post turkey

Posted in Cookbooks, Cooking, Finances on November 27, 2010 by katybee

Well, it was a lot of work to prepare for but what a lovely feast we had on Thursday! We volunteered to host it this year and, in the days before Thanksgiving, my sweet Jack actually made me a table to hold ten people! I am so happy with it, I am actually writing on it right now and am resisting his impulse to take it down cellar and cut a foot off. My sister and her husband gave us quite a nice bit of birch flooring when they were making their house, a year or so back, and that is what Jack used as the top, with spruce for the base. Oh, the birch is soo pretty. We finished it with walnut oil, which makes it especially lovely.

I have also been doing finances and reading my favorite cookbook at my table this morning. The cookbook is called Maine Mapmaker’s Kitchen and is written by Jane Crosen (with Richard Washburn, her sweetie) who is a coastal Mainer, like me. One of the reasons I love this book is that it seems like she didn’t say, “Hum, I want to write a cookbook… now what should I put in it?” rather, she seems to have said, “Oh, I have so many recipes I love- huh, maybe I should share them!” So, she has many examples of making the recipes for herself & her loved ones and tips on storage, etc. Plus she was a vegetarian for years (I went to a book talk she gave… but if I get something wrong please blame my addled brain), I think I remember her saying that she cooked at Findhorn, but now is back to eating meat- perhaps in part because the meat in this area is so darn healthy (everyone here seems to be growing happy healthy organic livestock). I come from a back-to-the-land/alternative background and so her comments and choices seem so cozy to me (yes, I find Tempeh to be a bit nostalgic, if you can believe it- not so unbelievable if you are twenty but I am pushing forty).  Jack and I are of the fish and fowl crowd ourselves (I had medical issues in my teens that went away when I stopped eating mammals) but I too have considered eating steak again having seen the amount of heath and happiness in our local bovine community.

Anyway, I highly recommend at least getting the Maine Mapmaker’s Kitchen out of the library and taking a peek. Try the Raspberry Hazelnut Thumbprints, they are to die for! Yum… Raspberry…

Just a quick mention of the other thing I was doing at my wonderful new table, finances. One of my goals this year is to become really good at doing my finances so I have been researching and getting some really good advice. The absolute best thing we did was to start doing our finances every Sunday, instead of just once a month. It means we really have enough time to devote to researching and working on our finances.

I just finished reading Wealth Watchers, which I enjoyed, and we have her weekly journal page posted on our fridge each week (three weeks worth so far) so we can track our spending.  I have been reading other people’s blogs about doing finances (there are many good ones out there) and found one that really spoke to me called The Centcible Life. She has a really great page devoted to her life list (the best reason, I think, for paying attention to finances!) which has inspired me to do likewise. As I was writing my desires I realized that the thing I really wish the most for is time. My brother-in-law put it well, just recently, when he said that just a couple more hundred years would do him just fine. Well, perhaps the good thing about having limited time is that gives me the opportunity to search out what really matters to me.


the last day of the season

Posted in Gardening with tags , , , , on November 16, 2010 by katybee

Sage and I discovered each other wandering through the huge discount store in the next town over last night. She said, “I’m looking for cloth, maybe I can do a little sewing this winter.” And I said, “I can’t believe it is over for the season, I’m feeling a little discombobulated.” She laughed and said, “Me too.” As much as I have been needing a break to give my body a chance to recover from the  intensity of fall projects I am feeling the usual sadness of the end of the season.

Yesterday, everyone on the crew was talking about what we are going to do this winter. Do we work, do we not? Are we going to do some projects that we feel like we’ve been aching to do this summer or will the urgency wear off? Lola was saying that she would like it if she could just treat her time like a job so that she could get her new house in order and do all the things she wants to do. That strikes me as very sensible. Jack and I discussed how we were going to divide up the time now that I’m not working. We decided that I would be with Yva in the morning now with the possibility that some days he would work longer at a clients if he needed to. So I spent the morning with Yva, playing with her and cleaning the house so that I wouldn’t spend my time cleaning when it was my time to work and get more things done. That is my real downfall, if it needs to be clean I will spend all my free time doing that because it drives me crazy to be alone in a house that needs major work. I think I have a middle of the road tolerance for messiness; I look around the house right down and I see a few piles and a little dirt (where the wood goes into the wood stove) on the floor, but over all it is picked up, the dishes are done and the rug is vacuumed. I’m ok with that. I can usually do something in whatever room Yva is playing in and I’m alway happy to stop to chat, read a book or play with her for a second- since housework is far from my favorite thing in the world.

So now that Jack and Yva are off together riding her bike at the park and running some errands I am getting to do some things that take more concentration- like writing in this blog. I also started weaving on my table loom for the first time since I got it. I want to make Christmas presents this year with an eye towards figuring out what I could do to make money during the winter and paying attention to my other loves, art and writing. If I could get something that I would enjoy creating, I have a couple of galleries that I know would take my work (they have before) but it is just figuring out the idea. I like weaving, though, there is something of the meditative aspects of gardening to it. And similarly, I can think about ideas for my writing while I’m doing it. I am finding I like color and pattern, texture without content which is pretty ironic for a illustration major. But a good friend of mine at art school always contended that I should have been a fine arts major… ah, well- I never would have done it, I like books too much.

beautiful weekend

Posted in Gardening on November 14, 2010 by katybee

I thought we were going to slip right into winter the way the weather was going, so this weekend was a total gift of the universe as far as I am concerned. It was absolutely beautiful. Sunny, blue skies, warm enough so that Yva could run about outside in her preferred state of undress (ah, to be two again). And copious fun events to go to.

I have to admit, when Johnny’s sent me my Jerusalem Artichokes out of the blue four days ago, I had a panicked “Oh, my god, I’m not going to get to plant these till spring” moment. Oh, ye of little faith. I should have know that Johnny’s has an in with the weather gods. Not that I have been such an ardent follower as of late; the graphic design of the Seed Saver’s catalog is just so yummy, you should see their seed packets too, and I love imagining I am planting something that just managed to be discovered by a careful gardener. But I got a nice gift certificate to Johnny’s for my birthday (and one to Fedco too! Aren’t I a lucky chicky!) so I ended put in an order with them. In case you aren’t aware, Johnny’s and Fedco are Maine companies, which is one reason why so many Maine gardeners I know like to support them. Sooo, Saturday was Jerusalem Artichoke planting day (as well as rug washing day- whew, it was big, heavy and I am relieved I didn’t ruin it).

Then in the evening we had a nice dinner with a couple, Aaron and John, and their son, Elliot, who was two, all of whom we had met at Yva’s play group. Aaron gave me a “mother”, which up until she told me about it I had always thought was either a term for a female who has born a child or a swear word, but it turns out it is also a really icky looking sludge that you put on top of tea to make kombucha. I told all the women at work about it and they excitedly told me the equivalent of, “Hey babe, where have you been!” It turns out there may even be specific mother’s for different kinds of vinegars. Wow! Aaron said, when she gave it to me Saturday night, “Don’t worry, it won’t be a pain like some of those things people pass around, you can put it in the fridge when you don’t feel like making it.” I had an amusing moment on Sunday morning, though. I was all bleary from just waking up and I looked in the fridge and said to Jack, “Eeew, what’s this… Ooh, that’s right, never mind.”

Sunday, Yva and I went to a tipi raising party, complete with a pot-luck brunch and tons kids. And then I thought I was going to the dump but luckily I remembered I was supposed to go to my friend Lola’s to help her dismantle her veggie garden and move all her gardening stuff to her new house, so I did that instead. It was great – Lola joked, “what do gardeners do for fun on weekends,” but she is right. And it was so glorious out. Yva slept in the car between the two events and need a little nursing when she woke up so I got to sit in the sweet smelling hay while my baby nursed at the top of a gentle slope over looking the ocean and fields with horses in them. I felt like I was in an Andrew Wyeth painting, actually Christina’s World to be exact.

welcome to the machine

Posted in Gardening on November 13, 2010 by katybee

A number of years ago, more than I would care to admit, Jack and I took a trip up to Canada to St. John – just for the heck of it, because we were young and in love (now we take trips because we’re old and in love). Along the way, Jack read me The Design of Everyday Things out loud, which, if you haven’t read it you need to drop everything and go out and read it right this second. Well,  you can finish reading this post first. Anyway, this past week I have had the occasion to want to re-read it since I have been thinking about design in general, and leaf mulchers in particular.

Now let me say first that our new ECHO Bear Cat is in a totally different class than the last mulcher we had, which broke every three minutes (I’m exaggerating, but only a little). To be fair that one wasn’t designed to handle sticks, even little itty-bitty sticks, since it was strictly a mulcher, and since we don’t have time to go over the leaves for every little stick that was mixed in, it didn’t like it. This new one is a mulcher and a chipper so now that problem is taken care of nicely. It even seems to manage the occasional stray stone that gets in, since many of our leaves we have raked off of the gravel driveway. It probably isn’t very good for it but it doesn’t gum up the works, and so far we haven’t chipped a blade. So far so good.

The thing about it is it is finicky. When the leaves are wet it is sooo slow. Even when the leaves are dry I find I have to keep myself from impatiently over filling it and clogging up the works. The best method seems to be slowly shaking the leaves in, SLOWLY. If I push up the flap in so it raises up just an inch, and shake a wad of leaves over the opening I have found I can make them go in at a consistent rate. But does kick up flying bits so I usually stand on one side or the other, wear Jack’s insulated Carhartt overalls, my snowboarding gloves and glasses so nothing hits me.

I have been thinking about the design of the thing and wondering if the designer originally intended to make the machine without the flap but in the testing phase realized the safety issue and had to put the flap on. In the beginning, I tried to fill the top hopper with various amounts of leaves and let gravity pull the leaves through the flap, but they always got stuck. I also tried tapping the flap every so often to let the leaves fall through slowly but that only works a little while before the machine gets stopped up, believe me I have gone through all the permutations.

Lola and I read the manual at break one day and there is a somewhat useful section on troubleshooting problems.  Their solutions for wet leaves gumming up the hopper is to have you either undo the nut and bolt that keeps the trap on, which is frankly a pain in the patoot, or stick a stick in it to try and free the debris (And shut off the machine every time you do it?). My solution is as follows, stop adding wet leaves to the machine, then run the engine at it’s top speed to try and blow out some of the leaf pulp from holes in the bottom. Then, still on the top speed, add a stick or two to the chipper, the chunks of wood rattling around seems to help clear out the wet leaves. Then bring it back down to normal leaf mulching speed, which we have been doing at about three quarters of the way up to rabbit. (They have a little rabbit at the top of their speed gauge). As long as I have been adding leaves very slowly, this seems to work pretty well.

Anyway, we have decided that the whole process is to be treated like sifting compost in terms of speed. Had we started off leaf season with this mulcher (it was due to show up a week earlier) we might have had a ghost of a chance of finishing the mulching before we were due to wrap it up. But with the kind of time it takes to shred leaves, especial wet leaves, we decided we just had to do what we could and leave the rest in low visibility locations on the property.

I come away from the whole experience with a kind of buzzing surreal feeling- thank goodness I don’t have to do it very often. If I were to have get a mulcher/chipper for my own personal use I think at this point I would keep looking for another option.  I think, in terms of my time alone, this is a very expensive way to take care of the mulching on a property.


Posted in Cooking, Gardening with tags , , , on November 10, 2010 by katybee

I finally got my dahlias out and cut back the rest of my garden just in time for the torrential rains we got here. After the rain, I found a huge amount of oyster mushrooms on our dead walnut tree, which I baked up. The walnut tree had just died, which we were sad about but I was glad to find mushrooms on it. I did all the research to make sure I had a positive id, including taking a spore print, and then I tried a little and waited 24hrs to see if I had any allergies- but nope, I didn’t. Very exciting, my first foray into actually eating the edible mushrooms I’ve found! Next time, however, I will sauté them, instead of roasting them. Anyway, it is now officially wet and cold which makes baking a real joy.

Yesterday, as a special treat, I got to go to a beach and collect seaweed to fertilize a client’s garden! I have actually never done it before, and since we don’t cover it with black plastic I have disliked the way we find stray bits of seaweed in the garden in the spring but it is a really good fertilizer and it is free, which makes it even better. It was a sweet little cove with lots of seaweed, we hardly made a dent in the amount that was washed up on the beach, and we got most of what we needed in four short trips- I used the wheel barrow and a plank to ramp it up on my truck. Tilly said, “Now you’re a real hippy chick,” looking at the seaweed splayed out all over my truck. I liked the image but washed my truck to get the salt off when I got home.

The seaweed was absolutely drop-dead gorgeous all different shades of greens, oranges and browns swirled together. Sarah, who we are taking Yva to for a kind of play group, made the kids this wonderful quinoa/sushi rice with kelp mix for snack. Oh, it was so good (we haven’t actually left Yva on her own yet, so I enjoyed the snack too). Anyway, I inspected the seaweed we were gathering to see if any might be edible but I really know very little about seaweeds and Tilly said it all looked like rock weed to her. I’m going to have to look up seaweeds now.

shovel pruning

Posted in Gardening on November 5, 2010 by katybee

Today I heard a funny term that I had never heard before, shovel pruning (otherwise known as just digging it out). I got a good giggle out of that. In theory, I like the idea of the cycle of life with things going into the compost and coming back out again as good rich soil but in practice I find myself bringing home every little pathetic root that has a tiny bit of green on it hoping to nurse it back to health. I guess I just can’t get away from my roots (heehee).

One thing I can say about sulfur is – don’t get it in your eye, ouch! We sulfured all the dahlia roots we dug up today because Sage said the place we were storing these dahlias was going to be wet. I asked her about the mother roots and she said she didn’t know about them – so I gave her the link I had found and she said she would go and visit it to see about it. I love that she is honest about what she doesn’t know and she is so good at following up on things – I think we both just really like researching.

Tilly and I spent the balance of the day raking leaves and I think I am becoming a connoisseur of leaves. Oak leaves are really the best to rake up because they don’t stick in your rake tines like maples do and are nice and stiff.  Cherry leaves are nice but really too small for effective raking, and Japanese maples are so pretty that I find I want them to stay where they are. Birches are better for raking than maples since the leaves are nice and regular, and such a cheery golden color. When I rake I try to be really good about switching sides every few strokes so I don’t get a repetitive stress injury. Sometimes I even feel a little bit like I am dancing, stroke stroke stroke, switch, stroke switch, stroke stroke switch.

It’s storming tonight and it may be my imagination but I can almost hear the wind blowing down the leaves. I had a friend in for tea today and I was commenting on how I love how in touch with the weather I have become as a gardener.  I’m listening to the rain now and it just makes me so happy.

The Mother Root

Posted in Gardening on November 4, 2010 by katybee

I’ve been sick for the last week which is why it has been a while since I posted last. Halloween was fun though, we carved our jack o’lantern, baked ginger cookies and had a night in.

Today was my first day back at work and it was wicked cold, I’ll have to remember to wear my insulated boots tomorrow. We planted bulbs, pulled annuals and dug dalhias- being careful to label them. Sage talked about putting sulphur on the dalhia bulbs, she said she used it when she cut the roots to divide them but wasn’t sure about doing it when they weren’t cut so I went and looked it up. The American Dahlia Society had a pretty complete article about storing dahlias and it said that “almost everyone throws away the mother root” and keeps the cuttings for the next year. Which is why there would be cut ends each year that needed to be treated.  Sage usually stores our bulbs for us so I have no idea what she does with the mother root, I’ll have to ask her.

I am feeling a bit like the mother root tonight. Not something that everyone throws away but something that has stores of energy for wintering over.  I’m all cuddled in next to the fire enjoying my home and being well on this crisp fall night.