Sunday, April 25, 2010

Finally! The New Garden is Planted

I know I have been talking about this mystery front yard garden for quite a while. I even started digging which is the hardest part. The plot is 7 feet by 5 feet. It was a feat digging it, but with much help from Number 3 and the neighbor boy, I separated the grass from the dirt and got it done. Then it sat there. Alone. A big grassless patch of land. The front yard's barren plot.

Not any more! Yesterday was my Saturday to do hab with my client and I thought, "What a great Earth Day project!" So the boys and I picked him up and brought him home! Sometimes I call him Number 4. The five of us turned the existing dirt, added blood meal, manure, mulch and some phosphates, then we turned all that under.

Then the planting began! We planted corn, sunflowers, watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini and cucumbers. You can see that we have more room for at least four more gardens and that is just what I plan to do! (Gotta finish this semester first though!) In time for a mid-summer planting I will have another plot dedicated just to pumpkins, pie and carving. I should probably get to that digging soon, before it gets too hot.

She Lays Blue Eggs

Both of the girls started laying within the last two weeks. Gia was the first to lay. She gives us an egg a day. Then the best surprise, ZoĆ« Nightshade started laying daily too! But her eggs are blue!!! They taste the same, so say the kids, since I don't eat eggs. I wish I could get a better picture, but all the other eggs were this morning's breakfast. I will post a picture of both eggs together so you can compare the two. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

So Long Since I have Written

Hi everyone,

I am so sorry we have not written in such a long time. Any of you students out there that the end of the semester is the busiest. As soon as all of my last minute projects for school are complete, I will write more.

For now, a really quick update before I write my Philosophy of Sex paper. Last weekend was, by far, the most challenging weekend Tris and I have had, both physically and emotionally. And all this was caused by sheer exhaustion. It's Thursday and I think we have finally caught up on sleep.

We had to give our dog to another home. We love her, but she was always running away or after the chickens. We hated to do it. The boys took it better than anyone expected. They got to go to the house with Tris to see where Amelie, the dog, would be living and they all approved.

The chickens started laying. What a relief.  We are not sure which one is laying or if the both are, but we are just thankful to be sending home-fresh, hard-boiled eggs with the kids to school for lunch. The eggs are small and white. We were hoping for some blue ones. I am calling my chicken lady to get another laying hen and some new chicks in early may. (We also have talked about getting some rabbits, but that's not been decided on yet.

The yard is looking colorful and smelling amazing! The roses are in full bloom. Red, peach and yellow roses are abundant. The chinaberry tree has blossomed and the smell is delicious. The peaches are growing. I think we should yield about 30-80 peaches. I think the highlight of spring has been the grape vines. The are flourishing like usual,  but this year, we have about 25 bunches of grapes! Our own fresh grapes?! I can't wait to try them.

That's about all I can give you for now. Off to study and write and study!


Sunday, April 4, 2010

We're Jammin'

With strawberries about to hit the local farmers market stands and the regular retailers selling a pound for 97¢, the abundance is overwhelming! Spring is here and I love strawberries. I also love strawberry jam, but it's really hard to find it without added white sugar. Trader Joes has a really great organic one, but it's $4 for  a small jar, so I thought I would try my hand at canning my own jam. Success! I have received a good feedback on teaching with pictures, so with further ado...

What you need for one batch:

4 pounds of strawberries
1/2 cup of agave nectar
2 tspn of pectin

Start to heat your water bath. Prepare your jars. Cut and wash your strawberries. Take the stems off, just in case that didn't cross your mind.

Pour your berries into a pot and smash a bit with a potato smasher or blend in a blender. Or leave whole like I did with my first batch. Turn the heat on and start to warm while you prepare the agave and pectin mixture. Follow directions for the pectin that you have. Mine was two tbsp pectin and calcium  mixture (came with the pectin) to 1/4 cup of sweetener.

Heat for a while on medium to low heat. Stir often or you will burn the berries to the bottom of your pot. If you start to get some burning, turn the heat lower. You will start to notice the liquid thickening. Don't get crazy and think you are done. Just keep letting it cook. 

While your berries are thickening, you can prepare your jars and wash the dishes that you have. Less to do later. One thick, pour into hot jars, put lid on and screw the ring loosely. Put in water bath for 5 minutes. Remove, let cool. I would let these jars sit for at least a week before giving into your craving. 

My first batch last night turned out a little better, I think because I let it cook longer. This is an ongoing process for me. When I get market berries, I will try again. It's amazing that eights pounds of berries fit into nine jars. You may have more or less jars depending on how much liquid cooks off and how big your jars are. Happy jammin'!

The Real Lady Marmalade

She's my friend Chris. Artist, gallery worker, mountain biker turned stay at home mom, artist, web designer and creator. When I met Chris, she had two children, E and Q. E was 3ish and Q just a year. Now she has three. E is almost 7, Q is 5 and T is 2. Chris was a banker, type A and terribly over protective. She always had her eye on the kids. She was, and still to some extent, is my parenting opposite. No matter how hard I try, I cannot shake the type A completely out of her. Chris is a great mom, wife and friend. Lately Chris has been getting creative in the kitchen. For the past three years, Chris has been making marmalade from all the citrus that grows in her back yard. It's so good! So I thought I would share her recipe, with her permission, with all of you.

5 cups of fruit pureed (You can use all kinds of citrus, keep in mind how tart you want your marmalade)
2 cups of juice (from your cutting of fruit, use a cutting board with a gutter)
4.5 cups of sugar
2 tbsp zest

Wash your fruit and peel with a knife. It's ok to leave some of the white on your fruit. Remember to collect your juice as you go. Bring juice and zest to a boil. Start to cook down fruit and sugar. Add juice and continue to cook down until fruit and juice get thick and syrupy. ONLY COOK ONE BATCH PER POT or you will be waiting forever for it to thicken.

Once everything has thickened, pour into your prepared jars. (Prepared = washed with soap and water and make sure jars are hot. I boil mine in my water bath.) Put the lids on and loosely screw the rings on. By loosely I don't mean so shit floats out but don't muscle 'em. Put them in the water bath for 10 minutes. Take them out and wait for the blessed Pop! Let them sit for a week or so.

"When I think spring, I think cerveza. And salsa." Actual Chris quote.