Summertime, she rolled right in…

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…sweetly and gently, with a few days of high 70s and clear skies. The only thing to do, really, was to celebrate with our first fire pit meal of the season. While the kids ran around and C got the fire started, I whipped up an all-ages frothy cool beverage to enjoy, and it was too damn good not to share. Even if you’re not brewing your own kombucha at home, you should probably try this, anyway, with a store-bought ginger or plain kombucha.

Ingredients:

-1 quart kombucha (first ferment, or a gingered second ferment, or store-bought plain or ginger)
-2 cups frozen strawberries
-1/4 cup lemon juice
-1/2 cup maple syrup

A lot depends on the sweetness of your strawberries (and even your kombucha). You may want to adjust the lemon juice and maple syrup amounts. I’m only guessing, anyway, since I just glugged them both in.

So, whirr it all around in the high-powered blending instrument of your choice and enjoy the effervescent sweet-tartness! A sprig of chocolate mint makes just about everything better, in case you were wondering about the green stuff in my glass.

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We roasted whatever we could put on a stick, including dessert. For a while, I avoided s’mores entirely as I don’t know of any marshmallows available that are made without corn syrup, but since discovering the world of making my own maple marshmallows, I wouldn’t want to go back, anyway. They take only about 15 minutes to make, and as long as you have a candy thermometer, it’s easy-peasy.

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The first recipe I tried, a few years back, made for a mess when roasting, but I had my first go-round with this recipe from The Urban Poser, and not only is the ingredient ratio spot-on, but even without letting them sit to dry out, as suggested, my mallows were perfect roasters, even just hours after cooking up the goo, behaving almost exactly like the Kraft marshmallows I grew up with.

Only maple syrup, gelatin (we use the same grass-fed gelatin as suggested in the recipe), water, and vanilla. Simple and perfect.

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Until you add cinnamon to the marshmallow goo before it sets. Then, you go beyond perfection and achieve marshmallow Nirvana.

Some wildlife wanted to get in on the action, including fireflies galore, and a visiting snapping turtle. An evening bursting with growth and life and early summer magic. At least I was able to enjoy it before the most cruel and unusual head cold from Hell knocked me on my ass for 36 hours. I was the one pampered on Father’s Day. Oh, well. Regularly scheduled programming back tomorrow!

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First Ferment

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After a preservation hiatus through the coldest months, it was time to get our ferment on for the first time this calendar year. My mother-in-law sends us a box of Meyer lemons from her tree every Winter, and with the deeply bitter cold we’ve been experiencing, and their 3000+ miles of travel, I was amazed they arrived so perfectly sound.

Meyers are a treat, all mellow sweetness coupled with a reduced acidic bite. They are my favorite for just about everything but lemonade (I like it puckery-tart!), but we chose to use 2/3 of the sunshiny bounty for Moroccan Preserved Lemons. I like to make at least one quart of preserved lemons each year, two if we’re blessed with another shipment. A little goes a long way towards making a simple meal pretty spectacular, so we often make one jar last through the year using it in stews, roast chicken and rice-based dishes.

The past few years, I’ve made it somewhat complicated, trying out different spice combinations and fermentation windows. While these versions have been lovely, I felt ready, this time around, to get back to the simplest recipe for fermenting just about anything: main ingredient + salt.

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I used this nourished kitchen recipe for my ratios, and now the golden darlings play out their alchemical miracle of salt into gold in the dark of a pantry cabinet. btw, I could fit 8 lemons in a quart jar, which left me four for this:

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…because we have duck eggs again. We used this recipe, which calls for blending up a whole lemon, rind and all, along with the juice. You’re welcome.

This evening I’ll be working on my shop move back over to Big Cartel. There will be an announcement and a promo coupon, so stay tuned for that in the next couple of days.

And don’t forget the Snowball event at Wildwood Farm was postponed to THIS Sunday, March 23rd (so, you know, ignore the date on the flyer). There’s still time to get registered and join us for an 80s extravaganza!

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Facts.

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Birds are hopping about on the thick crust of snow in increased numbers, sometimes it’s still light when dinner hits the table, and I suppose there may be a few other signs of Spring lurking around the corner if I pay attention through chattering teeth. My fingers are crossed for this to be the last night of the season to dip below zero, and it looks like maybe, just maybe, we’re good to go for tapping our trees this weekend.

The Spun Monkey studio has temporarily been converted to the seedling nursery. We’ve started quite early this year, despite having lost the greenhouse, and an impending drastic change in our daily/weekly routine will mean that C is here more during the week to be tending the homestead. I try so hard, but I’m not as intuitive as he is with living things. In past growing seasons, I have been the garden management team only because I was here. I wouldn’t say I have a black thumb, but it’s surely some color other than green, and whatever we’ve harvested has been due to a few parts luck, I’m sure. I can’t wait to see what happens when he has more of his hands in this adventure, because harvesting is my favorite part, and with him in charge, I’ll get to do so much more of that. Fact.

O will try for The Great Pumpkin again, of course, and if all goes well with our Hyssop, there will be goat milk aplenty for an experiment with milk-fed squash. She is WIDE with baby(ies???) and I hope to flood this page with adorable baby goat-ness come May.

And I hope with all my heart that this is our last tribute to make in what has been a very harsh Winter for our male barnyard friends, as we spent most of Town Meeting Day trying to save this guy:

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RIP Funny Chicken. Why did you eat the hay?

He was the meat bird we kept because he was…a little funny. And personable. And attached to our little bantam hen. He stood up while she napped underneath him. I wonder who will protect her now from all those big, catty hens in the coop? She is china-delicate and he was her round, bumbling oaf who somehow never stepped on her or forgot she was there.

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We’ll miss you, buddy.

Oh, and speaking of the studio, this weekend I’ll be re-opening my Big Cartel shop with links to registration for April classes. This will begin an eventual shift over from Etsy entirely. Stay tuned for a big sale to clear out the shop for the move!

 

 

whoosh…

…there it went.

A week or so.

And, also:

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Our Greenhouse. RIP.

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Clockey, the best rooster we’ve ever known. RIP.

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Li’l, the Littlest Axolotl. RIP.

Harsh climate + farm life = constant lessons in the art of Letting Go. Somehow, it just doesn’t stick and we have to learn it over and over and over again and it’s harder every time.

In more pleasant news, I’ve been around the Sparkle blog here

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and here

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and updating my shop here.

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It’s not to late for the holidays, btw. Free upgrade to Priority Mail between now and Saturday, December 21st, and of course, there are always clubs and gift certificates, too:

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Whew. Well, back to regularly scheduled programming henceforth.

Come Into My Garden: 3

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The dill is ready, but the pickling cucumbers have barely begun. Oh, well, I’ll add these little fireworks of the garden to several jars of fermented dilly beans over the weekend and sow a new handful of dill seeds into a freshly harvested garlic bed.

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Fairy watermelons? Remember these? I forgot to order seeds last summer, so it’s been two years since the season of Epically Adorable Pickles:

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That is a pint jar, and we popped those things like candy for many months.

The main excitement this week, besides harvesting green beans and inspecting the drying progress of garlic braids, is in the wee corn patch. This color? Intriguing.

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The bees, thankfully, are loving on it, and we hope for full ears of sweet blue kernels (that stay blue when you cook them!), and plenty of them. We have not yet had luck with sweet corn up here on the hill, but these seem promising.

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The japanese beetles are a force to be reckoned with this year, however, and I’ve had to pick them out of the silks with tweezers. They have a thing for the corn and tomatillos, especially, with a bit of everything else on the side.

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This weekend, the 2nd round of peas and greens will be sown. We are hoping for a fall crop of shelling peas, since the Spring round just sort of fizzled. Nightshades are only just starting to flower, so we have a long way to go this season, but here, I have enough of this for at least one cup of tea:

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…and it’s been cool enough the past few days to want it HOT!

Harvesting this week:

Lettuce
Broccoli
Green Beans (tons!)
Nasturtiums
Pak Choi
Misc. Herbs

Sowing 2nd plantings:

Carrots
Gilfeather Turnips
Green Beans
Golden and Chioggia Beets
Shelling, Snap and Snow Peas
Lettuces
Brassicas

Come Into My Garden: 2

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No, really. Come on in.

C flagged down the tree-trimmers down the road and graciously offered our driveway as a spot to dump their full load of mulch. A heavy rain storm the other night washed a good deal of it away after our teeny stream jumped its banks, but I have plenty more to reapply. A top item on the agenda for when C can use his body normally again is to dig that stream bed a bit deeper. Thank goodness I had not yet planted out the peppers…their whole bed was gone! So much topsoil…whoosh, down the hill. It’s tricky business, farming on a steeply sloping piece of land. Creating drainage is a constant, evolving issue.

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Very similar to the last installment’s garlic photo, but can you spot the difference? I harvested yesterday and ended up with this:

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Today, I will fill the two-gallon crock with scapes to ferment, and another generous portion will go into yet more batches of pesto. Beyond that, I’m out of preserving ideas, so will do my best to grill and saute my way through them in the next week or two, and maybe make a compound butter. Any other scape ideas?

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Finally, a week of solid rain and these guys took off. Pickling cukes, you will be mine.

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1st and 2nd generation broccoli and cauliflower. Almost time to start the seeds for a fall planting…crazy!

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This is the blue jade corn. It’s an heirloom variety that only grows to 3 ft. tall, so I’m not sure where we should be by the fourth of July…certainly not knee-high; maybe, mid-shin high? If so, we’re almost there. I am especially excited about this variety because it is a sweet fresh-eating corn that is a deep blue that stays blue when you cook it, unlike those disappointing purple green beans that leach all their beauty when heat is applied.

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Speaking of green beans, we went all green all the way Providers this year. Hoping for a really great haul for the freezer. I tried dehydrating them last summer…awful! So many things dried very well, but green beans? It’s like they just can’t rehydrate, even in a soup.

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The 2nd planting of onions has gone in. I trenched with a hoe and laid compost in before planting. It’s a very efficient method; two flats out in no time. We ran out of room in the onion bed, so there will be a row keeping the celery company. Celery! I wish I had more than one little row of it, but that one row is looking fantastic. Celery + rain = friends.

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The buzzy time, when the sun is hitting the lower garden directly and the bees throw a party.

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And this just because there are never enough chicken pictures. Henrietta escaped the poultry fence. I lured her back in with strawberry tops.

Joining Heather of Beauty That Moves, I’ll do my best to keep track of my weekly harvests. This week, we’re bringing in:

-garlic scapes-lettuce
-arugula
-oregano

What’s happening in your garden this week?