Neighborly Advice Vol. 4 — Mostly Gardening Edition

Climb over the fence and join your neighbors in a learning adventure.

Climb over the fence and join your neighbors in a learning adventure.

With beginner “how – tos” on 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, you’ll find some new adventure to begin this weekend.

We shall start with some simple wise advice for everyone

A Survival Guide For The Economic Times

Now that the weather is getting nicer, it seems that everyone is either in the kitchen or in the garden.

In the Kitchen

Since we are cleaning up the grill for the season, how about making the freshest fluffiest marshmallows for a little after dinner roast? Okay, who knows all the words to Catalina Magdalina. ” Oh, she had a funny name, but she wasn’t much to blame. That’s what she’s called just the same, same, same… OoooH..”

Ahem. Sorry. Once I get singing, things just get right out of hand.

Homemade Marshmallows

Oh my! Look what Joel and Dana are up to. Someday, I’m just gonna show up on their doorstep for…

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Eggs are still one of the more affordable proteins out there. Plus, if you have a backyard flock you are always looking for recipes. Well, here’s…

100 Ways to Crack an Egg

In the Garden

So you’ve wondered what the heck are they talking about with all these different kinds of seeds. Oh look! Finally, a clear, concise explanation.

Organic, Heirloom and Regular Seeds Explained

Everyone should know how to plant potatoes. Let’s watch this family to learn their simple, common method. Very easy.

Planting Potatoes

Next, we’ll turn to the experts for info on…

Planting Onions

Herbs for the Home Garden

Here’s two nice little getting-started-in-gardening tutorials. You can do it.

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed

How to Start an Organic Garden

Once you get your stuff in the ground, you should try making these simple charming…

Row Markers

I don’t know about you, but I like to bring a little of the outdoors in. Why not try…

Indoor Tabletop Cactus Garden

And to calm ourselves, nothing is more peaceful than an aquarium. And guess what? When it’s time to change the water, give it to your garden. Aquarium water is wonderful fertilizer!

The Home Aquarium

Up In the Treehouse

Young or just young-at-heart try something new.  It's an adventure everytime.

Young or just young-at-heart try something new. It's an adventure every time.

100 Things to Do Before Kindergarten

In the Wild (Free Food Through Foraging)


That’s it for this week’s edition. See you next week for more tips from our smart neighbors.

Go outside and plant something.

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


Gardeners: What To Plant Now — Very Comprehensive

(Neighbor Nancy peeks over her massive stack of gardening books)

Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there.

(As Neighbor Nancy tries to stand to greet you, her towers of books tumble loudly about her feet)

Oh, for pity’s sake!


You know, I’ve been gardening for about a decade. First, a little indoor apartment gardening, then, a few tentative doorstep tomatoes, on to a parking space sized plot and so on.

This year we are trying wheat and oats for the first time on top three big veggie, soft fruit, herb and orchard areas.

And still… still… I have to poke through books each spring struggling to make sure I’m putting things in at their optimum planting time.

Then today, accidentally misfiled in my SPAM folder, I found this treasure from Mother Earth News.

If you’re impatient, the link is at the bottom.

It begins with a map, so you can click on you region.

Then, through the magic of internet, appears the most glorious monthly chart.

Indoor sowing, out door sowing, transplanting for vegetables and herbs, a list of the top ten producers for your region, articles with seed starting tips, etc.

I think I’m getting a little hot under the collar.

That link below is just down right sexy… well … to a gardener, at least.

Click here for What To Plant Now

( As Neighbor Nancy steps over her mess of book to see you out, she stumbles, throwing her apron and skirt over her head, exposing her granny pantie clad bottom. )

*String of curses deleted for the more delicate reader*

See you next time. I’m going to check on my bubbling bean pot of sour dough starter.

Join me Friday afternoons for the latest edition of the Neighborly Advice weekend magazine. A few neighbors and I have gotten together to share some beginner articles on backyard livestock, preserving, cooking, baking, knitting, etc. Join the fun as we challenge you to learn a new skill.

Where are you headed?

Cooking Essentials–Chicken Stock

Hi there. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive right in today.

If you are not making chicken stock, the base for a zillion soups, after you use bone in chicken, you are throwing money away. So grab a great big pot and let’s get cooking.

Chicken stock is easy. Once you learn it you never forget it. It tastes better and is much much cheaper than buying the canned stuff at the store. In fact, once you make it, the store stuff tastes terrible.

Let’s begin.

The standard freshman text for CIA ( Culinary Institute of America) calls for chicken bones, cold water, mirepoix ( basically, 2 part onion to each part of carrot and celery ,) and a standard sachet d’ épices ( standard contains: parsley stems, cracked peppercorns, dried thyme and a bay leaf ) with salt optional.

Well, fail me, now. ‘Cause that isn’t quite how I make it. I find theirs lovely, but flat.

I like a fullness … dare I say… body to my stock.

Ditch the textbook and give this a try.

Chicken Stock


Chicken bones — preferably the entire carcass from a roaster

Contents of the giblet bag, if you saved it.

2 medium onions — with all the easy to peel skin taken off

Celery — from 1 bunch, all the leafy tops and those little useless stalks in the middle

Carrot — Oh, about four full sized, cleaned. Peel ’em if you like, but I never do

12 whole cloves

1 Tablespoon of whole peppercorns

6 Bay leaves, maybe even 8

Salt — to taste at very end


1. In a big pot, most likely your biggest at home, put in the chicken bones, celery and carrots.

2. Stud the onions with the cloves and toss that in.

Why? It is just a little easier later, when you strain it.

3. With the flat edge of your chef’s knife, crack the peppercorns, then toss them in.

4. Drop in the bay leaves.

This is where the fullness of your stock is derived. Six is a minimum. If I have less than 6 on hand, I won’t even bother. I give mine a little squeeze just to break them up slightly. Not to much, because you want to be able to strain them out.

5. Cover the everything with water to within about 1″ from the top of the pot.

6. Bring it to a boil over high heat.

7. Put a lid on it and reduce the heat to medium low.

This is different for every stove. Basically, you want it to boil lightly the entire time. The lid allows the pot to boil at a much lower heat setting. Therefor, way less energy is used.

8. Cook it forever.

Sometimes this means 4 hours sometimes 6. Go ahead. Get a clean spoon and taste it. It should taste rich and comforting. If you are doing it in a pressure cooker, it takes about 1 hour from when it achieves pressure. Obviously, the pressure cooker is the more cost effective choice here.

9. When you feel that it has achieved a rich enough flavor, strain out everything, leaving just the liquid.

I hate this part. Smells great, but looks gross. And inevitably, I burn my hands in my excitement.

That’s it. You made stock. Congratulations!


Some people will tell you … no, no, no, add your onion, celery, carrots and spices after about 3 hours of cooking. Thank them for their input. Then, blatently ignore them. You want every tiny bit of nutrition and flavor those ingredients have to offer. Throw them in at the beginning and they essential turn to mush. Ah, but the flavor.


Well, it is just the best.

When you turn it into soup, you can add additional chopped veggies then, if you like. This method is especially good for the picky eater. Got a picky kid? Can’t see the vegetable. So there must not be any in there right?

Shh. It will be our little secret.

My favorite thing to do with the finished stock is add extra wide egg noodles. Cook them until the are just a bit firmer than you would normally eat them. Refrigerate the whole soup for 24 hours allowing the noodle to absorb some of the stock. Reheat and serve.

Always keep a container in your freezer to collect the bones and celery tops ’til you are ready to make stock like I mentioned on 3/11/09.  Just click the date on the calendar on the right.

You could just preserve the stock in mason jars using a pressure canner, but mine always gets eaten first no matter how hard I try.

Well, I’m off to roast a chicken … now that I have drooled all over my keyboard.

Did you try the stock? Any problems? Let me know. I can usually figure out what went wrong and help you fix it.

Don’t forget to check out today’s freebie. You can find it over there on the right.

Freebie Days –Living the Country Life

Good afternoon! What a lovely day. The bees are buzzing around the maple buds and the sap is flowing.

Join me for a cup of coffee and a muffin. I want to show you what came in the mail today.

It’s a magazine called “Living the Country Life: Ideas and Inspirations for Your Place in the Country.” The best part… it’s free.

Now I don’t mean free … like they send you one and then charge you for a year.

I mean free. Sign up. No credit card. I signed up last Spring and the thing still keeps coming free.

Here are April’s cover articles:

Cooking with herbs (the Mustard- Rosemary Grilled Lamb looks delicious! )

Get greener grass

Cool Mules

Your prettiest perennials

Similar in content to Grit or Hobby Farm Home just thinner.

It is published by the RFD TV channel, which may or may not be available through your satellite provider.

I love to thumb my way through a magazine now and then, especially when it arrives in my mailbox for free.

Click here to get your subscription to: Living the Country Life

Check out the other goodies available in the freebie category over there on the right.

Come back tonight and we’ll chat about the envelope trick or tomorrow for another freebie and a tutorial on making your own soup stock.

( Neighbor Nancy reties her apron and heads into the kitchen to catch up on her baking )

Freebie Days — Free Winter Sown Seeds

Well, hi everyone.

Not all of us are in the growing season yet. If you live where it is chilly, perhaps an adventure in winter sown seeds will bring Spring to you.

Another S.A.S.E. ( self addressed stamped envelope) and you are on your way.

Don’t forget to check out this not-for-profit’s web site for all the great information.

So, go ahead, get a jump on the garden.

Click here for free winter sown seeds.

Now, if I could just get my hands on a printer…

Freebie Days — Free Butterfly Garden Seeds

Hi there,

I’m glad you stopped by today.

For the next several days, I will be offering links to some nifty little freebies especially, for gardeners, parents, and educators.

So, grab a cup of coffee and join in the fun.

Today, I will show you how to get free butterfly garden seeds. And what better way to lure the children into the garden?

Click here for free butterfly garden seeds

Don’t ya just love a giveaway?

Here have a Lemon Spritz cookie. They’re still warm.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for our next freebie.

A Ton of Garden, A Tiny Space: Ideas for Space

Well, hello there. I hope you are well this evening.

Me? Oh, I’ve been cooking up some ideas.

I’m worried … about my friends and neighbors loosing their jobs.


Let’s not dwell on the negative. Let’s see what we can do to improve things. I’ll not have anyone going to bed hungry on my watch. Let’s get busy.

( Neighbor Nancy straightens her apron with resolve and heads to her potting table)

I encourage you to grow a little something. Sure, a lot of something would be great, but not always feasible.

Tonight, let’s focus on the sunny window of the apartment dweller.

For the apartment dweller:

1. Consider a community garden.

Check with your local church, library, school, etc. for information.

2. If a neighbor has some ground, offer them some of your harvest in return for using the space.

3. Ask you employer about planting any unused land around your workplace.

Point out that it would be less for a grounds keeper to worry over. Any sunny spot, even the grassy area between parking rows would work just fine.

4. Do a little container gardening in a sunny window.

With about 6 hours of good sunlight, you could try:

Alibi cucumbers are a good container cuke, growing to only 3 or 4 inches. A window box of leafy greens can provide a lot of nutrition in a small space. A single 12″ pot can grow a regular tomato or pepper plant or about seven prolific soybean ( edamame ) plants. Bush Delicata is a popular winter squash that was bred with the container gardener in mind. There are special compact container peppers, such as Mohawk or Apache Hot.

5. How about the rooftop? If it’s flat who could you ask for permission?

6. Consider “geurilla gardening”.

Okay, so this may be … well … tricky. The basic idea is that you plant public land — a nearby park perhaps. I have no advice on this. So, you’ll just have to check with your favorite search engine.

Start your adventure. Plant some food, whether for yourself or a neighbor. Dig in!

More sunny window links:

A Ton of Garden, a Tiny Space: Strawberries for the Apartment Dweller or Suburbanite —just what to grow them in

A Ton of Garden, a Tiny Space: Choosing the Right Strawberries for You — A little help choosing

Windowsill Herbs

What are you going to grow? And for whom?

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.

Shoe String Valentine’s Day Spa Recipes–Chamomile Soak

So, you were wondering who was going to rinse the tub after the oatmeal soak, if things turned naughty. Maybe, you would prefer this budget idea instead.

For 1 valentine’s body:

1. Run a deliciously hot bath for your valentine and add 3 chamomile herbal tea bags.

2.  Slowly add one loved one. With a little soft music and candlelight let your valentine steep for no less then 15 minutes.

3. Remove your soothed and relaxed bag…oh dear, I mean valentine. Gently squeeze your loved one dry.

4. Follow with a warm oil massage as mentioned in last night’s Oatmeal Soak.

Tomorrow night, after our waiting-for-payday recipe, perhaps, I will share a spa recipe for the hands.  Friday might be a chocolate facial mask.  We’ll see.

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 8:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Low Budget Gardening

So, the family needs to eat, but so many gardening books recommend methods way beyond your budget?

You could start with sprouts.

Have you bought spices lately? Try a 10 cent seed packet from You-know-whatMart in a sunny window. Oh, the huge amount of money you’ll save! In my humble opinion, nothing saves more money than growing your own herbs in a sunny window.

My best friend sees it as entertainment. Her Rosemary and Oregano are like little bonsai trees. But as previously mentioned, she belongs in the Boobie Hatch. I just let my herbs do whatever they please and take snippets, as needed.

If you would like to start or expand a garden, may I recommend:

Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Solomon. Published by New Society Publisher. copyright 2005.

Okay so I would get it at the library, but if you want to support the author…

I hate gardening books, love the pictures, hate the text. I actually like this one and read it cover to cover.

There is loads of great advice: from whom to purchase your seeds and why, preparing your soil on various degrees of tight budgets, getting the most bang for your buck.

I find the book well organized, very informative with the occassional touch of humor. His authority comes from years as a seed grower/supplier, so he knows his material.

Check it out.

Grab a bag of potting soil this week, save those egg cartons and yogurt cups. Like this…and grab a 10 cent seed packet of your favorite herb.

Next Monday, we will start a sunny window herb or two or twenty. Just the basics. Nothin’ hard about it.

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm  Comments (1)  
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