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

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

 

 

A Special Wenz Day

Today is my birthday!  Woo hoo!

We’ve had so many sad things befall us in the past few months that I am glad to have a reason to celebrate.  Not only did my Mom pass away suddenly, my Father-in-law passed suddenly as well approximately 2 1/2 months later.  Other things have been happening (one of which I describe in the next paragraph) and believe me, we have had difficulty coming up for air.  This is why I really want to celebrate LIVING today.  I know that is what my Mom and Father-in-law would want.

What to do?  Put up the rhubarb!  But first, I must tell you what happened last week.  I was bitten by what we believe was a deer fly.  Ew.  It bit me on the face above my right eye.  The swelling was atrocious, and it got infected.  After a little research, it turns out the bacteria for Lyme disease is carried by the deer fly as well as the deer tick.  Not only that, there is another bacteria carried by the deer fly which can be pretty horrible.  I went to the doctor and I am now on antibiotics, as if I had Lyme disease, which I might, but we won’t know for sure for another week when I have blood drawn.  Either way, I feel it is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

I have had to come up with a new get-up for outdoor work.  Child #2 said I resemble Jessica Lange in “American Horror Story.”  I’ll take the Jessica Lange part, but, well, I guess the look is kind of horrifying:

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Joel, in his charmingly sarcastic way, says that I look “fetching.”  (He’s the best husband ever)  A breakdown of my trend-setting fashion statement is as follows:

Dust mask – keeps the allergens away from my nose and mouth, plus holds back the bug-attracting carbon dioxide a little bit

Sunglasses – these have my reading lenses in the bottom half, which come in handy when I am dealing with little seeds and such

Hat – gotta have a hat for gardening……keeps sun and glare away plus helps protect against sunburn

Mosquito Net – I got this here.  It can be tucked into the collar of your shirt if you have a collar.  When finished with gardening, you can re-use this on Safari….

Not pictured – Long-sleeved shirt(light-colored), long pants, socks and sturdy shoes, garden gloves, sunblock, and spray-on insect repellent(I spray it on my skin and on the outside of my clothes).  I also have a little battery-powered thing that clips onto my pocket which is supposed to keep the bugs away.

What things do you do to keep the buggies at bay?

Now, onward to the task at hand….

YUMMY RHUBARB!

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That is what my rhubarb looks like ripe.  It’s not that ruby-red color, but it is organically grown, heirloom rhubarb.  That patch has been growing at Country Mouse House for longer than the oldest neighbors can remember.  I’ve given whole plants away and it seems to renew it’s own vigor.  I gave a couple of plants to Lisa and she now has a constant yield second only to my own.

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Here is the rhubarb with leaves in tact.  Remember, don’t eat the leaves!  They are poison!  (Apparently some snails don’t know this, or are immune, so they eat the leaves anyway)  Below is what the flower looks like on a rhubarb plant.  I pull these off so the plant can put the energy back into the rhubarb stalks.

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Below is the rhubarb patch from another angle.  In the foreground is a horseradish plant.  I put that in last year as a tiny baby and it is really taking off.  If you look closely you can see spindly baby asparagus, too.  Only 3 of my 6 asparagus starts made it through the winter, so I added a few more this year, marked by those broken sea shell pieces.  (Sea shells can add nutrients to the garden.  The only other thing I add to this patch is composted manure 1-2 times per year.)  I also have Columbine growing here.  Columbine and rhubarb get along very well in the garden and help each other grow and stay healthy.

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GETTING READY!

photo (41)I picked up these beautiful blue canning jars last year at the local crafts’ store and never used them.  Now I’m breaking them out!  (or in?)

Check out Finn copping a snooze in the background.

Who’s doing a little bit of Spring-harvest canning?  Recipes, anyone?

I will let you know how it goes!

Have a deliciously wonderful day!

Wendy

 

Rhubarb

Hi there,

I had to clear out the rhubarb recently.  Look who I met in the process:

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These little guys seem to like my gardens.  They are all over the place.  Kind of cute, eh?

The rhubarb was already there when we bought the place.  It comes back every year.  I thin it and give it as gifts.  A friend took some to market one year.  It is very hardy.  I have canned it in the form of jams, jellies, and sauces and given that as gifts, too.  I’ve baked pies and cobblers until I didn’t know what else to do.    We absolutely love it.

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Rhubarb is high in vitamin C, but is very tart.  I’ve seen people who don’t mind that and bite right into it raw.  I’m not that brave.  I usually cook it with an equal amount of sugar to the chopped up rhubarb.  Then, we just eat it up.  Joel likes to make pancakes on the weekend and rhubarb sauce tastes pretty good with those.

A local friend told us that patch of rhubarb was there for well over 60 years.  Our farmhouse is 163 years old, so who knows when the rhubarb got there?  And, even though I have cleared it out pretty well, I will have 1 – 2 bumper crops before the season is over – no kidding.

For anyone unfamiliar with rhubarb, the leaves are poisonous, so just eat the stalk.

Does anyone have a recipe or a creative way to use rhubarb?

Wendy