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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Guest Post: Nesting Ground

Happy Friday, everyone! East Coast friends, are you batting down the hatches, getting ready for Irene? Having witnessed several hurricanes firsthand, I speak from experience when I say: get stocked up on water (lots of it!), a radio-powered battery, food for all of your pets, canned foods for yourself and fill up the bath tub in order to have water for flushing the toilet. Oh, and don’t try to drive through standing water. It never ends well!

I’ve got a treat for you today. Liesl and Myles of Nesting Ground are guest posting today. I adore their blog, as well as their regular “Small Farm Chronicles” on Mother Earth News. Here Liesl shares their adventures in urban homesteading in southern Alberta, Canada, with some incredible before and after yard photos and a delicious “Back Porch Sun Tea” recipe. Enjoy!

Relish the “Now”
Liesl Petersen

When we decided 7 years ago we wanted to buy a farm and grow our own food, we knew it would be a long journey to this goal– and today, we’re still not there. Land prices around here are out of reach for the average Joe, and our monthly bills aren’t getting any smaller. When we were ready to purchase our first home two years ago, we just couldn’t get enough money together for a farm. Instead of sprawling land, we moved into a sleepy little town in rural Alberta. But when we moved in, we relished in the fact that it was ours! Sure, our town lot is the size of a postage stamp; 125 by 50 ft to be exact. We immediately started talking about what was possible. We realized the potential in this space while we waited for the big dream.

And that’s when we decided to try to do some of the things we would on our farm and do it here. And why not? Why not try while we wait? Many folks from around these parts said we were nuts and it was little more than a garden. The “back-to-the-land movement” is not quite as popular or pursued with such gusto as it is in larger Canadian cities, or in the States. Their scoffing drove us harder to push the limits.

Removing some “pretty” but water guzzling sod and replacing it with vegetables was the first step. Building a tiny greenhouse and cold frame, experimenting with easily fashioned hoop houses, preserving, baking bread and making cheese all came next! Hey, ya don’t need land to do all that! We realized we could make do and enjoy what we had. Our pea-size kitchen is jungle-like all winter loaded with seedlings and grow lights–but come summer and fall, we transform it into a cannery!! After only two short years we can fill up our freezer and pantry with wholesome, homegrown food!

Sure there are a few things that aren’t quite the same– for bugs me that my town bylaw won’t allow me to keep a couple of chickens for fresh eggs. But animal husbandry manuals (among with cheese making, bee keeping and living-off-the-land books) are right on the bed stand so we see them every morning and read ’em every night. For now we drive a couple of miles to our local Hutterite Colony and purchase eggs there. Finding ways to compensate for what you don’t have and enjoying all that you do–that’s living the good life. One thing my Mom taught me in life is resiliency and enjoying the now. It’s a way to look at a situation and not just make the best of it, but really go all out.

Today I share her simple recipe for Sun Tea. No matter where you live, you can put this pitcher on a balcony, a back porch, front step, deck or even on a sunny windowsill. The heat of the sun slowly brews the tea. It’s ridiculously cheap, simply delicious and the perfect refreshment. And besides, things that are slow brewed and slow cooked force you to slow down too and savor the moment.

Back Porch Sun Tea
What you need:
*Cold water
*2 tea bags {black or herbal}
*Pitcher, jug or large mason jar
*Cloth or lid to cover
*A nice sunny day

Fill up your pitcher with fresh cold water and add the tea bags. Cover the pitcher {here I use fabric remnants and an elastic band} as to keep creepy crawlers at bay. Set pitcher out in the sun. Allow to steep for several hours. You will know when it’s ready because the water will be a beautiful golden hue. Discard tea bags to your composter. Pour sun-steeped tea over lots of ice and enjoy!
Delicious add in’s: Try adding citrus, like lemon or orange slices, to the brew. Fresh herbs and cucumber slices are equally yummy!
To Sweeten Naturally: Skip refined white sugar and opt for a spoonful of honey added to your glass!

Thanks, Liesl. I love your approach to finding the joy in the here and now!

What about you? Got a topic you think would appeal to small measure readers? Shoot me an email at: ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com and let’s chat about it!

Wednesdays, With A.J.

Hi friends! I’m chatting with A.J. today over at the cheekily titled Hand Jobs For the Home.

Come for the interview, stick around for the great recipes, witty banter and helpful domestic tips (plus, A.J. sports some great specs and has fabulous personal style; we’ve become quite the emailing/blog-loving buddies!).


A Day In the Life

Today, many good things happened:

~Huxley had play time with his grandmother and great-grandmother.
~Hubs and I consumed delicious lattes, courtesy of Battle Cat.
~I checked on the hives and it would appear an extraction is imminent (I’m thinking the weekend after this one, as there’s just a wee bit of uncapped honey still present).
~Much laundry was laundered, dried, folded and put away.
~Many emails were attended to (A.J., I’m almost done with your interview questions, from back in freaking April!!!).
~Yogurt made from cows belonging to the ever generous Valerie Graves was cultured (you can find the super easy recipe for homemade yogurt in my book).
~Hubs began building a new wooden rack for the firewood that will keep us roasty toasty in the wood stove all winter long.
~Some of the remaining otherworldly delicious peaches still on hand from my canning class were consumed with heady abandon.
~A chilly 55 degree morning was greeted with hoodies, warm socks and gratitude.
~The telltale smell of autumn made itself manifest.
~Doggie love was felt (that’s our German Shepherd, Fly)
~Plans to put the fall garden in tomorrow were made.
~Some Joan Jett was sung along to.
~Multiple baby kisses were bestowed.
~A Weeping Willow Wit was consumed.
~My love of charcuterie was further cemented.
~Thankfulness for a “lady date” on Friday night with my editor and buddy Nicole at Curate was felt (she also festooned me with this exquisite specimen as a belated birthday gift).
~General love of life, family, location and situation was experienced.

Green Label (+ Giveaway!!!!)

I love serendipity. I really do. When space and time collide in a strangely parallel way, then I just beam, feeling that some sort of order really does exist in the cosmos. Like that time my sister, Devan, and I were on our way home from a week-long trip to Northern California. We had some time to kill before our flight out of SFO, so we drove out to Point Reyes to visit the lighthouse (I have a very, very special place in my heart for lighthouses).

Just as we were about to walk back up the 300-odd stairs to our rental car, I heard a voice say “Ashley?” I turned to see Jen and Jon, very, very dear friends of mine who had been working on organic farms and living in a plant sanctuary in India (where they built their own house out of thatch and bamboo, and had monkeys and snakes as house companions!!!). They had just flown in from Japan. I hadn’t seen them in 1 1/2 years, and then, there they were.

Or all of the parallels that existed between Hubs and I when we met. I’d come out of a very lengthy, rocky relationship when we first encountered one another. I got very specific about what sort of partner I wanted in the future and Hubs just kept meeting each and every one of the criteria I’d laid out in my mind. I had to marry him, of course.

More recently, I got an email from my buddy, Aaron. He wrote that he was working with the organic clothing company, Green Label, and would like to send me a t-shirt to keep and another to offer in a small measure giveaway. I looked down at the shirt I was wearing at the time, while still skimming over his email. Yep. It was Green Label. I knew this giveaway was meant to be. It’s kismet, you see.

And so, for the newest giveaway on this blog of mine, I’d like to offer one lucky reader a women’s medium-sized “Support Local” t-shirt, pictured above (men folk-this doesn’t mean you’re out of the running; feel free to enter the giveaway and festoon a lucky lady with the shirt, or, hell, you could even try to squeeze your own torso into it!).

In order to enter, just leave a comment telling me what “support local” means to you. Do you do it? If so, how do you do it? Do you think it’s important? A bunch of hype? If you object to the idea, tell me about that? I’m all ears. PLEASE leave a way for me to reach you, should you be the winner (I’ve unfortunately had many, many entries in the past that came up as the winner in the Random Widget with no means of contacting the commenter). That could be achieved via either a link back to your blog or with your email included in your entry comment. I’ll leave the contest open until a week from today, August 26th, midnight EST.

Good luck, everyone, and may serendipity shine its magical light upon you!

Update: Comments are now closed (actually, they closed at midnight, EST, on Friday, but it’s 4:00 p.m. on Sunday and I’m just now getting around to announcing the winner!). The Green Label t-shirt, as chosen by the Random Widget, will be going to Jasmine of Bunchberry Farm way out in Alaska! Thank you to all who entered!!!

Guest Post: Seattle Seedling

I used to be the sort of gal who planted whatever, wherever. If it was pretty, or it smelled good, that was enough for me. Now, whenever I’m at the garden center, or perusing a seed catalogue, I find myself thinking “yeah, it’s gorgeous, and yes, it smells good, but can I eat it?” My green thumb wants to enjoy beauty and fragrance and wild pollinator attraction, as well as satisfy my palate and my belly. Is that too much to ask for?

Well, if you think like me, or even if you don’t but need some growing inspiration, Stacy Brewer of Seattle Seedling has got just the thing to get you started. Her post today explores culinary uses for edible flowers. Considering that the property Hubs and I live on was an organic flower and herb farm in its previous life, this post truly hits close to home!

Edible Flowers – Think Outside the Flower Pot
Stacy Brewer

“I hosted a game night pot luck the other night and one of my friends made an amazing vegan fruit tart. She recounted that when she was making it, her soon-to-be-husband said, “Wow! You’re making that tart for game night?” And she replied, “Yeah, you bring your A-game when you go to Stacy’s.” I’m not sure where along the way I gave my poor friends the impression that they have to get in touch with their inner-Martha when bringing something to my house. But I guess when you do things like garnish a salad with beautiful flowers, you send a message, whether you mean to or not, that when it comes to the kitchen, you mean business. What’s really going on though is that I just know a thing or two about what I can eat around my yard.

My little urban farm is situated on a 4,000 square foot lot in the heart of Seattle. In the 2,700 square feet that’s not taken up by my house, I grow as much food, organically as I can for myself, my chickens, and the neighborhood pollinators. So, since space is something I have to consider when I choose what to grow on my “farm”, I like to choose plants that give me a lot of bang for my buck. And that’s why edible flowers are so fantastic. They’re lovely to look at, bees love them, and you can usually use them in more ways than one. Here are just a few ways you can use edible flowers in your kitchen:

Add dried lavender blossoms and buds to some organic cane sugar. Press down on the lavender a little when incorporating the buds into the sugar to release some of the oils (think mortar and pestle)
“Dress” your salad by adding nasturtium, violas (a.k.a. Johnny jump-ups), or calendula petals
Calendula petals can also be dried, ground and used in place of saffron
Add pretty little arugula flowers to salad for a peppery bite. You will be blown away by how much they taste like arugula!
Add bold, purple chive blossoms to salads or soups as an oniony garnish

For me, it all started with nasturtiums and really just because I love how they look. It delights me to no end watching big bumblebees totally immerse themselves inside the deep blossoms, like they’re searching for buried treasure. Then, when I discovered I could put those beautiful red, orange and yellow blooms on a salad, it was over. I officially became an edible flower convert. Actually, every part of the nasturtium plant is edible – leaves, flowers, seeds. Aphids love to eat them too, which can be a nuisance since once they appear, they quickly take over the entire plant. Some gardeners plant nasturtiums as a decoy to protect other plants that aphids love. So before aphids take over your blooms, try these recipes so you can preserve your nasturtium harvest and enjoy it long after summer’s past.

Nasturtium Vinegar
Put about a cup of loosely packed nasturtium flowers in a clean pint jar. Fill the jar all the way to the top with white wine vinegar. I used apple cider vinegar in another jar for a little variety. Make sure that all the blooms are completely covered with vinegar so they won’t mold. Put the jars in a cool, dark place for three weeks. I flipped the jars over every couple of days, just to be sure that the blossoms were always covered and saturated. Strain and proceed to use in any recipe that calls for a bright tasting, orange tinted vinegar. Nasturtium vinaigrette anyone?

Super Simple Pickled Nasturtium Seeds (a.k.a. Fake capers)
I recently discovered that nasturtium seeds can be preserved and used as a substitute for capers! Once the nasturtium flowers fade, a green, wrinkly seed cluster will appear – they come in threes. Pick the seeds when they’re young and green, leaving a little portion of the stem attached. Leave some of the seeds on the plant if you want it to reseed and come back again next season. Soak the seeds in salt water (about one tablespoon of salt for each pint of water) overnight. Drain the seeds, put them in a clean jar or container, and cover with vinegar that is heated to boiling point. Seal the jar tightly and store in the fridge for a few weeks before enjoying in any recipe calling for capers. Of course, you could make this recipe even more dolled up with your favorite pickling spices or recipes.

Nasturtiums are the gateway flower because they’re super easy to grow and once you start eating those, you’ll want to start adding even more edible flowers to your repertoire. So plant a few and use them for more than just for show. Just don’t be surprised if as a result your guests start upping their game. “

Thank you, Stacy. This is so incredibly inspiring! What about you? Got a topic you think would make a great small measure guest post? Shoot me an email at: ashleyadamsenglish(at)gmail(dot)com and let’s see what we can come up with!