Knitting



I haven’t blogged in a while. Why? Cuz I been bizzy. Not regular busy with a “u” and an “s” but crazy “did-I-put-on-pants-today?” bizzy. In the months of October and November, normally reserved for reading and knitting, typical “getting ready for hibernation” stuff, I found myself interviewing for jobs. 8 jobs. In 2 months. Add that to the fact that my DJ (day job) at the time was super busy and we decided to host Thanksgiving and were looking at hosting 16, well, I look back now and am surprised I didn’t have that heart attack which, on some days, felt very close.

I accepted one of the job offers with what feels to be an excellent firm, and, after (1.5 months shy of) 14 years at my DJ, I gave notice on 12/8, with the new job planned to start on 1/3. Gentle reader, if you didn’t realize the implications of that-go read it again. I had close to 1 month off. Granted, it was around the holidays, so I filled my days up quickly, but let me tell you, I liked it. I got rid of that, “Will the heart attack be today? Gosh, I hope it doesn’t happen when I’m driving” mania.

What, you ask, does this have to do with homesteading and “Learning to fend for yourself?” Well, it is all about quality of life. This new company is closer to home. Do you even realize what this means? I will get home and it will still be daylight. On a weekday. That leaves time for so many things…

Ready for a small peek into my soul? (You might not be.) The absolute first thing that came to mind when I wrote that was, “Weeding.” As you know if you are a fan of the Patch, weeding is my stress reliever. I call it Dirt Therapy. (Not dirty therapy, that was the second thing that came to mind.)

I plan to write more. edible South Shore asked for more articles. I started a book. DaisyPatchFarm.com will get more love. Maybe I will find other venues, magazines or otherwise, that want to subject themselves to my innermost thoughts.

I plan to take good care of the chickens we are getting.

I plan to experiment in the garden more, try new veggies, try more organic techniques.

I plan to eat more of what we grow. (Which makes me want to amend that previous statement, because I am not going too crazy here. No, like, okra or anything.)

I plan to spend more time with the people I love. WAIT! This is not a resolutions list!

Back to the garden. With the new door on the greenhouse, we will be using it this year and I most definitely will have it up and running in order to grow in it next Winter.  Which is sort of the purpose of it.

So, you heard it here first, gentle readers. Less weeds! More writing! Cluckers! New foods! Better health! More love! World peace! Well, maybe not quite that, but a gardener can dream big, can’t she?

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My February doldrums haiku…ahem…

Have the stomach flu

I’ve been knitting and **ting

For the last 2 days

Yup. I thought I’d bring you, my gentle readers, into my hell.  The 6 foot high snow bank (no lie) is a bit shorter and there are actually patches of ground for DaisyMae to use as her “spot.” The wind today is pretty gusty and although it looked a bit nice out earlier, I, alas, have been stuck inside. This stomach bug is just not fun. Rice, ginger ale, water and saltines have been my chosen menu for about 46 hours while I stayed home from work yesterday (sparing my co-workers in my day job from my condition) and alternated between sleeping (having snoozed only 2 hours the night before) and knitting a new hat for myself and, well, just plain bitching about how crappy I feel.

I looked outside at our garden, still buried under about 3 feet of snow and wondered how soon it will be before I’m digging again. We had our sundried tomatoes in a neat little vegetarian dish last week. What will we be eating at this time next year (can you tell I have food on the brain? The bland diet is just so, what’s the word? Boring?) We plan to have the greenhouse completed, so will I finally be able to trudge out and pick greens even though it’s Winter? Will we have canned or frozen enough veggies to eat throughout the year? Gosh, I hope so. I like that we still have some things left in the pantry and freezer: 1/2 bottle of maple syrup; herbs; ketchup; tomato sauce; sundried tomatoes; garlic; green beans; carrots; shallots. I was hoping we’d be able to use our veggies in at least every home-cooked meal throughout the non-growing season. We’re not quite there (sometimes, you just crave spaghetti with parm and butter and nothing else), but we’re pretty close. To take my mind off my misery, I thought I’d share…here’s that neat little vegetarian dish (a bit modified from the original which was something we ate once and tried our best to copy).

(Without measurements. Use the force, Luke.) (There! She did it again. She stuck in a Star Wars reference in her gardening blog. HOW DOES SHE DO IT?)

Pie Crust for 2 pies

About a cup of sundried tomatoes, boiled until soft, then drained and pureed.

1 can of artichoke hearts (unmarinated). Drain and chop.

Roasted red peppers, chopped

Shredded mozzarella

1 container ricotta

Grated Parmesan

2 eggs

Heat oven to 350

Put 1 crust in pie plate for pie bottom.

Spread sundried tomato paste on bottom of crust

Mix ricotta with 1 egg, some ground pepper and some grated parm (you know, like lasagne) (We are low sodium here in the DaisyPatch household, so feel free to add a pinch of salt if your taste desires, but try it without, there’s enough flavor in here, you migh be able to skip it.)

Spread ricotta mixture on top of tomato paste.

Sprinkle (ok, pour) shredded mozzarella over ricotta.

Layer on chopped artichokes.

Layer on chopped red peppers (scarce, or you’ll be dying of heartburn 2 hours later, TRUST ME!)

More mozzarella (can you ever have too much?)

Put the other pie crust on top and, using the other egg that you’ve beaten with a fork (and called a few names because it doesn’t know its place and didn’t listen to you like good eggs should), brush the egg over the crust.

Bake in the oven until top is golden brown.

Enjoy while I go make myself some rice. (OH! and Keith just poured himself some of our favorite wine! This is torture.)

~By the way, you can subscribe to this blog if you like. I won’t mind. This way, when I update, it will get emailed to you. I don’t sell the email addresses or anything.


It has been too long, so…without further ado, my too much snow haiku…ahem… (OH MY GOD! That rhymed! Yeah, baby, this post is startin’ off good.)

We have too much snow

Just way too much goddamned snow

Dreaming of the beach

(As my intelligent and devoted readers know, I am pretty hard on myself. It is time to admit that haiku sucked. I know I gave you a good beginning what with the rhyme and everything, but then let you down with that sham of a poem. Dispicable (please go back, read that sentence again, and say, “Dispicable” in your spittiest Daffy Duck. I will wait. Did you do it? Did you get the lisp in the ‘s’ as spitty as possible? Ok, then. Moving on. This way please.))

Today, I am finally getting to the much anticipated theoretical discussion of, “What defines Edible?” As you may recall (you forgot, didn’t you?) a few posts ago, I mentioned that I was going to discuss this topic because I was starting to question what “Edible” really meant. No, I am not talking about chopping up corrugated cardboard to sprinkle on your salad, I’m talking about the lettuce greens I had picked from underneath the frost blankets outside.

You see, at that time (before Mother Nature decided to dump large amounts of snow on us every weekend and every Tuesday for a month now and cause roof collapses all around New England and the topic of discussions to shift dramatically from the normal, “How’s your snowplow?” to “We’ve got ice dams”) I was picking lots of baby greens from underneath those frost blankets I purchased from Gardener’s Supply.

They were doing really well. They were. Salad every night with little dressing made of grew-it-myself pride. Then, it started to get colder. And colder. They were supposed to provide cold protection to 24 degrees. We had some 15 degree nights for a while there, and one or two nights in the negative numbers. Yet, they still survived. Sort of.

You see, when a piece of lettuce freezes, it isn’t pretty. You’ve all done it, somehow, it gets too cold in the fridge crisper and you take out a little bag of, well, what can only be desscribed as brown snot sort of clinging to a translucent and very wimpy piece of lettuce.

And, here begins the debate.

Before, when I bought it from the grocery store and just put it in the fridge, only to be frozen or forgotten or both, I would throw it away when I found it. Yeah. Cuz that’s what you do with food that has gone bad, right? Well, we all know about my hoarding tendencies. I knew the end was near. Not in the Chicken Little sense, just that, pretty soon, we weren’t going to be able to get to the garden (in case you’re wondering, the end is NOW. The gardens are buried under, what looks like, 4 feet of snow and there is no way in God’s white earth that I am trying to dig them out to get 6 lettuce leaves). So, I picked a lot of lettuce each time I went out. A big ole bag full of baby lettuce.

But, as it got colder,  they sort of got paler and uglier and a bit more frost-bitten. I definitely noted that the leaves toward the end of the beds were worse off than the ones in the center, under the peak of the domes basically. But I still picked them. And washed them. And served them. And ate them.

Why? Purchased lettuce would have hit the pail without even a moment’s thought. (Actually, we do compost, so they would have hit the compost pail – you gotta follow that link if you haven’t read that post, it is one of my funnier ones if I do say so myself.) (I did say so myself, it’s just me and Peber here in the kitchen, unsuspecting little bugger doesn’t know he’s getting shots today. Anyhoo…) Why? Could it be I don’t want to waste? Could it be that, since I grew the lettuce, I trusted the lettuce? How bad could a little cold burn taste? Could it be that I’m regressing into the dark depths of a hoarding tendency that is just so twisted and demented, that I will serve spoiled food to myself and my husband? (Well, NO! Of course not, but that one episode of Hoarders where that lady had like, fridges of spoiled, contaminated food, sort of came to mind. I am not that bad, honest. It was just a few pieces of ugly lettuce!)

See, not so bad.  A little yellow, perhaps a little spotty, but overall, not bad for eating fresh greens from the garden in January in New Hampshire. I think that eating this lettuce is like, wearing that sweater you knit, even though the left arm is a bit too long. Or, enjoying the picnic table you made, even though it wobbles. Sort of that “I made it myself” stubbornness. (Stubbornosity? Stubbornity? Stubborn Identity?)

So, now it is all gone, the gardens are buried and we’re back to buying greens at Hannaford. We do still have tomato sauce, lotsa garlic, dried herbs, frozen carrots, frozen onion and celery from last year. Oh, and the zucchini from 2 years ago that I still have carefully hoarded in the basement freezer for a rainy day.

Sigh.

Next post…who the hell knows. You can probably just view it on A&E on Mondays at 10, 9 central as some gentle-voiced, slim lady who looks good without makeup asks me how I FEEL when someone throws away the zucchini in the freezer.


My Seed Catalog haiku…ahem…

Oh Seed Catalogs!

With all your varieties

Can’t we get them all?

As I pore over seed brochures, I need to recall lessons from last year when we overcrowded things a bit. (Ok, more than “a bit”). We also realized that we want more varieties of things. How the hell are we supposed to accomodate more types of veggies? We didn’t really have too much go to waste (except during the tomato blight).

So, what is a homesteader to do? I think the solution is to plant more varieties, but fewer plants of each. This way, we can try more things. Also, I need to add some things to the list that I forgot last year:

  • Zucchini
  • Sugar Pumpkins
  • Butternut Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • and of course…daisies (although not a vegetable, I do find it necessary to have some daisies considering our homestead is called The Daisy Patch)

I need to plant fewer of the following:

  • Basil (I know, can you believe it? We had so much though.)
  • Lettuce
  • Green Peppers
  • Husk Cherries (WHAT? But you love those! True, but they naturally re-seeded themselves and grew all over the damn property and by the side of the road, there is NO reason we have to start as any this year.)
  • Scallions
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers – maybe just 1 less.

And more of…

  • Edamame (ONE LAST TIME and then THIS IS IT! If I don’t get them to work this year, I will NEVER try them again.)
  • Thyme
  • Salad tomatoes (We lost them to the blight and were left mostly with plum and Reistomate)
  • Potatoes

Now it is time for some new things. This is where I am stuck. I have no clue what we would like. We did not like Brussells Sprouts (thanks anyway, Doreen!) We did like Parsnips. So any recomendations for some newer things we might like? Please note they’ll need to be able to grow in the North East. Thanks!

And Merry Christmas (on a Christmas side note…I plan to bake like a fiend this week. I finished one knitting project, hope to finish another and still have some Christmas Shopping to do. It’s going to be a great week (I mean it – I love this stuff!))


My end of season haiku…ahem…

Yesterday was it

The gardens have been torn down

Choking a sniffle

I wonder why I’m so emotional about wrapping up the back gardens. Methinks several reasons. When the beds are so buried in snow that you would never have known they were even there, will I have a purpose? I mean, sure, my life has purpose, but I’ve had such focus for the last several months that it has become routine and, routine is well, comfortable. I actually liked coming in sore in the afternoons – that means I worked – toward something. Why is it so different than any other year? We’ve had gardens for years, what’s the difference? Well, they are bigger this year, that’s for sure. We also had a goal in mind with them – to produce as much food for the two of us for the present and to store for the Winter. Is that it? Now that we have done what we can to reach that goal and there’s nothing else we can do, I’m at a bit of a loss. I know I can plan for next year, we’re definitely going to make a lot of changes in what we plant, where and when.  I guess I just need to redirect my focus toward another goal. I’ll work on that.

 Meanwhile, technically, we didn’t tear down all the gardens, just the back gardens next to the greenhouse. We have a small surprise happening in the Kitchen Garden. You see, it’s all about zagging. Huh? Follow me on this…We had a small snafoo with the greenhouse. We ran out of greenhouse plastic when putting it on, so used cheap-ass plastic and it ended up getting sort of crispy in the sun this Summer. So, the good plastic goes over the top, we have fiberglass weatherproof board and a door on the back of the greenhouse and, well, nothing on the front. It was that cheap-ass plastic which has since ripped off/been torn down. Since we don’t have a truck to get more fiberglass, we’re waiting until BFF Roy can spare a day to come help (guy works a lot, bless him. If you need a Harley, we can put you in touch with him!) Meanwhile, it is mid-October and I should have the greenhouse plants planted by now. But, with no front to the greenhouse, that wasn’t going to happen. So, instead of zigging, we had to zag. (Did I mention learning lessons this Summer?)

I ordered some items from Gardener’s Supply (again, they’re not sponsoring me!) and have planned some low tunnels for the Kitchen Garden. The boxes arrived and sat in the kitchen for several days. Once Keith discovered my master plan, he took it upon himself and put it all together for me.

Mesclun mix (before)

Hoops are in.

With the frost cover

 

1 1 /2 beds done!

Hooray! So, since we weren’t able to plant Winter greens in the greenhouse, we’re going to try them like this. Technically, the Frost Blankets make it to 28 degrees, so I’m being realistic, but I bet we’ll b e able to extend the season a little bit anyway. But, we’ll mostly just be harvesting, there won’t be much weeding or planting. So, back to my purpose for the Winter…It needs to be something challenging, realistic and gives me the feeling of accomplishment. Maybe I’ll knit my first sweater.

My October rain haiku…ahem…

Picking in cold rain

Not very much fun, but I

Wanted a damn farm

A long time ago, someone I knew (Ok, ok, she was my Mary Kay Director, I sold Mary Kay cosmetics for a while, what of it!?!) was trying to instill the value of hard work into me. (Now let’s stop right here. I WAS a hard worker. I just realized that accosting a woman at a grocery store, “Hi, that is a lovely shade of lipstick, you’re wearing. You look so nice in it. I sell Mary Kay and I’d love to give you a free makeover” was not my thing and so my sales were slowing down. Also, right around this time, my marriage to Paul was failing too… which is a pretty good excuse.)

Here’s what she said, “You still gotta milk the cows. Grandma dies? You milk the cows, THEN you go to the funeral.” Them’s powerful words right there. It has been 14 years and they still stick with me. Responsibility. So it is raining (dumping, really) outside and I can see red tomatoes and mature carrot and parsnip tops from the window. So, I’m going to finish this post, put on my mucks and hoodie raincoat and go outside pick veggies. Yet, all I want to do is stay in my jammies, grab my knitting bag (thank you @eweknitwits, I love it!) and curl up on the couch to watch back episodes of Project Runway (Oh, Tim. You know how to make it work!)

(Keith walks in)

Me: Mornin’ sweetie!

Keith: Want to go to Betty’s Kitchen for breakfast?

Me: Sure! Let me go shower.

***

Don’t judge. Betty’s makes a mean pumpkin pancake.


I woke up early yesterday morning. I’d like to say it was the rays of a new day on a bright, sunshiny dawn peeking through the curtains and warming my face that did it, but, the truth is, I had to pee.  It was kind of drizzly and grey out actually – not a good hair day. After the bathroom, I put a bathrobe on, slipped on a pair of flip flops and went to the Chef’s Garden to pick some strawberries.

I have been hitting traffic every morning and so have been leaving earlier and earlier each day – taking away my favorite garden time. I’ve also been working late each night, so, alas, poor garden has been neglected by me. It is overgrown with weeds (or are they beets, carrots and parsnips? See here for more on that) and I figured there were a few strawberries I could pick before heading to work.

I guess there were a few strawberries! There were  over 100! Some did have slugs on them, but the DE we’ve been using really seemed to do the trick, I think, because last year, every one of them would have been munched on by a slug when I picked it. These are beautiful, right? Then why am I like, “Shit!” instead of “Hooray?”  Well, lately, we’ve discovered that Keith has an allergy to strawberries. He gets a rash if he touches them. That means that these strawberries are not going to magically turn into jam some day while my back is turned (he does that, I’ll pick up ingredients and then come home late from work to a freeking masterpiece that he just “made up!”) My sister is coming over to visit this afternoon and she’s staying until tomorrow. I’ll wash them up and I guess we’ll just pick at them as snacks while I kick her ass in a game of WAR.

The parsley has gone to flower already. Not a big deal, we don’t use parsley that much, I still have an entire ziploc bag of dried, crushed parsley from last season. (If you do not know about my hoarding habit, you must start at the beginning of this blog and catch up, I have quite a penchant for stocking up.) After picking the strawberries and bringing them in the house (still in a nightgown, bathrobe and flipflops I might add), I went back out with a pair of scissors to cut the parsley flower stems and found this creepy crawly visitor. That is about actual size.

 Oh, and 6 of his brothers, all hanging out on different stems of the parsley. I don’t know what it is, but I can bet they were eating the plant. Great. We have another problem, I don’t squish bugs. I don’t. It’s gross (insert involuntary shudder here). It goes back to my childhood days in New Jersey where we had these fat, black crickets, (not those skinny green ones, these were very fat). They would get into the house and chirp and chirp and chirp. Well, one day, I squished one with my bare foot. I didn’t mean to, but it was in my shoe. There was white bug goo mixed with black bug legs and uck in between my toes. (Insert involuntary GAG right here and throw in an involuntary sphincter clench for good measure, that is how fresh and how gross the memory of this is with me.)

So, needless to say, I do not squish bugs. That is a problem. If you don’t kill them, they’ll come back. So, what did I do with these 7 caterpillers? I cut the branch of the plant off, carefully carried the branch with said bug still hanging on, over the the compost pile and threw them down the hill into the pile. I then looked the other way and did that 6 more times.

Ok, all you gardener followers are shaking your head at me, while my non-gardener followers, especially those of you with a low creepy-thing-tolerance are thinking that sounds like a good plan. Well, I am not naive.  I know these things will 1) come back and 2) lay eggs which means 3) make more. Guh. I started looking through the “Insectipedia” to figure out what it was and how to kill it organically, but the site is listed alphabetically by name of bug, so I had to open the link to each bug to see if it was the right one. Yah, that isn’t happening, ewww. So, if I see another, I’m going to drown it in something. Or, maybe I’ll put it on a rock and then, from a distance so I don’t hear the squish, I’ll throw big rocks at it until I think I got it. Gross, I am so skeeved right now, I have to change the subject. If anyone knows how to kill it without a squish, please do let me know. Moving on…

After moving said buggies into their new home to happily munch away on my discarded food scraps (THAT’s the solution, keep feeding them, Jenn! Shut up.) I decided to head out back to check on the tomatoes and husk cherries. Keith had mentioned that some husk cherries had ripened (almost a month early, thanks to starting them indoors early! Look at us!) and he had eaten a few, so I wanted to see how far along things had progressed back there. As I head down the side hill toward the back yard, something moved in the distance. (It’s a small yard, it wasn’t too distant, it was basically at the back of our property, but I’m building suspense, work with me here.) Just beyond the trees something very large was definitely moving. Thankfully, it was moving away from me. Now, remember, my wildlife interactions usually happen when I am poorly dressed and today was no different. How am I going to outrun a vicious coyote or a rabid raccoon in flip flops I ask you? I wrapped by bathrobe tighter, and crept in closer with a strong predatory instinct, playing with danger because that’s the kind of girl I am – brave, bold, MIGHTY! (It was still a bathrobe, but it may as well have been a cape, really. I think I will knit myself one. My friend bought me a kit for superhero goggles, perhaps I will make those up and have them at the ready next time.)

The beast still rustled through the woods. It was large, I could tell it was as tall as my waist. It made no noise except for the sound of the earth and twigs being crushed under it’s weight. I just couldn’t see what it was. The hair on the back of my neck raised up in tense alert. Danger was only feet away. (Where’s my gun? (Read here) Oh right…)

Then I heard it, “BABE!”  The good neighbor was walking through from his yard calling for Babe, his pig who had gotten out of the barn. It was Babe the pig, cute Babe, the piggie I had fed kitchen scraps and scratched behind the ears. Babe was in the backyard. Of course. “He’s over here, I yelled.” Making sure the bathrobe was cinched (greeting a neighbor is not the time to have wardrobe malfunctions), I met him at the back of our property and pointed to where I had last seen Babe. “Do you have a rope? How are you going to get him home?” I asked, memories of using Daisy’s leash as a lasso the last time Babe got out. (My niece and I chased this same pig, much smaller a few years ago, across the street and up the hill, trying to keep him from getting onto the main street. We finally caught up to him and looped Daisy’s leash around his neck and kind of led/trotted him back to his barn.)  “Food,” he answered, holding up something from a take-out box.

I told you he wasn’t a small pig! We tried to gently convince the Good Neighbor, when Babe was still young, to have our friend Popper (www.poppers-sausage-kitchen.com) take care of him when it came time. He looked at us in horror, Babe had already become a pet. I understand, he is all cute and cuddly in that, “Please don’t step on my toe or you’ll crush it” sort of way.

Anyway, who knows how far Babe might have gotten without my keen senses and predatory instinct. Now, if only I could be that brave around bugs.

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