Rain, Rain Go Away


(Neighbor Nancy splats her soggy self into her chair for a sound pout.)

In the last month we have received 4,867,947 inches of rain. And not a nice, steady rain. Oh no! Cloud bursts full of lightning and hail and winds that blow the chickens across the yard.

Okay, so the chicken part is a little bit funny.

But I have had it! I am sick of being damp or sliding precariously in the mud down the slope of the garden or huddling just inside the door with my oscillating hoe, waiting for the lightning to stop.

While the oats have been pushed over by huge volumes of water, the weeds stand straight and tall, mocking me from their inappropriate homes. I saw a flattened row of corn next a happy, sturdy Japanese knot weed. Bastard.

Sorry, that just slipped out.

My strawberries aren’t a harvest they are puffy, sloppy, tasteless mush as are those of the good local U-pick.

A lovely sap producing maple was blown over — on top of — the back nursery of baby fruit trees. The popcorn rotted in the ground.

Somewhere there has to be a light — a positive side.

Well, the broccoli is thriving as are all the woody berry plants like blueberries, raspberries and currants.

I haven’t turned on the hose in over a month.

With all the accompanying fog, it is as lovely as living in Brigadoon. I can only see my parents’ barn every now and then.

With the sun at my back and a cloud burst coming in, the rainbows are fantasticly intense.

Thanks to a diversity of plantings, something will always live, thrive, grow.

And while I build my ark, in case we float away, I know that some crop or another will produce enough to help us through the harsh winter that waits at the end of this wet, hot, rather moldy summer.

How is the weather in your neck of the woods?

Oo! Break in the rain — I gotta spread some fertilizer and hoe more weeds. See you later.

(Neighbor Nancy flies out the door, letting the screen slam shut behind her. Immediately we see her slide on her bottom in a big puddle. Let’s turn our attention elsewhere as she curses and fumbles to get up. Not very dainty and ladylike, is she?!)

Neighbor Nancy’s Neighborhood in Watercolor


Somewhere along the way, between childhood and adulthood lived on the same property, neighbors have moved in. Many of whom are artists. On the 1.5 miles that make up my country road there live 4 artists — that I know of.

It’s kind of funny as I struggle to take mediocre pictures of my goings on as these folks create true beauty.

My mom just sent me a link.

The Bensonworks Art Studio.

Joanne Benson ( to whom I have probably waved a million times without even realizing it ) has done a lovely “Benton Road and Around the Block” series. This is my neighborhood.

So many of you have asked, so there it is in watercolor.

Make sure you look for “Shed in Late Day Winter Light” as it is a lovely watercolor of the playhouse from my Snow Day Secrets post

Maybe someday, she’ll even paint me in my apron and sun hat feeding my chickens. Don’t laugh. A country girl can dream, can’t she?!

Thank you, Joanne. It is wonderful to see it all captured so charmingly.

Candied Violets — So Easy A Child Can Do It


Well, happy Friday, everyone!  My son has a project for you.

This time each year my lawn is full of violets.

Shaw, age 6, making his candied violets.

Shaw, age 6, explaining how to make candied violets.

Here’s a nice beginner cooking project that brings Spring to the kitchen. Shaw will show you how to make candied violets and how he adds them to his favorite dessert, ice cream.

Let’s begin:

1. Pick a nice sized bunch of violets from a chemical-free lawn.

2. Gently rinse them in a colander and allow to drain.

3. With the help of an adult, separate two egg whites.

4. Beat the egg whites with a wire whisk, until just frothy.

5. By holding the stem, dip each flower in the frothy egg whites. Make sure the flower is completely covered with egg white.

6. Lay the eggy flower in a little bowl of sugar. Spoon sugar from around the violet to cover it.

7. Gently shake the excess sugar from the flower.

8. Dry on a sheet of waxed paper.

French Vanilla Ice Cream with Candied Violets and pictorial instructions, of course.

French Vanilla Ice Cream with Candied Violets and pictorial instructions, of course.

Now, decorate your cup cakes or add them to your ice cream. Surprise your friends by showing them how to eat a little bit of Spring.

What ways can you think of to add violets to your food?

This week’s “Neighborly Advice” will include more advanced violet recipes for more formal use.

Join us for the fun. Let’s get picking!

My Orchard Trees Have Finally Arrived. Yippeee!


Look! Just look at that beautiful list of fruit trees.

Coffee and muffins are self serve today. I am planting my long awaited baby fruit trees. I’m so focused on not killing them instantly that your on your own for a snack.

Sit a spell on the back porch and just look at all my goodies.

Apples (12 – scab-immune)

3 Enterprise/G.16

Florina/M.7

Freedom/M.7

3 Liberty/G.11

Murray/G.11

2 Pristine/M.7

Redfree/G.11

Pears (5 – blight-resistant)

Blakes Pride/OHF 87

Dawn/OHF 87

Harvest Queen/OHF 87

Magness/OHF 87

Potomac/OHF 333

Peach (3)

Contender

Redhaven

Reliance

Cherry, Sweet (3)

Black Gold/mahaleb

Regina/mahaleb

White Gold/mahaleb

Cherry, Pie (3)

Sumadinka/mazzard

Surefire/mazzard

Plum (5)

Alderman/pumiselect

Castleton/Myro

Empress/Myro

Polly/Myro

Superior/Myro

Wish them well. Hopefully, there will be pictures tomorrow.

However, if you never hear from me again, you’ll know that planting a mini-orchard finally did me in.

(Neighbor Nancy crawls off to a hot bath and a giant tube of muscle rub.)

Only 11 more to plant tomorrow. Yippee….yawn.

(Neighbor Nancy fell asleep on the comput………………….

What kind of fruits do you dream of planting?

What fruit do you already grow?

Field Trip: Pottery in th Poconos with Neighbor Nancy


Hi there! I’m so glad you dropped by. Grab a travel mug of coffee and buckle up.

Pickles, sauerkraut and fermenting. Oh my!

Pickles, sauerkraut, pickled eggs and fermenting. Oh my!

Since the garden is too wet, we are going on a field trip. Yes, you will need to pack a picnic as there is a charming wooded park with a nifty suspension bridge.

We might even engage in a game of Pooh Sticks, if you’re feeling a little young at heart.

In Cresco, PA, on Rt. 191 is my favorite once-every-other-year field trip. Holley Ross Pottery.

Some of the fun is getting there over wiggly back road, some is the lovely park to walk through, but my favorite part is pottery produced on site. Of course, the absolute best is their “seconds.”

(sigh) Yes, I would like that whole shelf, please.

(sigh) Yes, I would like that whole shelf, please.

This time, I have saved my pennies for crocks for fermenting pickles and sauerkraut.

Having used a ten gallon beast, I am looking for three and five gallon alternatives.

Also, perhaps another bean pot, like the one hiding behind the pitcher on the right would be great for my sour dough starter.

Lots and lots of strawberry from little ones for a windowsill to giants for the terrace.

Lots and lots of strawberry from little ones for a windowsill to giants for the terrace. Yes, that price on the "second biggest pot" stack at the left is $6.95

Next, we head into the sun room full of gardening pottery. There are pots so tiny you could use them as a thimble. And pots so giant you could cork them up and bathe your five year old in them. With strawberry pots in four sizes, bird baths, statues and so on, your garden will love you.

A little eye candy, esp. for my old school chum, Franc, a Fiesta ware collector, who really needs to come in for a visit.

A little eye candy, esp. for my old school chum, Franc, a Fiesta ware collector, who really needs to come in for a visit.

For the collector, they also carry loads of Polish Pottery, Fenton glass, all sorts of china and of course, a huge array of colorful Fiesta ware at prices much lower than anywhere.

So, If you are driving through the Poconos and feel like a little diversion, drop in for a visit. Even I, who hates to shop can be entertained be all there is to look at. And when the beautiful 3 gallon crock is only 20 bucks, you can be sure it is coming home with me for fall pickling.

(Neighbor Nancy takes a long sip from her new giant hand-painted mug, lovingly rescued from a bargain box. She reties her garden apron and heads out to trellis the raspberries.)

Maybe later, I’ll offer you some recipes for all those hardboiled eggs that you might have hanging around.

So, what treasure would you want to buy for your projects?

Weird Behaviors of a Country Girl


So, for the most part, when I want a reliable weather report I head to the NOAA site. They are far more accurate than any local radio or television station. Well, back when I had tv, anyway.

Internet is great. Any thing you want to know can be found somewhere.

However…

Being a country girl, sometimes just paying attention to your surroundings leaves you better prepared.

I was enjoying the fresh air last night, relieved that we are done running maple sap down the hill for my mom to evaporate on top of her wood stove. The sap didn’t stop running. We just have had such wonderful sap flow that she can’t handle any more.

Anyway, I was sitting outside and heard something that always gets me thinking.

Geese. Flocks and flocks of Canadian Geese honking their way north in the starry darkness of night. For hours, flock after flock. I finally fell to sleep around 4 am, still hearing them call to each other.

This thrilled me for two reasons.

1. Spring is here.

2. In my experience, many flocks of geese flying through by starlight only mean one thing. A storm is coming. I don’t mean a little rain. I mean batton(sp?) down the hatches, charge the batteries, check that the animals have full waterers, and make a thermos of coffee. That kind of storm.

The type with winds that yank at my mothers front storm door. The way her house sits, if the breeze tugs the front door open, it is time to bring in more wood.

Where was I?

Oh, sorry, need a cup of coffee. The geese.

So, it would seem if loads of geese, not just a random flock lead by some power hungry alpha goose, but flocks and flocks of geese flying through the night means a nasty storm within 48 hours.

If they fly fast, low and silent, within about 16-24 hours maximum. I don’t like when they do that. It gives me the creeps.

Well, I guess I should check the weather.

Snow Day Secrets


Where snow days were day dreamed away.

Where snow days were day dreamed away.

As a child, waiting for the ever elusive snow day was about all my soul could stand.

If the snow started while I was still in school, I would require constant redirection of my attention. My mind would swirl with the whiteness outdoors. Are the flakes small enough to keep falling? Will it continue through the night? Will it possibly be enough to scare the school superintendent into giving us that most magically of all days? The snow day.

The odd thing was that the snow day was always so long. It was a constant surprise that I couldn’t truly last that entire magic time on Suicide Hill with the fastest sled I owned. Eventually, I got cold, changed, got cold again, changed, baked cookies, got tired of getting wet and cold. Whew! it was exhausting.

The best place to spend the rest of my time was in my wondrous play house. It was huge. Well, still is. It is about the size of my current living room and kitchen combined. There were two lofts with a very cranky wooden ladder spanning them.

In the days when we had a backyard flock of sheep, the early lambs waited for me in a three dimensional maze of hay. Only the lambs and I could find our way through. I warmed bottles of milk fortified with molasses and set out to snuggle in with my wiggly tailed friends.

The new arrivals I visit to get my lamb fix.

Together, we contemplated the snow, discussed the problems of being young, and took cozy comfort in the sound of each others hearts.

The day usually closed on my mother awaking me from my toasty pillow of snoring lambs.

“Time to come in. Tomorrow is a school day.”

BTW, Check out the beautiful painting, by Joanne Benson, of my beloved playhouse.  She titled it “Shed in Late Day Winter Light,” ’cause she just didn’t know that it was my magical playhouse. Click here to view.

The Fresh Chef: Adding Soft Fruit to the Garden


Adding fruit to your garden, can be surprisingly simple. Don’t worry. Even apartment dwellers can add fruit to their container gardens. And, frankly, I think fruits are a heck of a lot easier to grow than most vegetables. So dig around on the internet and let’s add some fruit.

Last year, through my own clerical error we planted 75 raspberries, 50 strawberries, 16 blueberry bushes, 9 currants, 6 gooseberries, 5 GOLDEN Rings! 4 elderberries and a partridge in a pear tree all in one week.

Okay there wasn’t a partridge in a pear tree… the mini orchard is this spring and it will be 4 ducks not a single partridge. What in tar-nation is a partridge, anyway?!

Sorry. (Ahem)

We planted like mad and even used work lights in the strawberry patch to plant after my husband got home from work at midnight.

Here’s a better way.

1. Know your hardiness zone.

Click here if your unsure.

2. Decide what you want.

Soft fruit:

Strawberries- click here for container gardeners

Cranberries-no bog needed

Lingonberry- no need to travel to “that Swedish store with the blue and yellow sign.” Make your own lingonberry jam .. or chutney to go with pork chops. Oh my!

Blueberries- high bush, like the ones in the store, low bush, sweeter like found in the wild

Huckleberries- close relative of the blueberry

Raspberries – a container post to come on these

Blackberries- there are some thornless choices, dig around

Elderberries – for the jam or winemaker

Gooseberries- thorny, thorny, thorny- delicious. You know how they tell you to plant nasty bushes under your windows to prevent break- ins? These are great. Oh, plus they prefer a little bit of shade.

Currants- oh, what I wouldn’t give for one of those little lemonade flavored white ones right now?!  Partial shade tolerant and very hardy.

Sea Buckthorn- hardy enough for zone 3-9. Super high in Vitamin C. Nobody is getting Scurvy with these around.

Aronias- another super high Vitamin C, super hardy choice

Serviceberries- allegedly taste like blueberries, never tried them. Another high in what? yes, Vitamin C. So when the trains stop shipping you your orange juice…

Goumis- okay, I have no idea what on earth that is except that I believe it is a more southern fruit

Blue Honeysuckle- zones 2-8. Yeah that’s pretty darn hardy.

3.Place your order soon.

Hmm…

I’ve had success with Pense Nursery — a family run farm with super prices, knowledgable and great service. But, they don’t have any of the odder choices.  They lovingly ship the healthiest plants I have ever seen.  This operation is small. Call in the evening to place your order, give them a chance to come in from the fields.  They offer more than is on their site so ASK.

Raintree Nursery- healthy plants, informative catalog plus they have all the fruits on the list and more. I have no clue about the service other than delivery because I never called

Nourse — just the basics, wonderful charts to help you choose, will pleasantly answer all my moronic questions. Someday, I will take a pilgrimage there.

Do you own research, but get your orders in.
Everybody is gardening this year.

4. Just remember to make sure you don’t have them all delivered at the same damn time.

So what do you want in your garden?

Honeybees, anyone?

How about Mason Bees for pollination?

The Fresh Chef: Corn–Even Better Than You Knew


Oh, I’m sure you have had decent corn from the supermarket or really good corn from the farmers’ market, but the flavor that comes from a parking space sized plot of home grown corn? Unbeatable!

The people to whom you serve it will become your slaves. Well, not slaves (politically incorrect,) but you can surely get more favors from them.

Here’s why:

There is an old saying. Something along the lines of “walk to pick it, run to cook it.” As soon as corn is picked, the sweetness starts to turn starchy. Run to that pot!

If you want to serve the best there is, you have to grow it yourself.

A $3 bag of seed will provide so much corn that that just 4 stalks pay for the whole adventure. Not enough room? Oh, really? See link below.

Last summer I couldn’t find my 6 yr old. After a bit country hollering, I found him sitting in the corn patch happily nibbling an ear of corn.

“Uncooked corn? Gross!” you say.

Ah, then you have never had it that fresh.

You can have:

Sweet corn

Super sweet corn

Popcorn– a Ridiculously HUGE savings over buying the microwave kind and tastes so much better

Field or dent — if you want to make your own fantastic cornmeal or feed your backyard animals. This is also the category under which most ornamental kinds fall.

The biggest problem: Once you grow it, you will hate the taste of store bought.

Later, I will have more info on the kinds and how to choose.

Now,I have to bake our bread. Shall I make a loaf for you?

How are you gonna grow your corn in a garden the size of a parking spot?

Click here for: A Ton of Garden, A Tiny Space: Three Sisters– Corn, Beans and Squash

Living Off the Fat of the Land — Learning to Live Through Hard Times


As the Great Depression survivors disappear, taking their valuable knowledge with them, we are left to rediscover getting by. We, each in our own way, will find our way.

My way, the way which allows me to sleep at night, is to grow or raise as much food as I can. Live off the fat of the land, so to speak.

No matter if you live in the city or the country there are ways to get by.

My favorite book on the subject?

The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers by John Seymour. Published by Dorling Kindersley Limited. Text copyright 1976. Edition copyright 2003.

With beautiful illustrations, Seymour covers everything from urban gardening to wine making, from raising livestock to weaving.

His book covers everything you could want to know about doing it all yourself, whether you are growing your own grain or baking your first loaf of bread.

He insists that integration is the key. For example, if you are an apartment dweller with a rooftop garden, why not add a hive of honeybees? You get bees wax for candle and soap making, honey, and more pollination resulting in much more food from your garden.

He discusses this approach with varying sized situations: the urban garden, the allotment, the one and the five acre holdings.

His experiences read like an adventure book and from these he draws his authority.

I have never seen someone flip through this book that didn’t find something that fascinated them. From cook to carpenter, there is something for everyone.

I could live in the pages of this book. I highly recommend it.

Warning: Don’t leave it on your coffee table or you will loose any guest that touches this book to its pages.

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