Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weekend Yardwork

We woke up this morning to gray skies and didn't think we'd get much done outside.  My Mister hurried out to mow the lawn before it rained, and I got back to work on the annuals in the front flowerbed, I bought them yesterday and got several planted (I also cleaned out the dead tulips), but had to stop because of the weather.  This morning, I got them all planted, and only got rained on a little.  Normally, I don't buy annuals, I like flowers that keep coming back every year, but there wasn't a lot in bloom right now, and I needed a little color.   I think the flowerbed could really use a for more perennials, but hopefully the annuals fill out and suffice for this year.  I pulled a couple of plants that I wasn't sure about- they could have been weeds or they could have been perennials.  My neighbor thought they were weeds, so out they went.  There's one other plant that is either a weed or a really big perennial.  I'm leaving it because it doesn't look bad and hasn't gone to seed yet.  It has a stake by it that says butterfly weed, so that's either what it is, or it's a weed that took over that perennial's spot.

I thought that would be the end of my work outside today, but after some minor hailing, the sky cleared up again.  I headed back out and started pulling weeds from around the fruit trees (if the trees look close together, it's because they are- it's called planting multiple trees in one hole).  I should have taken a before picture.  The weeds filled in the whole area around the fruit trees, and were nearly as tall.  We nearly filled our huge garbage can, just with weeds from this one area.  I had to use the shovel for some of the bigger weeds.  It was crazy. We also pulled out the dead apricot tree, which wasn't very hard because it had no roots on it.  All that's left to do here now is plant another apricot tree, build the second box, fill in around the edges to bring all the soil up to the proper level, and then mulch well to avoid the kind of weeds we pulled today.

I thought I'd take a break and watch my Mister work for awhile.  He was loosening the soil in two of the raised beds.  The far right one was full of wheat grass.  The chickens used to be in that bed, and all winter, we've been feeding them scoops of wheat that had weevils in it, well this spring, all the wheat that they hadn't eaten, grew like crazy, with all that good fertilizer the chickens had left behind. My Mister weed whacked it, pulled out the big stuff, and worked the rest back into the soil.  Hopefully it will be ready for some tomatoes and peppers on monday!  The other bed will get filled with corn.  The tiny space next to the chickens will be some kind of squash most likely, as will all the raised bed area around the perimeter of the yard that doesn't have something else planted already.  (You can see all the weeding that still needs to be done, we really let things get out of control this year!)

Since I was sitting near a weedy area, and not doing anything, I started pulling weeds.  I weeded around the lone black raspberry plant (which has actually multiplied quite a bit since last year, but is still kind of sad.  Don't ever plant just one cane.), the asparagus, the strawberries (which are doing great this year, and are so thick that there were hardly any weeds), the raspberries, and one section of grapes.  I also used some of the grass clippings to mulch around the asparagus.  I need more to mulch around the raspberries, and the strawberries are thick enough that I'm not mulching around them, though in the fall when we whack them all down, it might be a good time to cover the area with straw.

As I was weeding, I noticed the strawberries have been usurping asparagus and raspberry land, so I dug what at first seemed like just a few plants, but ended up with enough to give a nice start to a new strawberry bed under half of the grape vines.  The soil in that area is really wet, I'm not sure why, but hopefully the strawberries survive.  They're looking a little sad at this point, but they did just get dug up and transplanted, so maybe they'll recover.

The yard looks great, I think it's time for a BBQ (pork chops on the grill anyone?).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Isle of Hope

My Mister and I inherited some tickets to the Celtic Woman concert on Saturday night, it was an evening of beautiful music (although I have to laugh at how people cheered when they started singing "Oh Danny Boy", you would have thought Dave Matthews had just launched in to "Satelite" or something...).

One song, I found particularly touching, in light of our current immigration issues:

Isle of Hope

On the first day on January, 1892,
They opened Ellis Island
And they let the people through
And the first to cross the threshold
Of that isle of hope and tears,
Was Annie Moore from Ireland
Who was all of fifteen years

Isle of hope, isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, isle of fears,
But it's not the isle you left behind
That isle of hunger, isle of pain,
Isle you'll never see again
But the isle of home is always on your mind

In a little bag she carried
All her past and history,
And her dreams for the future
In the land of liberty

And courage is the passport
When your old world disappears
But there's no future in the past
When you're fifteen years

Isle of hope, isle of tears,
Isle of freedom, isle of fears,
But it's not the isle you left behind
That isle of hunger, isle of pain,
Isle you'll never see again
But the isle of home is always on your mind

When they closed down Ellis Island
In nineteen forty-three,
Seventeen million people
Had come there for sanctuary
And in Springtime when I came here
And I stepped onto it's piers,
I thought of how it must have been
When you're fifteen years

The thought of a young teenage girl leaving her home and traveling by boat all the way to the US, to escape the hunger and desperation of a country plagued by the potato famine and religious and political violence, arriving in a country full of opportunity and challenges, makes me think of all the people who face starvation or violence in their home countries today, and who want more for their children.  There are many arguments surrounding immigration, but I think that they're just excuses for the fear we feel over cultures we don't understand.  There is no US culture.  We're made up of people who came here from all over the world, and we should embrace the unique cultures brought by new immigrants.  If there are concerns surrounding immigration, we should address those directly instead of passing laws to make the lives of immigrants more difficult and more dangerous.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Green Church Building

I know I'm a little slow to blog about this, but I thought it was pretty cool. If you watch the virtual tour, the building even has recycling bins along with the giant garbage bin outside. I wonder what it would take to get recycling bins at other chapels. We sure produce a lot of shredded paper with all the reports and rolls that are used each week.

My favorite quote from a business week article was:

"And hopefully, the takeaway message is, maybe I need to reevaluate where I am in my responsibility to the community, responsibility to the environment and responsibility to good stewardship of this finite land and ground that the Lord has blessed us with."

Homemade Butter

I've been wanting to try making my own butter for awhile now, and finally got the nudge I needed. I added a pint of whipping cream to my weekly dairy delivery, Monday morning it arrived, and as soon as the kids were home from school (they wanted to help), we got started.

Pour cream into mixer, and mix on low/medium (however fast you can get it without splashing over the sides). Once it starts to thicken you can increase the speed a little. Soon, it will start to look like whipped cream. I stopped at this point and scraped the sides of the bowl to make sure everything was getting whipped.

Every time I make whipped cream, I worry about whipping it too long, and wondered what would happen. Now I know. The smooth creaminess starts to break down and form clumps.

Then the buttermilk will begin to separate from fat.

Then the butter will be fully stuck together. Pour off the buttermilk and save it for something else. Add a cup or so of cold water and mix on low. Drain and repeat until the liquid coming off is clear. This ensures the butter is clean and will not go rancid. Once all the liquid is drained off, you can add salt, garlic, herbs, or even honey to make whatever kind of butter you want. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge or in a butter bell on the counter. If you keep it in the fridge, it gets pretty hard, and you'll want to set it out to soften before you try spreading it on bread.

I didn't take any pictures of the rinsing, salting or of the finished product, because I had to run an errand, and my Mister finished the project for me.

One pint of cream gives 1 cup of butter (equal to 1/2 lb or 2 sticks) and 1 cup of buttermilk. I've read that when using pasteurized cream, you should treat the buttermilk more like whole milk in recipes. If you want it to be more like buttermilk you can add a little lemon juice. OR, before you make the butter, you can add a TBSP or so of real buttermilk to the cream.

I'm making bread today, so I'll update on the taste once we have fresh bread to eat it with.

Mom's Lunch

Does this picture need explaining? A and CP aren't huge fans of tuna sandwiches, but they'll eat them without complaining IF I cut them into shapes with a cookie cutter. They like "star sandwiches" quite a bit. I make whole sandwiches, cut out the shapes, and am left with the scraps, which I can't just throw away....