Come Into My Garden: 3.1

I say it every year:

This time, I’ll keep a notebook all the way through the last harvest.

I’m not going to say that right now. I’ll just begin, because even though it’s snowing today, the work has begun.


For several Springs, we’ve hesitated on a tree order. It’s a big commitment. It means that we expect to stay here a while, or that we’ll do grand things to transform this land, and may not be around when the fruits of our labor one day appear. But, we’re in this for more than just our personal rewards. Every year, we have made the tiniest of baby steps in transforming the eroding, muddy hillsides of our wee plot into what we hope will be a flourishing food forest someday. This year, it feels already as though we’ve taken a great leap.

We transplanted berries that had been suffering, and gave them more sun and some new friends to hang out with. We planted cranberries (!!!!!!) and willows in the wettest of the wetlands, and a pie cherry tree in the most perfect place ever (in ten years). Lavender, tarragon, oh and dahlias into the place where the Jerusalem artichokes were literally choking out everything else. Now, the latter have their own bed.

All this on a gorgeous sunny weekend, and tonight it will be 25 degrees.


It still felt safe to sow peas, though, if not any other seeds, and when I started to prepare the bed, the scuffle hoe caught on something. It turned out the entire bed was filled with forgotten parsnips! Our first harvest of the year! If you’re wondering how I could forget about an entire bed of parsnips, I have this to say in my defense: we had a tremendous deer problem last summer. They came through and ate all the tops from the parsnips when they were young, down to the ground, along with almost everything else in that section of the garden. I gave them up because I figured they wouldn’t be much bigger than fingers, if they had a chance to grow at all, since the tops had only barely begun to re-sprout when winter came. And now, I have a five-gallon bucket’s worth of root candy.


Oh, the sweetness of over-wintered roots! Unbelievable.

It gives me such hope for the growing season to come.

Here’s a quick and lovely thing to do with parsnips:

  1. Peel and slice whatever quantity suits your needs, and put the sliced parsnips in a wide skillet
  2. Add about a tablespoon of butter per cup of sliced parsnips, and water to cover
  3. Simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, some minced swiss chard and parsley, and simmer another 5 minutes, or until your greens are wilted. If your parsnips aren’t candy-sweet, you can add a bit of honey with the water and butter, and it will caramelize to fantastic effect.
  5. Enjoy!

Oh, and there’s this:


And, when the mist departs mid-morning, the forest is aglow with red budding maples.



Oh, so quiet…

…because this winter there was some pretty hefty, serious reevaluating going on around here. Ultimately, it results in a shift from this space into a new one, and I think you’ll like it. I’ll keep this home open for Spun Monkey-specific news, but I became less and less sure that this is the space I want to live and grow in. I’ll never stop loving fiber arts. It’s a huge part of me and is more than just a way to stop fidgeting; it’s a spiritual practice. I resolve to remain true to the main idea of my Kickstarter campaign from years ago, and continue to teach here and there throughout the year. I will offer special pieces for sale, on occasion, on a new site (goodbye Etsy). But, trying to make it into a reliable source of income made me a thousand kinds of unhappy, and there is no One Reason why. It’s just the way it is. Also, I don’t think it’s why many of you are here, anyway.


I’m hoping you want more goat pictures, and more about managing a subsistence garden and livestock while we juggle jobs outside the home, and how we create space and time for whole foods and body/soul nourishment with limited resources and a construction zone for a kitchen. Sometimes, it’s not pretty. In the new space, guests will come talk about their not-pretty realness, too. Sometimes, it is pretty, and we’ll talk about that, too.

Knitting and spinning will not disappear. It’s part of who I am. It’s also part of my day job, and somehow, I can still come home at the end of the day and let it take me relaxed places.


The new space isn’t open yet, and I’ll surely point you in that direction sometime in the next couple of weeks. I’ll continue to post here until then, and will be archiving and organizing pages for recipes, tutorials, and garden posts for reference.

I’m hoping that, by the time it goes live, you’ll be seeing a picture of this thing with an actual sink in the hole:


In garden news, we’ve rearranged our sort-of kitchen so we could start some seeds. Last year, we started too early and many of our plants got too leggy before it was warm enough to put them out. It’s hard to tell what-all will happen this time around, so we’re hoping setting it back about two weeks will make for happier transplants. Until we can re-build our collapsed greenhouse, we aren’t starting our own tomatoes anymore. This leaves us brassicas and flowers, mostly, that we need to start early. Squash, corn, legumes – those will all be direct seeded asap, and onion sets will be ordered.


Are you getting started early? What’s happening in your garden?

the things that are okay. good, even.

The last several weeks have brought many challenging and painful moments, from the usual blah blah financial hardships blah blah to the extremes of loss and all the dark and deep contemplation that accompanies death and moving on. I’m tired. But, I am alive, and I am healthy, as are those who are closest to my heart. I am simply exhausted of the many reminders this year that every moment we find ourselves to be alive and healthy is a moment to be celebrated and treasured. I know this, but it’s easy to forget amongst the daily grind, and the forgetting is often met, eventually, with a hard slap to the heart. So, you know, time to (wo)man up and just fucking celebrate or, at the very least, acknowledge. Here are some good things immediately in front of me:


  • There’s enough garlic hanging from my porch rafters to get us through until next year’s harvest.
  • Onion greens are soft and silky and so much less a beast to braid than hardneck garlic. Our onions may be small, but we weren’t able to grow them at all last year, so it’s a step forward.


  • I’m attempting a fall crop of shelling peas. I have no idea if it will work, as it depends on when Jack Frost brings the icy hammer down, but just getting them in the ground felt pretty good. I have faith that the odds are in my favor.
  • The boy is suddenly reading. And, I mean really reading. The kind of reading where we have to ask him about fifty times to please put the book down and come to the dinner table. That kind. I find it hard to be exasperated because I think it’s awesome.


  • This was supposed to be a garden post, hence a photo of my weed-ridden cabbage patch. The good thing here is that I’m not beating myself up for not keeping a pristine garden with our busy schedules. At least I can see the cabbage plants.
  • I actually wanted to spin this week, after not touching my wheel for months. I haven’t sat down to it yet, but the feeling was there, which is a damn good thing seeing as how I’m teaching at Fiber College next month and was feeling less-than-inspired to create samples and a new template for my class. I’m getting excited about it again. Phew.


  • Some of my basil looks like this, but some of it doesn’t. I feel okay about this for at least two reasons. I already made a ton of garlic scape pesto, so whatever I manage with the basil is a bonus. And secondly, tomatoes aren’t near ready yet.
  • I think it may be possible to woo our baby girl goat with raisins.


  • C is taking down a barn in a neighboring town and bringing it to our place. I want to paint it the color of these cherry tomatoes.
  • We thought we lost one of our ducks, but then discovered she was nesting under our bedroom window. No super-sleuthing skills required. She made her whereabouts known by demanding to be fed at 5:30am with loud outbursts of quacking. Under our bedroom window. This will continue for the next four weeks, if she’s lucky enough to survive outside the coop for that long. Odds are sketchy around here, but we deserve a lucky break. DUCKLINGS ARE GOOD THINGS.


  • I have managed to grow two healthy axolotls from eggs. They make me smile every day and will require their own post at some point.
  • I’m hosting a batt sale, and also a giveaway on my Facebook page, so stay tuned for a chance to win a fiber prize.

And now, I’m tired. So, good night Ezra, Molly, and Michael. You touched my heart, and I’ll hold you there. May peace come to all those who feel the pain of your passing, and may all of us left behind celebrate daily the good things in our life.


And good night to Granola, a sweet little lass we were hoping to have here on our wee farm for a long time.

  • One more very good thing of note: our neighbors. Such a blessing to live where we do. When my fingers wouldn’t work to untangle her little body from the fence netting, where she’d wrapped herself too fatally tight in a panic, helping hands came to take care of the unpleasant business. And yet more helping hands came to bandage another of our goats who was wounded during whatever goat-crazy happened while I was away from home. We take care of each other here, and that is a very good thing, indeed.

What are you grateful for today?

Come Into My Garden :: 5


So, I don’t know if it’s the lack of a farm cat (RIP Kitzman), or just a surge in the chipmunk population, but all three rounds of the winter squash seeds we’ve planted have been dug up and cached by those jerks. Oh, and three packets worth of sunflowers. I’m starting both in flats now, and hope the squash will have enough time.


We live about 1/3 mile up a dirt road and exist in an entirely different zone than our neighbors at the bottom of the hill. Only just this week did our peas require anything to climb on. This past weekend, I visited a friend just a wee south and east of us, and she served fresh-picked peas in our lunch-date soup. This has me experiencing some pretty intense zone envy, but I know we’ll catch up soon.


Okay, so here’s a thing. These are my radishes. Four weeks in. No bulb. No…radish. The greens are a treat for the goats and all, but I really did want some radishes to pickle. I guess it’s time for a soil test. And yes, weeding is on my to-do list for the week whole summer.


Blue Hubbard squash (three times) eaten
Sunflowers eaten
Delicata squash


Gilbertie tomatoes x 14
Blue cherry toms x 8
Various Heirloom slicing toms x 8
Red Celery
Basil in ludicrous quantity


same as last check-in, minus the dandelions
thinnings from the beet patch

Plans for this week include planting out the peppers and cabbages, and crossing our fingers that our CSA has winter squash starts.

What’s happening in your garden?

Twenty-Three: 52






 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.

O, this week you…

…kept at it. You are so close to the finish-line on a project you are less than enthusiastic about. Perseverance, man, you’ve got it.

…really started to feel the absence of our departed friend. I’m glad we finally had a good cry about it. I miss him, too.

…tried something you thought you didn’t like and discovered it wasn’t so bad.

C, this week you…

…made a bomb-proof bean teepee. Pretty sure we can live in it if we need to.

Twenty: 52





 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.


O, this week you…

…keep asking me when kitty will come home and all I can say is that I don’t know, that he may not, but we can still love him forever.

…took apart your old bike, just to do it. You broke it down completely, dividing up the parts into piles of what you might like to keep around for repairs and what you will repurpose for building projects, like that robot you keep talking about. Nothing is trash, and I think that’s pretty great.

…were really interested in the process of getting our bees situated this time around. We’ll enjoy watching them work this summer.

C, this week you…

…made it through, even though it was a tough one. We are stretched thin and feel a lot of pressure from many sources. We’re strong for each other, and I am grateful.

…felt disappointed when you didn’t get as far with the garden prep as you wanted to this weekend. Breaking new ground with only hand tools…it’s punishing, exhausting labor and, being the observer, I’m amazed at how much you were able to change the landscape. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

…set up the beeeeeees, and they seem happy in their new digs.

…kept yourself distracted and busy, as did I, so as not to constantly wonder if kitty will ever come home again.


Five (or Six) Senses Friday

FSF is a weekly ritual of sensual reflection. Play along if you wish, in the comments or link to your own blog. What is striking your senses this week?



Tasting:  Fresh green garlic. I thinned a few plants out of the garlic bed and chopped them up, greens and all and added them to cubed sweet potatoes for roasting. Perfect.

Touching: Roots and thorns and tender leaves. Transplanting is the word of the day week month.


Smelling: Lilacs, lilacs everywhere. Dizzying, really.

Hearing: Night creatures. The sounds that disappear from November through May have returned to lull me to sleep.

Seeing: The miracle of wood bending and not breaking. So much wind this week.

Feeling: Frustrated. Disappointed with the results of my job search, so far. I know it takes time and perseverance, so yeah…carrying on and all that. Hot cocoa cure tonight.


Oh, and I’ve also been here this week.

And here.

Growing, growing is the topic on Luminous and Literary Traces this week. Enjoy.


Eighteen: 52





 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.


O, this week you…

…ate breakfast with your bike helmet on because you were so excited to get out there and ride.

…dug right in. To everything. When the old pine crashed through our garden, you were there with the wheelbarrow to help remove the debris. When the compost was delivered, you helped shovel our neighbor’s share. When I finished turning a garden bed, you were there with the hose. Spring has turned up your Helper Monkey Frequency to an awesome degree. I love it! And you seem to be having so much fun…bonus party.

…did most every task with a thick layer of dirt crusted onto you. When we started on your homework, I couldn’t help laughing. Look at those hands! It’s all about the warmth of brown earth right now…gotta wash away all those memories of bright, clean snow! Good riddance to that!


C, this week you…

…cared so sweetly for all our green babies. I love how you call me during the day to make sure I’m keeping an eye on the greenhouse and making sure our future vegetable friends have everything they need.

…bore it all with grace when things didn’t go according to plan this weekend. Somehow we’ll get it all under control, one day at a time.


Later today…fiber post!

Seventeen: 52



 the 52 project.
Portraits of my main squeezes, every week.

Keeping on task, better late than never. This was a week of recovery, of too much on our plates, of feeling really, really tired at the end of the day. No one wanted a camera in their face.

Experiencing joy in the freshness of Spring has been temporarily replaced with the Herculean tasks of reworking fencing for the beasts and birds, readying the garden for planting and babying the seedlings in the greenhouse, felling trees and general clean-up. It’s busy, busy, busy time before the mellowness of early Summer can set in. At the end of each work/school day, we are taking advantage of the extra hours of daylight. It’s a rewarding sort of exhaustion, but this week it made for grumpy photo subjects, especially after several days of dealing with the sicko. I wrote about waking up from that haze here.

And about the ridiculousness of piling the plate so high here.

And a Luminous post about mornings here.

Oh, oh, OH! And don’t forget THIS: there are handspun yarns, hand dyed yarns and a few other special treats by The Spun Monkey hanging out at the Cloverhill Yarn Shop booth THIS WEEKEND at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. GO!

Five (or Six) Senses Friday

Okay, does anyone here remember FSF? I had to search back nearly two years to find my last post! Well, I’m bringing it back. Like, right now. It may be past midnight, with C still down the road working the last sap boil of the sugaring season (for us, anyway), and I may have stayed up too late to make maple marshmallows for a certain freshly-eight-years-old sort of person who wants to have a s’mores party, BUT it’s still Friday somewhere, so here goes, and in case you don’t remember:

FSF is a weekly ritual of sensual reflection. Play along if you wish, in the comments or link to your own blog. What is striking your senses this week?


Hearing: Drip, drip, drip. The last of the snow and ice have melted off the roof this week. The sound of Winter’s grip finally, really and truly letting go is a glorious thing, even more so than the return of myriad melodic bird sounds. Fact.


Smelling: Sweet, sticky steam. The last hurrah…until next year, of course. Really, there is nothing like a maple steam facial. It doesn’t exactly clear the sinuses, but it’s happy-making. Another fact.

Tasting: Some of the last of our summer-in-a-jar. Tomatoes, peaches…all must go, so they are making heavy appearances in our cooking lately. My body is growing tired of our winter cache and craves the first greens. Soon!

Seeing: The miracle of Springtime. Just when I think I can’t handle the white and brown for a moment longer, I nearly crush a bright green clump of bulbs just emerging (they weren’t there yesterday!), or see that the amaranth has germinated and magenta stems are reaching up towards the strengthening sun, such a treat for my color-starved eyes.



Touching: Fiber. It’s been a while since I really wanted to. I have the opportunity to work on a really fun project (more on that soon!), and it’s been wonderful to make friends with my wheel again. This is a good thing.

Feeling: Hopeful and energized, increasingly so as Winter retreats. I’m making lists and plans.

What’s happening with you?