Category Archives: productive home

New Year New You 2016 (…and 17): Week 20 – Hearth Appreciation

I’m doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (again) because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. You should try it!
 
Instructions: Do something nice for your home.
 
Tarot Card: The ten of earth, obviously. (This is one of my favourite cards in the Wildwood deck. It’s one of the ones that made me decided to get it, and it bears a certain resemblance to the “home base” of my psychic hearth, which doesn’t hurt).
 
So. This prompt. What Miss Sugar says about how it’s hard to keep all the chainsaws in the air? She’s right. And I can SO relate to the feelings of frustration, overwhelm, and unraveling that come with having a home whose mess has gone beyond my capacity to know where to even start.
I’ve spent a lot of the last year-and-a-bit doing the money-hustle (which has been going better over the past four months than most of the time previous there-to – so yay) BUT, no surprise, it’s meant that I’ve had a lot less time available to do hearth-tending than I typically like.
This past week, though, and the one coming have been blessed (uh… ish…) with less paid work than usual, meaning: yeah, less money, which is a problem, but also: MOAR TIME! I’ve been able to get out and work on my freaking poetry manuscript (thank you, gods!) AND I’ve been able to do some cleaning (beyond dishes) and canning (at all), which has me feeling a whole lot better. I’ve even managed to light my altars for the first time in MONTHS (bad pagan…) which, I gotta say, is SUCH a relief.
 
Tonight I’m cleaning my counter (dishes + a solid wipe-down of surfaces), prepping the first bunch of tomatoes for canning, lighting my altars again, and putting a bouquet of flowering apple mint out for the Ladies, because… I owe them some attention, frankly.
 
Anyway. Time to get on that. ❤
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

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Mid-July: In Which Everything Goes To Hell – A “Productive Home” Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been some planting, a tiny bit of harvesting, and a little bit of… building?
 
I rescued three cucumber plants and a zucchini from Certain Death in a neglected loblaws garden center… about a week ago. I transplanted them, plus one of my pre-existing but too-heavily-shaded-by-beans-and-radishes cucumbers and a couple of my probably-pumpkin plants to:
A new in-ground bed that I put together by piling up bolted mustard stems, overlaying them with some newspaper, and then emptying a bag of soil on top of everything.
They seem to be… mostly not dying? Which is sort of what I was going for. One of the (very small…) cucumbers is flowering, as is the probably-a-pumpkin (you can see both below). The zucchini occasionally tosses out a male blossom as well. I’m hoping that, by August, they will be blooming with the lady-flowers and starting to hint at bearing fruit.
 

Cucumber plants plus something that is probably a pumpkin, but might be a zucchini.  You can also see the bottom of the trellis I put up over the weekend.  We'll see if it holds and/or if anything manages to climb it.

Cucumber plants plus something that is probably a pumpkin, but might be a zucchini. You can also see the bottom of the trellis I put up over the weekend. We’ll see if it holds and/or if anything manages to climb it.


 
So there’s that.
 
I’ve given my daikon-radish “fence” a major haircut, so that the beans and eggplants and everyone else in that bed can actually get some light. This is less of thing for the Ground Cherries, which can handle a bit of shade (though my particular plant is probably getting too much from the tomatoes to produce much fruit. We’ll figure it out).
My jalapeno has three little peppers starting on it.
My eggplants have, between the two of them, three fruits developing.
My yellow bell pepper is… Let’s say I’m not holding my breath on that one…
But my tomatoes!
It’s been magnificently rainy this summer, and kind of on the cool side, so pretty much everything is moving slowly. I’m used to getting my first ripe cherry tomatoes, oh, about two weeks ago, and as of now, they’re all still green.
Which is fine. They’ll get there. Even if I’m bringing them indoors in October and letting them ripen next to an apple in the kitchen.
And look! This is my first year growing beefsteak tomatoes! I have… ANY! 😀
 
Beefsteak tomatoes, at the slightly-yellowish-green phase of edging towards ripening.

Beefsteak tomatoes, at the slightly-yellowish-green phase of edging towards ripening.


 
I’m pretty sure I’ve got at least one roma tomato, too, and the Big Tomatoes are in the ground, rather than the raised beds, so they’ve actually got enough root depth and aren’t getting themselves sick with blossom-end-rot and what-not. Hurrah! 😀 (Not that I’m counting my tomatoes before they’re ripe, or anything, but I’m hopeful, y’know?)
 
In further squash news: Danger Squirrel and company have eaten most, possibly all, of the waldham butternut and golden-zucchini seeds I planted, many months ago. But this bruiser that came up in the compost heap is, I’m fairly confident, a Fairy Tale Pumpkin:
 
Fairly confident that this is a Fairy Tale Pumpkin growing out of my compost heap, as squash are wont to do.

Fairly confident that this is a Fairy Tale Pumpkin growing out of my compost heap, as squash are wont to do.


 
Fairy Tale pumpkins are great, in that they are HUGE, and they finish ripening off the vine (like: harvest it when it’s dark green, streaked faintly with orange, at Samhain, but don’t cut it open until the rind is a milk-chocolate brown, around Imbolg). BUT they are not so great on flavour. Like ponca butternut (an ancestor of waldham butternut) and any zucchini you’ve ever left too long on the vine, a lot of their size is water. So they’re not great for things like pie or baked veggie side dishes where the squash flavour is something you care about. But they’re excellent for adding to braises and stews where the extra liquid will be soaked up by barley (for example) and the otherwise mild pumpkin flavour will be augmented by whatever else you’re cooking with it.
 
In other news!
My raspberry bush is FRUITING!!!
My raspberry bush is fruiting!

My raspberry bush is fruiting!


 
The friends who gave it to me warned me that it hadn’t fruited in all the years it had been in their yard. I said I was willing to give it a shot, as they wondered if being near other raspberries – like the ones in the alley behind my house – might encourage it to fruit.
That wasn’t what did it.
What did it was a big heap of bone meal dumped around the roots of the plant. Turns out, there was fruit (ish… proto-fruit) all along, it just needed some phosphorus and calcium to help the fruit develop into something that could actually ripen. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!
😀
 
So I harvested a couple of raspberries from my own canes today. Hopefully more will follow.
Beyond that, I haven’t been harvesting a whole lot. There have been garlic scapes, the occasional bit of chard, a heap of snow peas(!!!) and the last of the radishes. Oh. And a sprig of mint for hibiscus iced tea. But that’s been it. I think there will need to be a kale salad in my near-future, though, as the Cavalo Nero is getting bigger, and could do with a trim.
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been… not a huge amount of activity, honestly. And a bunch of stuff that didn’t work.
I tried to make a sour dough starter. Which started beautifully, but died very quickly, in spite of regular feeding. I think I must have been doing it wrong. (That said, if I can make a chef from scratch every time…? That wouldn’t be the end of the world…)
 
I wound up making “by any means neccessary” bread, using 1 tsp dry yeast + a cup of kefir and… you guys, it’s not good. Like, “it makes great toast” levels of not good. It looks beautiful, and smells awesome, but it tastes like, well, like a fermented milk product (which is not what I look for in a sandwich-canvas) and tends to get soggy REALLY easily.
 
Speaking of fermented milk products… my kefir got fruit flies. In the worst way. I had to toss the entire batch, plus about 1/4 of the actual grains, because I wasn’t able to separate them from the corpses of fruit flies gone to their fermented-dairy graves.
On the plus side, the grains I was able to save are still alive and kicking and making kefir, so I can keep churning out coffee cake and scones until the heat turns up in these parts. So there’s that.
 
The Ex is coming by in two weeks to collect all the stuff they’ve been storing in our basement (among other places), so my wife and I have been moving some things around. Our antique kitchen table is now The Bird Stand (it looks good there, and it means it’s not blocking the washer and dryer… not that the washer and dryer are hooked up or anything… >.>) and we are sorting out where to store all the bird food and bird toys and such-like. It’s a work in progress.
 
Which… So is the rest of the main floor. I know this section is about what’s going on “in the kitchen”, but our front room (when we moved in, it was – briefly – my wife’s workshop, and it’s been a never-quite-defined half-storage room ever since she got her own shop) is currently the staging area for both The Ex’s stuff and a bunch of items we’re holding for a friend who’s getting divorced and will need help with furniture and other stuff when the time comes. When that’s all been taken care of, we’re going to turn everything around in there, so that my desk is facing the window and the bistro set I’ve been referring to, somewhat hopefully, as “the dining room set”, will be moved into a more accessible area, so that we can actually, y’know, dine at it.
The living room is looking better than it has in a while (hurrah!) though there are still things that need touching up. The birds are fed and watered and have had their cages cleaned (and, in Fiona’s case, some of her stuff has been moved around… though not by very much. I don’t want her to get bored…), and the vacuuming actually got done, albeit not by me.
 
The kitchen, to drag this back onto the topic at hand, is still a mess. Moving the table into the living room means I’m out about six square feet of “shelf” space, and the counter is feeling the pinch (and, consequently, I am feeling the “Augh, I don’t know where to staaaaart!” that I feel whenever there’s no clear space to put something down).
I’m continuing to use up my crushed tomatoes and my salsa (I made SO MUCH last summer), but I have a LOT of preserves still to go through. Crab apple jam, pear and pumpkin butters, chokecherry-plum relish, jalapeno jelly, a jar or two of pickled beans (they’re lovely on sandwiches, but see above re: soggy bread), and a LOT of gifted preserves (delicious gifts, mind you) from other folks. I need to do an inventory, and I need to put up shelves. This might or might not be the summer that happens, but it needs to happen. I have too many empty canning jars and nowhere for them to live. Too many (Ha! Meaning two, at the moment!) fermentation projects on the go. It’s time to add more storage to the kitchen.
 
 
Anyway, so yeah. Not a whole hell of a lot going on in terms of house-hold productivity this week, but that’s where things are at. Did I mention I had a grease fire (small, put out quickly and easily with baking soda) AND boiled a pot dry today? I did. “Productive Home”, indeed. :-\
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

First Weekend in June – A “Productive Home” Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
 
IN THE GARDEN there has been a lot of planting!
 
I think I’ve got the garden pretty-much planted for the year. I mean, yes, I’d still like to get my hands on some lovage (and I may have a source!), but other than that and maybe transplanting a bunch of winter squash, I think we’re set. It’s time to grow-grow-grow!
 
Planting(s):
The beans, winter squash, and yellow zucchini seeds that I had just planted, the last time I did one of these things, are poking their heads out of the earth and starting to look like they might grow into Serious Plants.
That said, most of the winter squash… doesn’t seem to have come up? It looks like I got a package of Mostly Duds on that one. BUT a few are coming up – which I’ll need to move around slightly, as it appears Danger Squirrel has been moving things around on me – AND I’ve got some sprouting in the compost heap, where they’ll stay as they should be super happy in there. The winter squash (which I think miiiiiight be Fairy Tale Pumpkin) that sprouted early-on from compod seeds needs to be transplanted (again) so that it can get its roots inper soil than is available in my raised beds, but it seems to be growing fairly happily, which is a good sign.
I’m saying that I might actually get a real squash CROP this year, even though I know it’s way too early to be counting my pumpkins and butternuts at this point.
The daikon radish “perimeter fence” is also doing its thing – though it remains to be seen if it does its JOB, which is keeping the soil IN, and the marauding runner-roots of crab-grass and creeping charlie (which I love, and use as ground-cover in the front yard) OUT of, my vegetable patch – but they’re growing, so that’s good.
My transplanted rainbow chard seems to have recovered from being unceremoniously uprooted and moved around, which is kind of a relief. Ditto, the breakfast radishes, which had been growing all in a clump and are now much more spread out.
In addition to the seeds that are coming up, I planted a whole bunch of starts. Two ground-cherries, from a friend up the street, a jalapeno pepper and an aubergine from another couple of friends (also up the street – I live in a goooood neighbourhood), and a bundle of goodies that I bought, once I had the $20 to do it (freelancer life, I tell you…), including:
A Lebanese Cucumber (because I think my first one got frost-zapped, or close to it, and I wanted to make sure I had some cukes this year)
A Japanese(?) Eggplant – the long, skinny ones
Chives (the standard-issue onion type, that get the purple flowers)
Lemon Balm
Sorrel (we’ll see if it takes off, the way my friend’s – also up the street – has in her shady front garden)
Black Cherry baby tomatoes
Roma tomatoes (I don’t actually remember the variety off the top of my head)
Beefsteak tomatoes (for my wife, who loves them. I’m… not holding out a tonne of hope, but we’ll see)
 
The friend who gave me the ground cherries may have some “mild salsa peppers” to send my way, as well. (Their parents have a Tiny Hippie Farm in the Valley, where they raise laying hens, and they often have spare plant-starts to give away to their youngster’s garden-enabled friends).
 
In Other News: My raspberry bush has one (1) flower! But there’s a strong possibility of more, so I am starting to get hopeful for fruit in the back yard! 😀
 
Harvesting:
Lots of rhubarb.
Lots of mustard greens.
You’ll hear more about both of those, below.
Beyond that, the garden is still young, and most of my perennials are flavourful herbs, rather than early veggies, so there’s not been a lot to pull out of the ground just yet. I admit, I’m hoping for a week or two more of cool weather (although maybe not as cool as it’s been…) so that my peas and greens can stay comfortable and my radishes have a solid chance to get big enough to harvest. >.> It’s funny. I want my peas to start flowering, but I don’t want my khol crops to bolt. But those things happen at the same time! I have to remember that if I want my fruit crops to start producing, I have to let my greens go to seed as well. 😉
 
 
IN THE KITCHEN there has been fermenting. And cleaning. And furniture-moving. O.O
 
Ferments:
So I treated my kefir grains to some whipping cream. As you can imagine, it’s much thicker than it has been, AND it’s delicious. Not that I’m going to switch my kefir to an all-cream-all-the-time diet, but it’s definitely something I’m doing again, and will probably try to do every now and then for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure that I could use this extra-thick kefir to make, effectively, a sour-cream “cheese cake” type custard, but… maybe? Certainly something I’d like to try!
Earlier this week, I made orange-pops, which is a recipe I got out of My First Cookbook EVAR (I think I was seven, if not slightly younger, when I was given this cookbook). Basically, you take a (small – slightly more than 1C) tin of frozen orange juice, mix in 2 cups of yoghurt, and a tablespoon of vanilla, blend with a fork (or a whisk), spoon it into freezer-cups, and freeze it over night. I used kefir instead of yoghurt. Tastes great, but it doesn’t freeze super-solid (unlike the chocolate-coconut ones), which means sometimes I pull the stick out with no popsicle attached. I wonder if adding coconut milk to this recipe would help or hinder on that front…
In other fermentation news, we have gone through about 1/3 of the sour kraut. I’m enjoying it, my wife is enjoying it, and tbh I’m also loving how quick and easy it is to add veggies to a sandwich – no washing, no chopping, because it’s all already done. TO THAT END, when I pulled a grocery-bag full of mustard greens, dandelion greens, and Vietnamese garlic greens on Wednesday (and picked some wild grape leaves, on the way home), I decided to ferment them into something like a sour kraut (except not, because these greens are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more delicate). It’s an experiment – I threw a little bit of onion, and a bunch of mustard seeds and (dried) coriander, plus a bird chili into the mix – and we’ll see how it goes. I HOPE it’s good, as it’s a good way to use up pulled greens, but… Look, honestly? Three days later, there was no bubbling going on. I added some kefir whey (I wanted to skip that step, to see if I could do a vegan ferment and also avoid the mold possibilities in letting dairy just hang out on top of the salt water like that, but oh well) and we’ll see if it helps, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m wondering if the dandelion greens have too many natural defenses (unlikey?) or if I just washed my greens a little too well? We shall see.
I have also made bread but, since it’s not sour dough, I’m not sure that it counts as “fermenting” at this point. Still! Bread! The loaves turned out small, but well. And that’ll do.
 
Other Kitchen Stuff:
One of my favourite Heathens is coming to visit for a few days (in town for a conference, and we’re conveniently located), so I’ve been tidying All The Things, prepping the guest-room, getting a spare house-key cut, checking my stocks to see what kind of vegan food I can whip up for dinner on Monday, that sort of thing. BUT I also spent a big chunk of yesterday moving in a WASHER AND DRYER (!!!) which meant my house felt really chaotic for a while.
The washer and dryer, which were given to us by some generous friends who were moving & at the same time and said we could have their old set FREE if we were able to ourselves, are currently sitting in my kitchen, where my ancient kitchen table used to be. Technically, the table is still the – we’ve just cleared it off (which took several days worth of finding homes for Things that got dumped onto the table because they didn’t have anywhere else to live) and shifted it around a bit.
I suspect the new machines won’t be hooked up for, probably, another month. the washing machine needs to be further moved into our basement (which… it may not fit through the door, but we’re willing to give it a shot) where the hook-up is – or else my ex-contractor wife will need to renovate the kitchen, which (as this is a rental) we’d rather not do – and the dryer will need to be hooked up to the vent (which IS in the kitchen) and set on top of… something… so that it’s not blocking the kitchen’s Cold Air Return. Both machines need a bit of a clean before that happens.
We’ll also need to find a new spot for that table, but an old friend (read: ex-partner), whose stuff we’ve been storing for two years, has decided to make a more permanent move to Alberta and will be collecting the rest of their things from us some time in the next month. Which means the plant stand and small cupboard we’ve been using as bird-cage stands will need to be replaced. With, for example, an antique drop-leaf table.
None of that has happened yet, but the table is tidy for the first time in a year-and-a-half, and the laundry machines are IN, and that’s a major part of the battle. I’m really happy about it. 😀
 
ANYWAY. That’s been my Productive Home week this week. Still to do: Make a vegan dessert (either chocolate Wacky Cake or a rhubarb pie), vacuum the main floor, sweep upstairs, and put clean sheets on the guest-bed. Also figure out whether or not I can hang a set of curtains today. :-\ (The walls are lath and plaster, which means stuff meant to be screwed into drywall… doesn’t work so well. But also, our guest would probably appreciate some curtains). ONWARDS!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.