ize” something (quickly and easily) is to first check to see if there are any animal-derived ingredients.  This would include milk/dairy, eggs, butter, meat, animal fats, gelatin, etc.  My recipe called for eggs, so we did our chia-seed egg subsitute.  Per egg equivalent, mix one tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water, let sit a bit.  It gets gooey and egg-like in its consistency.  For milk, we used almond milk.  For butter, we just used vegetable oil.  You could use coconut oil or a vegan margarine if you want.   We are not all vegans, but one of my children IS a vegan, and yet another goes without dairy.

Onward to the canning…….

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I loved using the blue jars!  They make the contents look even yummier!  I ended up making a Rhubarb-Cherry Topping, which I used on my French toast this morning.  If I do say so myself, it was delicious.  I tried using a jam recipe, but I had more rhubarb than the recipe called for.  I didn’t have quite enough pectin, and I had some cherry preserves in my stash…hence….it didn’t gel up enough to spread.  It pours easily, though, and I have no fear that it will get gobbled up quickly.

Last week, I tried my hand at homemade laundry detergent.  It also came out rather nicely.  The reason I did this is that the cost of laundry soap seems to rise as the size of the container seems to decrease.  This cost about 50 cents a gallon to make.  You can check out a how-to video here.

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I got to playing around with these Martha Stewart labels I found in Staples, along with a “chalk pen,” which I hadn’t heard of before.  That was in the craft store next door.  The painting in the background is of my front porch at Country Mouse House, by a local artist.   Note the blooming flowers?   (Sigh……)

Time to head outside and smell the lilacs!

Have a beautiful weekend!

Wendy

 

 

More Pies, Mrs. Lovett!!

Phew!  Apples and apples and apples and MORE apples!!!  I don’t even know how many….They are not the pretty, perfect-looking kind like in the grocery store, but that’s because they are all-natural, organically grown.  The only thing we did to the trees this year was prune them.  Here are some of them:

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And here are some more….(the ones in the foreground I’ve cored, obviously):

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Soooo…..I baked a grand total of 7 pies today.  One was 10-inches round and the remaining 6 were 5 inches round.  I’m pie-d out.  Here are the 6 small ones:

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I had a little extra dough, so I made a weird, “funky pie.”  It’s really a turnover gone wrong:

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(but it still tasted real good!)

Meanwhile, this photo of Mrs. Lovett kind of describes how I feel right now:

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And yet, she still finds the energy to sing and dance.  Go figure!

Wendy

Jammin’

Hi there!

(I actually started writing this awhile ago, never quite finished the post, but I DID finish the jam.  I am embarking on the Apple-Canning-Adventure soon…)

We are jammin’!  Making some blueberry jam, that is.  Since we have a (recently diagnosed) diabetic in the family, I am trying a new way of making jam.  That is to say, a sugar-free recipe….

I’ve tried a new type of pectin.

It comes with two packets – One is the actual pectin and the other is Monocalcium Phosphate(calcium to help activate the pectin).  First thing I did was to mix the calcium with 1/2 cup water to make the “Calcium Water.”  That has to be kept refrigerated if you don’t use it all up.  There is a recipe sheet inside box which is very helpful.  I have used so much sugar in the past, and I don’t know how one would can rhubarb without it, but we are doing blueberries now, so….

While the jars, seals and lids were sterilizing, I started the recipe that came with the pectin.  I used:

3 cups Mashed Blueberries, 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 2 teaspoons calcium water, 1 C apple juice concentrate.

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It is a little tricky because you need to use 2 pans and time everything just so.  The end result doesn’t taste like jam you would buy, because it is not as sweet.  It tastes more like spreadable fresh blueberries, kind of like squishing them up in your hand.  That suits us just fine, because we love eating them fresh…..now a distant memory until next summer!

(I also froze quite a few so we can still enjoy blueberry pancakes and muffins this winter!)

Have a lovely day!

Wendy