St. Patrick’s Day

I have always loved St. Patrick’s Day.  Not only because I am Irish, and it is my name day, but because it comes in the middle of March when it is not quite yet Spring but everyone is very tired of Winter.  Despite the promise of Spring in the air, there is still a lot of dirty snow…and things look pretty bedraggled emerging from beneath it.  So it is actually a bit bleak.  What better time for a bit of celebration?  As a kindergarten teacher  we had fun making leprechaun traps and learning about rainbows… and telling a few Irish stories.  Retired, it is a quieter day.

I made some soup.  Spinach, carrots and potatoes…the colors of the Irish flag.

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It will be pureed before eating and be mostly green…but I think it is beautiful with all the colors.

IMG_3704And it will be lovely with this Irish brown bread.

I have pulled out my Irish sweater.

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I made this years ago but it is so warm I don’t often wear it.  It is my official St. Patrick’s Day sweater.

Fergus is dressed for the occasion.

IMG_3720Having a nap while waiting for his walk.  We are so thrilled that he is still with us…last year at this time he was diagnosed with cancer and we were told it wouldn’t be long.  But here he is….Perhaps it is his Irish name that gives him luck! 

Merlin doesn’t have any special outfit to wear today.

IMG_3725So he celebrated with a few extra Greenies.  Purr….crunch..purr..crunch!

The girls got a bit of green in their oatmeal (or should I say porridge) today.

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IMG_3723They seemed to enjoy it.  They are so happy to be back up in Cluckingham Palace again!

We will take Fergus for a long walk this afternoon and enjoy any signs of Spring we might see.  And perhaps later there will be a pint of Guinness to celebrate the day!  

🍀Happy St. Patrick’s Day!🍀

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Posted in Fergus, Hens, Merlin, Nature, Spring | 3 Comments

The Promise of Spring

A few days ago a friend of mine asked me if I had ordered any seeds yet.  She was placing an order.  I told her I hadn’t even really thought about it.  It has been such a cold winter and there is still so much snow that it is hard to imagine anything ever growing outside again.

But then it got a bit warmer..and things are looking brighter.  Suddenly snow is melting, mud is appearing and the air feels gentle.  There is the smell of Spring on the breeze and the birds are singing!  Our solar panels have reemerged from their winter hibernation and we producing electricity again!  The world is thawing..life is returning and we are VERY ready!

IMG_3685The girls are back up in Cluckingham Palace at last!  They even ventured out into the run today.. The sun was glorious!

So I got out the seed starting things and decided it was time.  

IMG_3674Yesterday I went over to our local garden center and got some seeds and some seed starter.  I have some seeds left from last year as well and I have the trays that came with the greenhouse.  I have had the heating mat and the light for a few seasons so it was easy to get it all set up.

IMG_3691I gathered up the seeds and the trays and put some of the seed starter in a bin.  I moistened it and mixed it until it was the right consistency.  It felt wonderful to have my hands in dirt again!

IMG_3692I filled the tray with starting mix.  I usually use little six packs but these trays came with the greenhouse so I used those.  There are 72 cells in each one.  Room for lots of seeds.

IMG_3693Eggplant and peppers take a long time so I always start them first.  This year I am starting other things as well because I am hoping that the greenhouse will enable me to get things out sooner.  I am hoping for larger plants like they sell at the farmer’s market.  We shall see.  

IMG_3696I ended up with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, basil, lettuce and marigolds in this tray.  Once I planted the seeds I covered them with a bit more soil and misted them.

IMG_3697Next I added water to the tray that they will go in.  This lets water come up from the bottom as well and keeps the soil moist.  I have a heating mat under the trays to keep it warm enough for germination.

IMG_3700I ended up planting a second tray..with kale, spinach, chard and alyssum.  These are all pretty hardy plants and can go out pretty early..at least as far as the greenhouse.  The trays are covered with plastic domes to keep things warm and moist.  Once the seedling emerge they will need light, but for now the heating mat is enough.

So now we wait.  Soon we should have green shoots…then leaves…plants and eventually a bountiful garden.  That is the promise of Spring….

 

 

Posted in Gardens, Nature, Spring | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Waiting For Spring

It has been a very cold and snowy winter here in New England.  Like so much of the country, our temperatures are way below normal and our snowbanks are very high.  It is very discouraging.  My gardens are buried under deep snow.  This should protect them some from the cold, but I miss them.  

The greenhouse is also partially buried.

IMG_4645I try to keep the snow off the roof, but as a result the snow is higher beside it.  It is lovely when the sun is shining but it has been cloudy and grey a lot and the greenhouse is pretty frosty then.  I have moved all the plants inside for now…..I was hoping to start seeds in there in a few weeks but I don’t know.

My girls are also wondering where the “nice” outside is.  They spend nights in the Coop Under the Stairs, but go back up to Cluckingham Palace for the warmest part of the day.  

IMG_3570But there is snow in their run.  The have tried going out but it is TOO cold.  Snacks help but they, like everyone else, are very ready for Spring!!

We have been spending time by the fire.

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And by the wood stove.

IMG_3598Merlin basks unashamedly in its warmth.  

  The primroses remain cheerful.

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And I got some hyacinth for Valentine’s Day.

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They smell heavenly!  

I have been weaving some.

IMG_3627These towels are for a friend.  They are  almost finished.

And I just got a new pattern and some yarn fromPeace Fleece.

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I think there is plenty of winter left to at least start the sweater.  So there is plenty to do.

But the seed catalogs are starting to arrive.

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And I am very ready for Spring!!!    🌷🌻🌹

 

Posted in Fiber Arts, Gardens, Hens, Nature, New England Weather, Winter | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Winter Goes On…

We have had one snow storm after another for the past few weeks.  This Winter has just been relentless.   Usually we get snow, it melts a little (or a lot) and we get some more.  But not this year.  The snow just keeps coming and is piling up everywhere.  There is no where to put it!!!  It feels as if I have been shoveling for days..because I have been.  The last storm was a three day event and left over a foot of snow.  That was on top of the foot we got last week, on top of the 6″ (we really lucked out with that one) that we got the week before.  It has been too cold for any of it to melt so the snow banks just get higher and higher.

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That little black dot is our mailbox.  You can see how high the snowbank is.  

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The greenhouse is encased in snow.  There is nothing growing in it now anyway….I brought the plants inside.  I don’t think I will be starting seeds in there any time soon.

The birds and the squirrels are hungry.

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This squirrel is heading up to the feeder for a snack.  I will have to refill it soon.

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There is a bit left for Mrs. Cardinal.

IMG_4627And more over here.  Between the snow cover and the cold, it has been a tough winter for them.

The girls have been spending too much time in the Coop Under the Stairs.  

IMG_4639I let them out from time to time so they can stretch a bit.  Here they are cleaning up  bird seed that spilled when I was filling the feeders.  Helpful girls.

IMG_3589And here they are coming upstairs to tell me that they are bored.  It has been a long winter!

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Fergus and Merlin are hanging out by the stove.  Merlin is fine..he loves the stove and enjoys watching the birds at the feeders, but Fergus has missed a few walks due to the weather..and that makes him sad.  He loves his walks!

So we are all trying to make the best of it.  Hopefully we will get a bit of a break and maybe even a few warm days soon.  I think we are all ready for Spring!

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Posted in Hens, New England Weather, Winter | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

A Snowy Day

Yesterday, after a cold and very grey month, the sun came out and finally melted all the snow from our solar panels.  We have not been generating much electricity this month because of the snow and ice on the panels.  So it was  good to see the meter going backwards again!  But, of course, today, it is snowing.  Our panel are again covered.  Sigh…if it stays snow (as opposed to ice) and is not too cold, it may melt quickly.  Let’s hope so!

It is quite lovely though.

IMG_3558 IMG_3566 IMG_3569It is wet enough to cling to the trees and create a lovely “winter wonderland” but so far at least, not heavy enough to cause any damage.

IMG_3561Merlin knew just where to go. “Ahhh….”

IMG_3543Fergus is wondering if he will get his walk….but not losing any sleep over it.

It is a lazy morning at Brookwood Shire.  The girls are out in Cluckingham Palace because it is not too cold…but they are boycotting their run.

IMG_3575A bit of yogurt will help pass the time.

There will be shoveling to do…paths to clear…but there will be time for that when the snow stops.  So how will I spend the day?

IMG_3553Perhaps this warp I wound yesterday will actually get on the loom.

Stay warm everyone! 

Posted in Fiber Arts, Green Energy, Nature, New England Weather | Tagged | 5 Comments

Almond Milk

Today I decided to make almond milk.  I have been drinking soy milk and it is fine, but I have been hearing so much about how good almond milk is I wanted to try it.  It is remarkably simple.

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You need a blender, almonds, filtered water and a “nut bag” (don’t laugh, that is what it is called) to strain the milk through.  I soaked the almonds last night.  Simply cover 1 cup of almonds with water and leave overnight.

IMG_3528Rinse the soaked almonds.

IMG_3529Put rinsed almonds in the blender.

IMG_3530Add 3 ½ cups of filtered water.  

IMG_3532The recipe called for a few dates and a vanilla bean.  That sounds delicious, but I wanted to try simple, unsweetened almond milk, so I just used almonds and filtered water.

IMG_3533I used a high setting and blended for a couple of minutes.  This depends somewhat on the kind of blender you have.  

IMG_3534Put the “nut bag” in a bowl.

IMG_3535Pour the almond milk in.

IMG_3536Squeeze all the liquid from the bag and you are left with a lovely lump of almond meal.

IMG_3538Pour your almond milk into a container.  I used a canning jar, because I had one, but I think an old fashioned glass milk bottle would be wonderful..  I will look for one of those.

IMG_3539And Voila!  Almond milk and almond meal!  How does it taste?  Well..it tastes like almonds.  A vanilla bean might be nice..but it is fine.  In coffee it is wonderful!  Just a hint of almond mixed with the coffee is pretty special.

And the almond meal?

IMG_3540I just happened to find a recipe for almond meal chocolate chip cookies.  Really,  what could be better than chocolate chip cookies and milk?

 

Posted in Eating Well, Plant based diet | 10 Comments

Winter Settles In

Winter has settled in.  It has been cold for days…weeks?  It feels like months.  It is a time for inside projects.  After taking down the holiday decorations, I went and got some primroses.IMG_9585I always fill the house with primroses in January.  They are bright and cheerful and add color to an otherwise very bleak landscape.

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As I have often said, I could never get through January without primroses.

Once that was done I started cleaning.  There is something about the New Year that makes one want to start fresh..so I decided to clean and reorganize the cabinets.  I started with the cabinets because I have been thinking about eating a plant based diet for awhile now and I am wondering how hard a transition it would be.

I have been a vegetarian since high school.  This was easy for me because I didn’t like meat anyway.  I continued to eat eggs and dairy because that felt humane.  But the egg industry is far from humane, and I would not want to support their cruel practices by buying eggs from poor hens who are so ill treated.  So I solved that by having my wonderful girls.  They are treated well and they give me eggs.  That feels ok.  But dairy?  I LOVE milk and all dairy products.  I love seeing cows grazing in fields along rural roads…I know about veal cows and try not to think about it.  But the more I learn about the dairy industry, the harder it is to justify supporting it.  Could I live without milk.. cheese.. butter?  

Certainly it would be better for the planet.  Our western diet is not sustainable.  It is not healthy….for us..for the animals that are so abused or for the planet.  If I am truly going to live a sustainable life, “with nature” then a plant based diet makes sense.

My first problem was how to replace milk.  I know there are lots of non dairy “milks” in the supermarket, but most of them are filled with additives and things I can’t pronounce.  I don’t see much point in drinking those.  But I did find a soy milk that is organic, GMO free and the ingredients list “organic soybeans, filtered water.”

IMG_3494It is fine.  I have been using it in coffee and it tastes very much like cow’s milk.  So that was easy. I also have learned that you can make almond milk or coconut milk or even oat milk at home.  You just blend the nuts, coconut or oats with water.  I will be trying that soon.

IMG_3495My nuts and oats are all organized and tidied now so it will be easy to do.

I have also learned that cashews can be blended with nutritional yeast to make a kind of cheese sauce.

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My nice, Vanessa, has been telling me about this for years, but I never quite got around to experimenting with it.  Perhaps this is the time.

I have been researching vegan recipes and am quite pleasantly surprised.  There are many vegans who eat a lot of processed soy products.  Tofu pups, soy cheese, soy bacon, soy meat.  Yuck. I have no intentions of eating a bunch of processed foods.  But there are other options.  I have been particularly impressed by a website called “Oh She Glows” It is filled with delicious looking vegan or plant based recipes.   I have been spending hours there and have chosen a few to try.  the address is:  www.ohsheglows.com  

So I think I have my winter project!  I am not going to go cold turkey and change everything…I know that works for many people, but I think a slow transition is easier.  I am not sure how it will turn out.  But I am very excited about experimenting with new recipes and finding new favorite dishes.  And if those dishes mean no animal has to suffer..well that is a BIG plus!

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Posted in Eating Well, Nature, Plant based diet, Sustainability, Winter | 1 Comment