Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fun Socks from Old Clothing's today's guest post over at NotDabbingInNormal, written by the great GrowTheChanges team.

You'll love seeing how easy it is to turn those used shirts and sweaters into really great homemade socks!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Simple Herbs, Full Flavors

Two herbs almost anyone can grow, and are easily kept in pots --
Rosemary (the green stalk), for remembrance

and Thyme (the other herb here sprinkled over all), for courage.

For the simplest memorable meals requiring no courage at all to enjoy, they make a great pairing. These are the first two herbs I've used straight from the garden as well as home-dried for use in our meals.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

We love these spices for poultry, soups, and breads, but our favorites are probably for roast chicken/turkey (as a rub on the skin with oil and under the skin for flavor)

...and another favorite use is for roasted veggies.

These were last week's batch of roasted veggies prior to being put into the oven. They require no adornment other than these two spices, a good sprinkling of sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil before being sealed with foil (or covered) and baked at 400 degrees F for an hour or long enough for the thickest veggie chunks to be fork-tender. That day's ingredients were simple some white baking potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Vidalia onions. But you can use whatever dense root veggies and tubers are at hand.

The roasting leaves the veggies aromatic with herbs, and it can be crisped up by briefly uncovering and leaving a bit longer in the oven (we like it without doing that, just fine). Depending on the veggie/root, sometimes it gets paired with salad, with rice, with roast beef, or just served alone, depending on the meal. I've used the pan juices as "gravy" when serving, or to flavor soups or rice. Leftover veggies are great chopped into a hash and crisped in a skillet by themselves or served with eggs for breakfast (especially with a dollop of salsa or a pinch of grated cheese atop), and also are great for a nearly-instant soup when paired with juices from a roast, or turkey-carcass stock.

They also pair well with garlic as a spice.

I, like most people had already discovered the flexibility of rosemary and thyme, but most of my spices used to come from the spice jar rather than just outside my own back door. These are two that have found their way into an abundance of dishes around here because they're so adaptable and delicious fresh.

My next thing to try them in....homemade vinaigrette!

What are your favorite go-to garden herbs?

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Even in the early garden, the reds are a standout. Shown above, lettuces in the Salad Bar Bins, and shots of the Kiwi vine that somehow survived the freezes. Those fuzzy, twining scarlet stems and tendrils merit some closer looks.

I have yet to get my head around the Florida seasons, since I spent most of my life in Tennessee. I've been here several years but have only been trying gardening here the past couple. We're still doing this on a very small scale, and I'm also trying to adapt to the strange weather fluctuations. Year before last was completely dry. Last year, we had some nice rains. This year has been unusually cool and mild, though the days now are picking up some heat. So far this year very little early year rain, and there hasn't been a drop in over a month...none in the forecast, either. We had three freezes earlier in the year, and that did in a bunch of our subtropicals (which are suited to this area ideally...usually).
So, it's a head-scratcher. And we're just putting seeds in now. Come freeze, drought, or hurricane monsoon, we'll keep planting according to our hunches and the county extension handout planting charts, and see what happens.


Some trivia...

Years ago, my daughter competed for several years in Irish step dancing. I have part-Irish ancestry, love watching traditional Irish dance, and am a confessed Riverdance and Lord of the Dance junkie, even to today. This is just the backstory for the following --

As you know, we have no TV, and pick up most of our news via radio and internet. I saw the footage of Susan Boyle and her performance/song that's being talked so much about and smiled with the rest of the world to hear her remarkable voice. In perusing her recent Britain's Got Talent youtube videos, I also ran across those of other contestants such as Hollie Steel and Shaheen Jafargholi. Amazing voices.

And then on the sidebar I saw this father-son act...and I haven't laughed so hard in such a long time. Flashbacks to Riverdance, with a twist!

Here it is...the Greek rendition of Michael Flatley

I hope you have time to follow the link for a smile...I'm still laughing!!

Friday, April 24, 2009


(click on any photo for an even closer look)
A stem of sunshine.

A closer look.

Closer yet.

Its neighbor leaning into the light.

Saffron petals spill from a crown of green.

An even closer look.
Soft down invites a touch...

I hope your day is full of doubletakes of the beauty found when looking closer.


Let us hold our Creator, our loved ones, our values and our freedoms close during these days. These are things that merit not compromising.
Just thoughts...
Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Apologies to Mother Goose

This is the sprout
that 'll make the snap beans
that Jack grew.

This is the contraption that waters
The sprout that'll
Make the snap beans
That Jack grew

These are the rows
Beside the contraption
That waters the sprout
That'll make the snap beans
That Jack grew

This is the stuff
That was raked into rows
Beside the contraption
That waters the sprout
That'll make the snap beans
That Jack grew

This is the poo
That became the stuff
That was raked into rows
Beside the contraption
That waters the sprout
That'll make the snap beans
That Jack grew

And all for the sake of a mess o' beans...
I'd like to say a special hello to the HomesteadingToday readers stopping by today
....I'm so glad you're here! :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pit Stop

Not exactly the most girly subject to write about, but I've tried one of those "rock" deodorants for the first time.

Hey, whether the homestead is a window ledge or a vast tract of acreage, we all sweat sometime.

For more of my thoughts on this "scent"-tillating (sorry! ha) subject, it's today's post over at NotDabblingInNormal.

Yeah, that's how to put regular readers to the test about body odor ...or the more elegantly spelled body odour if you hail from Across The Pond. The English do have a way with a word, don't they...even ones that stink ;-)

More later...I'm sooo tired. Worked last night and now it's shower time, and then to hit the pillow.

I watered in all the new seeds again before sundown yesterday. I love the anticipation that builds before the first shoots appear!

Have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Birthday & Blog-aversary, Weirdo!

Yesterday we celebrated my birthday...late. Hey, these days we have to make an appointment just to get the three of us in the same location!

I also realized that my blog's anniversary came and went...oops! Then I discovered on my sidebar that no post archives prior to 2007 are showing...what?? I started blogging here in Spring 2006.

Well, anyway, Happy Birthday To Meeee, and Happy Blogaversary to TheBackForty!!!

If I were more together, I'd have a giveaway to celebrate. I'll have to search the stash and see if I can come up with some of those winter crafty things somebody might be interested in....dunno...some gift-giving seed packets??

Yesterday to celebrate my B-day, we had a relaxed breakfast at home and then hit the road to go about an hour away to a more rural area that has a couple good feed-and-seed stores geared more to the Ag people than city folks. I was in seed heaven as the owner measured out scoopsful of bulk crop seed into the metal hanging purple hull peas, fordhook limas, clemson spineless okra, snap bean seeds. And a couple tablespoons each of yellow crookneck squash and cucumber seeds...hooray!!! We wandered around browsing the open-air shed, and it was perfect weather...warm sun, bit of a breeze...and animal feed, tack, and equipment all 'round. There were handprinted ads for horses and dogs for sale tacked to the counter, and all the math at checkout was done with a handheld! It's a good thing they didn't have chicks in or we may have bought them, too, and then had to figure out the next step later. :)

Well, it's BIG HUGE news for me, but if I can slowly save my money the next few months, we've both agreed it would be feasible to purchase a dog. To some this is an easy matter, but we're being very VERY careful with our money just now and are unable to justify additional expenses because we have an actively-decreasing amount of debt, and do NOT want to lose our momentum in seeing it ALL go away by sometime next year. This is THE crucial year in that equation for staying consistent.

So there is no big rush, but it's nice to know that I can trim a bit here and there and sock it away in anticipation of getting a farmstead dog! (for the future farmstead, of course, and the present farm-girl-in-waiting)

On the way to the Feed-and-Seed, we passed a five acre family farm that has one of my favorites...Barbados Blackbelly Sheep. I'm not sure why I have such an affinity for this animal, but EVERY time I see them, I KNOW we'll be raising them if ever given a chance...the same way I know I want a Jersey cow and some chickens...I just know. Every time we've passed that way in the past, we've had to stifle the urge to just pull in and knock on a stranger's door and ask to see their sheep. In fact this was part of Jack's plan yesterday, but after we pulled onto the side of the road, I had an attack of shyness and insecurity and we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: Are we really going to just drive up and go knock on their door?

Jack: Well, I know you really love those sheep. Don't you want to?

Me: Sure, I want to, but I wonder what they'd think of our just driving right up there and wanting to see their animals...after all, the sheep are in the back of the property this time.

Jack: Well, we don't HAVE to, I just thought you'd enjoy it. Y'know, like ask them questions.

Me: What kinds of questions? I'm not sure what questions I'd be asking at this point. But I'm sure I could think of some.

Jack: Well, I thought you had a lot of questions. Yeah, if you don't, we probably don't need to bother them.

Me: You mean it would seem weird to just stand there and say "hi, you don't know us, and we're not selling anything, but we were driving by and for her birthday, my wife would love to see your sheep"?

(this is when we both start laughing)

Jack: I just thought you'd love to see them.

Me: I would, I would, and I'm really glad you thought of it! I'm just worried this might be like the time we left a note with our phone number in it on the mailbox of the neighbor we don't know who lives a mile down from our house, telling her we love seeing her border collies always waiting for her at the gate every afternoon, and asking her if she got them from a breeder she could recommend to us. And then we never heard from her and noticed she was kind of freaked out for several days and had locked up her dogs??

Jack: (laughing)

Me: OK, I'm just feeling shy about approaching strangers and kind of barging in...

Jack: No problem. I just thought you had questions

Me: Well. I could ask them how they deal with the parasites down here and if they have to worm their sheep a lot or if they are bred to be highly resistant? Like "Hi! It's my birthday and I wanted to ask you if your sheep are parasite-resistant and by the way can I go look at them?"

Both of us: (Looking at each other for a second)

Jack: We're weird.

Me: Yes. We're freaks. But you know, if we lived in the country we wouldn't be having this conversation. People in the country like talking about their animals. The "country" here is too near the city.

Jack: So we'll stop here another time, right?

Me: (laughing) Yes, I think that would be better...

Jack: Weirdo!

Me: Freak!

And then we see it.

You know the type, the little church on the side of the road with the marquee that has some weekly phrase or inspirational quip to catch the attention. This inverted V-roof one sat in a neatly-manicured little pastoral patch of ground flaked by a small blacktop parking lot.

Beside the road, its marqee read


We passed the church as we continued on down the highway.

Me: I don't know about that, y'know.

Jack: What?

Me: About that church back there. Did you read the sign?

Jack: Yeah...what about it?

Me: "Is there life after death? Find out this Sunday!" I wonder if Jim Jones tried that on his marquee. Y'know...with free Koolaid and refreshments in the fellowship hall before service?

Jack: You're sick (laughing)

Me: I'm just sayin'...

We spent the rest of the day hanging out together eating Mexican with our daughter at a local dive, and went home and planted all the poo piles with the newly-acquired seed stash and watering everything in. We sat quietly on the back porch at the end of the day, pondering the Great Questions of Life (such as Life After Death and its relation to sermons and Koolaid, ha!) and listening to the evening sounds approach. We passed a gallon of Spring water back and forth to each other for some long swigs. Tired, sunburnt, happy!

A perfect day.


We're weird.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Signs of Life

(Clicking on any photo will enlarge)

First sunflower of the year shyly unfurling

Volunteer vines of mystery plants whose seeds overwintered beside the compost pile, snug next to some volunteer potatoes who just didn't want to quit and become mulch

Salad bar bin with lettuces and Roma bush snap beans. Can you spot the baby nasturtium peeking through?

Purple hull pea sprout proving it can grow in fairly fresh horse stall cleanings

Sentinel flowers from radishes gone to seed...these remind me of clean sheets hung to dry in the sun

Blushing radish pods expectant with seed
What is awakening in your back forty?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Planting Directly Into Grass...No Till Peas??

Purple Hull peas, that is...

food not instead of the lawn, but smack IN the lawn??

I'm on a mission to find more purple hull peas and bush type beans and cowpeas, except I just don't want to pay Big Box store prices for individual packets. I had to hunt and hunt to find a Farm Supply store (over an hour away!) that sells farm seed by the pound...the southern girl in me has just exploded this spring (it ain't pretty, folks...ha!) and I'm so SO excited by our success in seeing the few dozens of bush-type Roma green beans come up like gangbusters, I want to plant more, more, MORE...

(they're qualifying as Robbyn-proof so fuss, fairly bug-proof, endures weather extremes and not-so-fertile soil and still are growing strong...WOO!)

I'm jazzed!!!

And I'm hungry for food that is good for me.

I'm very surprised that with the necessity of keeping things simple due to our work demands away from home, I'm reverting back to the handful of crops that kept me fed during the country part of my childhood.......the old southern standbys.

I SHALL have the other things, too...we'll add them in yearly, a couple at a time, and keep going with what we already have. But I need to eat in the meantime, and the things I know we grew under punishing conditions in the deep south of my youth were simple...they were what we found at the farm supply store:

Bush green beans, purple hull and other cowpeas, bush limas, tomatoes, scallions, yellow squash, zucchini, okra. Yeah, we had corn, eggplant, lettuces, and so on, too...but what was on the table for dinner was usually purple hull peas, squash, scallions, and tomatoes...always with cornbread.

Oh yeah, and I want sweet potatoes, too.

OK, on to the question at hand...

Today when I was looking for sources for pink-eye purple hull peas, I happened upon this article. It's worth a look, and it has pictures. Basically, it's a small write-up about a man who stakes off part of his yard each year and plants purple hull peas directly into his lawn.....NO digging, NO planting per se, NO shovel or hoe....huh? He mows his lawn, stakes off the section he wants for growing the plants, drops the seeds straight onto the area, basically walks across it to make sure the seeds make it to ground level, throws down some fertilizer, and waters it in. He waters it each day till they flourish...about fifteen days, and then the plants kind of take over their area, and he basically keeps the grass mowed around the edges.

I's not the House Beautiful raked-and-staked weedless patch of perfection, but I found it SO interesting that he got a whole crop off this one patch with so little effort...and those little stinkers seem hardy to the point that they overcame the grass enough to put out a decent harvest.

For people like myself who already have access to land that's unused (we have a vacant lot next door) with only part of it under what can only loosely be termed cultivation, why shouldn't I try growing some patches of food this way instead of having to keep mowing down the wild vegetation periodically (we have to for fire issues, even if we wanted to leave it wilder.) And I can put some in areas of my existing lawn that aren't used or are a part of our "resale curb appeal." (sigh)


So I called the county extension service and followed the trail to the farm supply store and can now take a little day jaunt on one of my days off to go purchase seed by the pound for the same price I'd pay for one or two packets of seed at my local retailer. I'm nostalgic for the plain food from my childhood garden...I have enough herbs and such growing in buckets that it would never lack for seasoning and dressing it up with variety.

Right now I have some limas boiling on the stove. And sweet potatoes baking.

And it looks like I have enough "lawn" next door to warrant some wild-and-crazy experiments. If growing things in the lawn is that easy, ANYone with ground surface can eat...and that's good news for people like myself who can't afford equipment, soil amendments, and a lot of extra time to go far afield for some of the less expensive or free alternatives at times. (Though we do have a lot of different kinds of those projects underway, we're just tapped out of time and money for more, like many people).

We'll see...

I'm so excited about trying this!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quantity Cooking Recipe Success

Hey, I'm trying it a little at a to cook in quantity to have for dinner and that can be frozen for later meals.

Here's the latest one we love...I posted the recipe for Orange-Cumin Beef Stew over at today's Not Dabbling in Normal post. If you get a chance to try it, I hope you love it as much as we do!

Welcome to all the new visitors to this site...I'm glad you're here! I'm here sporadically and am presently trying to get my camera back in action. We're having fun in the garden, and we're especially glad for the rain showers that finally came in the last 24 hours...woo!

I'm off now to get my anti-crankiness sleep so I'm fresh for work tonight during these upside-down worknights/days. Shall return soon!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunshine On My Shoulders Makes Me Happy!

Oh how I miss John Denver...

Oh, how I'm glad there's sunshine to bake in and dirt to play in outdoors!! Whether it's a glorious day or one just passing the Below Average mark indoors, outdoors my troubles all cook away as I play in my playground (stable mulch, garden hose, hoe and (of course!) 5 gallon buckets), slow-basting to a crispy goodness and getting downright it!

I got really sick of seeing straggling brown stubs of nuthin'-much left after our unusual freezes, and when the opportunity struck, I hastily surrounded all the dead plants with green bean seeds...bush type...Roma and some other sort (blue lake?).

If you want instant gratification, plant green bean seeds. They come up in grand fashion with not much fuss, and when the heat beats down, they think they're in heaven. In fact, you can almost sit there and watch them grow. Now my buckets-o'-ugly are really perked up with GreenGreenGreen pertly bounding over their rims. They showed an ability to come up despite the different growing media, so I had the unmitigated gall to take it to the ground and plant some more in rows smack in the piles of stable mulch/poo/shavings/straw we had raked to a depth of 8 or 10 inches on part of our lot next door. Let's see if those little guys can actually sprout and grow right in it...if so, WOO! no waiting months for it to decompose :)

The malangas are going great guns, too, and there are other things growing now rather than just sitting there being shy and demure. Garden Fever!!

This is just a short update...must buy batteries (pronounced where I grew up "Bat-Trees") for the camera to get some good shots going...I don't want to miss the action, as things are changing every day!

Cooking projects have been afoot since I'm trying to do more quantity cooking but keep it from being too monotonous. I did roast a turkey recently, and can I just say I'm always amazed at how one bird can equate to so many different meals. I did make the cuban soup with the roasting juices and stock made from the bones and a good bit of the dark meat, etc. Jack's still in a swoon...

That's what's on the stove right get to it or it may end up being Blackened Cajun SomethingOrOther.

More soon!

(Nice to have the puter back...thanks for missing me! I missed you guys, too!)


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dear Jason The Computer Repairman

Dear Jason, the Computer Repairman:

Thank you for rebuilding the innards of The Wreck of the Hesperus my home computer. I hope you enjoy the wealth you have amassed during the process, and I wish your children well at the private schools I must be singlehandedly funding.

I appreciate the education I received myself in the interim, what with all the fun of, shall we say, disembowelling my hard drive and all its files after searching every crevice of my domicile for the elusive Golden Fleece referred to as the Dell Recovery Disk.

I'm pretty sure I'm now qualified for an ambassadorship after the many hours of multilingual gymnastics endured at the hands of outsourced Dell customer service employees and tecchie internationals, having learned not only how to order the Dell Recovery Disk, but also other products completely unrelated to the repair of my computer. Receiving these in lieu of the correct item I ordered was such a creative way of honing my new skills of diplomacy, native dialects, interpretation, and idle threats immortalized on a recorded line patient repetition with assorted cretins unable to compose a single original thought beyond their cue cards a delightful assemblage of numerous phone line employees eager to put me on hold repeatedly.

Receiving the correct disk in the mail...finally...was welcomed with the same sort of relief and anticipation usually reserved for delivering a firstborn child, and at about the same expense and internal distress.

To be told by you, later, that you had downloaded the necessary disk content free from the internet after we had endured the above-mentioned was just a Mastercard commercial come to life...priceless...

Yes, now we DO have the disk, as you mentioned, for any problems that may arise down the road. I'm sure it will be much easier to find next time, as I have duct-taped it permanently to my husband's forehead.

Now I can get online again to access my 3 week backlog of emails. As a gesture of my continued appreciation and generosity, I can forward you a lengthy list of Kenyan philanthropists I found in my junk email file...all of whom seem eager to share vasts sums of family wealth with you, if you're interested. (I'd hardly keep it all to myself, would I??)

Thank you for fixing my computer and giving me back this part of my life. If you don't hear from me for a while, you might want to try phoning my husband's cell phone. He'll be able to get messages to me on location either at the Plasma donation center or the organ donor office, as I'm moonlighting out all my spare parts in anticipation of future computer maintenance. Never fear... I'm doing my best to guarantee your children will all drive new cars when they turn 16, and will surely have the straightest of teeth and the best orthodontists!

Fondly Yours,