Neighbor Nancy is eaten by her garden…instead of the other way around.

( Out of breath and holding a garden soil smudged glass of lemonade, Neighbor Nancy plops in front of the computer.)

Whew! Am I exhausted?!

Please forgive the recent drop off in quality and quantity of posts.

After a relentless week of rain and cold, my formerly beautifully tilled gardens are waist high in weeds. Okay, not waist high, but it sure as heck fire feels that way. Plus some new weed with roots in China is trying to take over the mini orchard.

I am so far behind now that it is not even funny.

Please forgive me, but you’ll have to hang out in the hammock for a couple of weeks, while I catch up. Feel free to help yourself to some strawberry lemonade and a Philadelphia sticky bun. Most of the books are in the attic. Help yourself.

Now there’s no need to take me off your blog reader.

I’m not disappearing forever. I just need a solid block of time to focus or else I’ll have to start writing about blog writing instead of real life and that just seems dreadfully mundane.

Please use the comments to ship topics you would like to see covered. Feel free to share recipes and links so we have more topics to dive into. Any quick questions can be e-mailed to I’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Also, in the beginning of June, we need to start discussing canning and preserving more seriously as the strawberries ripen. So get that stuff ready. The recipes I will be teaching are mostly free of store bought pectin. Usually no more than fruit, sugar and a little lemon juice. That kind of thing … very simple. I’m going to challenge everyone to make at least one batch of jam. We’ll use the water bath method so no pressure canner needed. A pasta or stock pot will be fine. Don’t worry. It will be easy. Maybe messy, but you’ll be kicking yourself for not trying it sooner.

Now don’t forget you can use the search bar above the calendar to search for stuff, too.

I’ll be back as soon as I can. Keep those questions, recipes and frugal ideas coming.

(Neighbor Nancy contemplates washing some of the mud from her hands and the keyboard. Instead, she flies out the back door toward the garden with her apron strings fluttering behind her as the screen door slams shut.)

See you after a bit.

What would you like to read more of?

Do you have any backyard animals? chickens, goats, rabbits?

What is your favorite “making do” tip?

What is the weirdest thing you ever found a second (recycled ) use for?

Have you tried making your own bread? sourdough?

How is your garden coming?

What are you growing this year?

Do you sing while you pull weeds? ( Don’t tell, but I sometimes curse.)

What’s your favorite frugal meal?

Share these thoughts with your neighbors in the comments section. Answer once. Answer a million times. And for pity sake get to know one another. You all are wonderful friends.

Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 9:18 pm  Comments (5)  

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.

Neighborly Advice Vol. 5: Neighboorhood Gone Wild With Free Food

A. Onion Grass  B. Mint  C. Violets  D. Dandelion

A. Onion Grass B. Mint C. Violets D. Dandelion

With beginner articles on Mason Bees; Mushrooms; Crystallized Edible Flowers and Fruits; Dandelion Bread, Soup, Salad, Casserole and Wine; Violet Jelly; Sugared Violets; Stuffed Wild Grape Leaves; Outdoorsy Kid Activities, you could say we’ve gone a little wild this week. Join your neighbors for a new adventure!

Congratulations to Jen Neff, the only one to get all 4 correct in the You’re Eating WHAT From Your Lawn Quiz.

After we harvest some wild goodies, let’s head into the kitchen to make a feast from our foraged finds.  Don’t be afraid.  Open your palate to something new.  We’re all adults here.  If we are brave enough to step out of our comfort zone, then we open ourselves to a whole new world of learning, adventure and … well, free gourmet food.

In The Kitchen/ Into The Wild

Surfer Sam inspired the creative juices for this weeks edition with the following comprehensive article.

Everything Mushrooms — varieties, recipes, etc.

Langdon Cook’s new book, Fat of the Land: Adventures of A 21st Century Forager sounds like my kind of adventure. From his blog we have…

Dandy Muffins and Bread

Here are more dandelion recipes from all over…

Dandelion Fritters

Dandelion Pesto

Dandelion Soup or Dandelion Salad w/ Eggs or Italian Dandelion Casserole or Dandelion Wine

And just look at all the fun we can have with violets.

Violet Jelly

Sugared Violets

Crystallized Edible Flowers and Fruits

I am particularly eager to try the two recipes that follow as I have never tried either.

Stuffed Wild Grape Leaves

Simple Delicious Fiddlehead Fern Recipe

Waiting to be mounted to get morning sun, afternoon shade, one of my semi-homemade mason bee homes.  Attracting more pollinators means more garden goodies!

Waiting to be mounted to get morning sun, afternoon shade, one of my semi-homemade mason bee homes. Attracting more pollinators means more garden goodies!

In The Backyard Barnyard

How to Build a Mason ( Orchard ) Bee House

Beneficial Bugs: Mason Bees

Attracting Pollinators

Mason Bees

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

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

Up In The Tree House

Make Your Own Printable Birthday Cards

Candied Violets — So Easy A Child Could Do It

Sorry for the quickie edition

In case you missed the past editions, here are the links:

Neighborly Advice Vol 1pizza dough, making jam, using a pressure cooker, learning to knit, rescuing lost stitches, adding goats to your backyard

Neighborly Advice Vol 2 — kool-aid dye, spinning wool, kids’ activities, natural egg dyes, keeping chickens, line drying clothes, making applesauce, finding your sanity, pickling eggs, frugal groceries, growing peas, tomatoes and even worms

Neighborly Advice Vol 3 — grocery budgets, foraging free food, starting a garden, seed tape, hemming pants, chickens, turkeys, fruit trees, goat cheese, fermentation, kid’s activities and my favorite book sale

Neighborly Advice Vol 4 — making marshmallows, starting a garden, planting potatoes, herbs and onions, charming row markers, slow-roasted tomatoes, foraging free food, kids’ activity to-do list, 100 ways to cook eggs, tabletop gardening, and even starting an aquarium

Planting Soybeans (Edamame) Quick Guide

Just a quickie about planting soybeans (edamame ) in the garden.

Soybean (edamame) spacing —  After last frost at about the same time as corn

If possible, soak seeds overnight to help germination.

Saying is: “if it is dry don’t even try.”

Plant about 1″deep.

In containers: 2″ spacing

In Rows: 6-10 seeds per foot with 15-30″ between rows

Intensive deep bed: Spread (scatter) seeds evenly to create about 3-4″ between plants in any direction  ( This one is an estimate.  It leaves more spacing due to lack of rows, but also nearly eliminates the need to weed after decent leaf developement

Square foot: 16 per square  ( possibly more )

Farm seeding rate: 80 pounds per acre

For higher yield and more nitrogen for the soil, try inoculating them.  Outstanding for crop rotation or in the planting season before introducing an orchard.

Sorry just a quickie, but I kept getting searches for this. In my zone, this is still 3 week away in my notes.

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!

You’re Eating WHAT from the Lawn?! — A Quick Quiz

What are these four food found in my front lawn?

What are these 4 foods found in my front lawn?

Here’s the deal. Name as many as you can and offer at least one use for each.

Serious and silly answers are welcome.

As this will launch a series of adventures, if you have an actual recipe using any of the above as a main ingredient, please e-mail it to That way you can get credit and be a featured recipe in the neighborhood.

Go ahead, guess! I double dog dare you.

(Neighbor Nancy reties her apron and heads out to pick a zillion of “C” for an upcoming recipe.)

Note: 5/8/09 — Oh, I am very entertained!  Get your guesses in.  Answers will be in this Saturday morning edition of “Neighborly Advice.”   Tomorrow’s theme is “Neighborhood Gone Wild”

BTW, forgive the picture, it will not stop raining here.  Lighting is terrible.

Hint — the stem on “B” is square.

Great Depression Recipes: Rhubarb Tapioca

Keep rhubarb pieces petite since tapioca is little, too.

Keep rhubarb pieces petite since tapioca is little, too.

Join me as I head back to the rhubarb patch and we shall make some goodies.

As I have gotten a lot of requests for more of this kind of thing, here is another Great Depression recipe courtesy of the USDA circa the 1930s.

And remember, if this doesn’t suit your taste, check the Cooking/Baking Basics or Waiting-For-Payday Categories at the right for other ideas. Or try the “search” bar above the little calendar.

Rhubarb Tapioca

hm … probably the two most mysterious foods in one recipe, which, of course, means we have to try it.


4 cups Rhubarb, cut into little pieces

2 cups Water, hot

1/2 cup quick-cooking Tapioca ( Isn’t it all quick cooking these days, 80 years later? Who knows? Check the box.)

1 + 1/2 cups Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Salt


1. In the top of a double boiler, over steam, stir the rhubarb, water and tapioca for about 15 minutes. No double boiler? Click here to make do.

2. Stir in the sugar and salt.

3. Cook for about 5 more minutes, until the tapioca is clear and the rhubarb is tender.

4. Chill thoroughly and serve it plain, with whipped cream or, perhaps garnished with a strawberry slice or two.

More rhubarb  harvest, storage and recipes to come.

Now here is the big question:

I never buy tapioca, but I always seem to have it. Why is that?

Does this happen to anyone else?

Making Do: How To Make A Double Boiler

Left: store bought double boiler. Right: homemade version that works just as lovely.

Left: store bought double boiler. Right: homemade version that works just as lovely.

Hello there!

So, you bumped into a recipe that calls for using a double boiler and your stuck. hm…

Yes, they can be expensive. And no you probably shouldn’t try that recipe without one. Usually by the time a recipe actually calls for a double boiler, it is sensitive enough to need one.

Here’s what to do:

Grab a relatively small sauce pot and find a heat safe bowl that will fit on top of it. When you fill the bottom ( the boiler part of you double boiler ) make sure that the water line is well below the bowl as it sits on top. It is the steam or heat from the water that warms the bowl and not the actual water.

I have functioned without a double boiler for years. Only recently did I receive one as a Christmas gift. While it is very nice, it tends to live in the back of the cabinet. If I am in a rush, I still just plop a bowl on top of whatever pot is closest at hand.

If you require a lid, any one that fits is fine or just try placing a plate on top.

Making do made easy. Tada!

BTW, you’ll need a double boiler for tonight’s Great Depression Recipe: Rhubarb Tapioca.