Monday, July 27, 2009

Chicory: more than a weed

Chicory is a hardy perennial with a long, fleshy taproot, a rosette of leaves, and a branched flower stalk topped with pale blue flowers. It can be grown from seed in the garden, but there is enough of it around our place growing wild that I have yet to bother putting it in the garden.

Though considered a weed by most, the plant has many uses. Chicory was cultivated in Egypt 5000 years ago and is mentioned in the oldest complete herbal written by the Greek physician Dioscorides. In the US, it served as cattle and sheep fodder and was added to salads and medications.

The leaves can be used fresh in salads or cooked like spinach. If you plant the roots in a dark area you can grow tender pale leaves, often called Belgian endive.
The roots can be collected in the fall, dried and ground and used as caffeine free coffee substitute. Though I haven’t tried this, I intend to this fall. If it tastes good and is easy enough to do, I may make a permanent bed of chicory in the garden.

Though the flower petals are edible, be warned, the pollen of composite flowers is highly allergenic and may cause reactions in sensitive individuals. Sufferers of asthma, ragweed, and hay fever should not consume composite flowers, and may have extreme allergies to ingesting any flowers at all.

Although I might sprinkle a few pedals over a salad to add some color, I mainly use these beautiful blue flowers to press for later use in hand made cards or framed the dried flowers to give as gifts.

Chicory can be also be used as a dye to furnish orange or blue colors in wool.

Though chicory is said to have medicinal uses, I hate to recommend a medicinal use that I am not sure is tried, true or healthy. If you consult a reputable source for directions and information, I am sure you’ll find many uses of this weed-herb-plant for teas and antiseptic rubs.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Planning a Dinner Party

I'm planning a dinner party; an adults only, on the deck, under a tent, with a whole bunch of candles dinner party.

I wanted the menu to be something simple, yet unique and sophisticated. Of course, the party food will revolve around fresh produce grown in our own backyard, starting with a salad of mixed greens and nasturtium leaves (for a peppery flavor). The dressing selection will include, Zesty French, Asiago Caser and French Vinaigrette.

In addition to the two recipes below –which use flowers as their main ingredient (how pretty will that be), we’ll be serving:

Filet Mignon & Shrimp Kabobs
Baby Zucchini (sautéed in olive oil, rosemary, mint leaves and chives)
Cucumber Salad
Fresh Jams w/ toast corners (just made wild black raspberry and rhubarb jams)

A Varity of Breads

For drinks I’ve selected-

Organic Pomegranate Italian Soda
French Berry Lemonade
Iced Tea
A Selection of Wines
Bottled Beer

And for dessert-

Mulberry Custard Pie w/ Vanilla Ice Cream

If my hot peppers are in before the party, I will make hot pepper jelly. A jar of this, whipped up with some cream cheese, makes and excellent sweet/spicy dip.

Stuffed Nasturtiums

3 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Salt to taste
30 large nasturtium blossoms

Mix together the cream cheese, heavy cream, chives, and salt until smooth. Spoon about a teaspoonful of the mixture into the center of each flower. Fold the petals up around the stuffing. Chill for up to an hour before serving. Makes 30 appetizers.

Battered Zucchini Flowers

18 zucchini blossoms

A pint (500 ml) whole milk, or a mixture of beer and milk
3 heaping tablespoons flour
An egg, lightly beaten
Olive oil for frying

Trim the stems of the zucchini blossoms, remove the pistils, wash them gently and pat them dry just as gently.

Prepare the batter by combining the milk, flour and egg.

Heat the oil.

Lightly salt the zucchini blossoms, dredge them in the batter, fry them until golden, drain them on absorbent paper, and serve them hot.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Firecrackers for the Mouth: Eat ‘em and weep

Whether you’re looking to add a little sparkle to a meal or you want to experience an explosive bang, there’s a pepper to suit your needs.

Though sweet green bell peppers are the most popular garden variety, peppers come in an amazing array of colors, shapes, sizes and flavors. While green peppers have no heat, the intensity of other varieties is measured by the Scoville Heat Unit. The scale measures a substance called capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their spice.

Though many think of peppers in relation to Mexican food, peppers are an important ingredient in Asian, Indian and Latin American meals as well.

In addition to their use as a fiery spice, peppers have been long known for their medicinal properties. Hot pepper supplements –mainly cayenne, are useful for circulatory and digestive health, as well for arthritis. Topical warming gel made from pepper heat is great for those suffering from the aches of arthritis or sore muscles.

If you want to experience pyrotechnics long after the fireworks display ends, hot peppers are easy to store and preserve for use throughout the year and can be easily dried, frozen or canned.

But just like the July 4th fireworks, safety precautions need to use used when dealing with hot peppers. Gloves should be worn while preparing peppers to avoid burning your skin and other sensitive mucus membranes that your hands might touch after preparation.

Easy to grow, and fun to eat, hot peppers can make the dog days of July feel cool by comparison.

Enjoy the recipes below and have a safe and fun 4th of July!

Pepper Type and Scoville Unit Heat Rating:
Habanero 200,000-300,000
Red Amazon 75,000
Pequin 75,000
Chiltecepin 70,000-75,000
Tabasco 30,00-50,000
Cayenne 35,000
Arbol 25,000
Japone 25,000
Smoked Jalepeno (Chipotle) 10,000
Serrano 7,000-25,000
Puya 5,000
Guajillo 5,000
Jalepeno 3,500-4,500
Poblano 2,500-3,000
Pasilla 2,500
TAM Mild Jalepeno-1 1,000-1,500
Anaheim 1,000-1,400
New Mexican 1,000
Ancho 1,000
Bell and Pimento 0

Chipotle BBQ Sauce
3 cups

8oz tomato paste
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup ketchup
1/8 cup cider vinegar
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup tomato puree

Whisk all together in a large bowl. Great with chicken. To grind chipotle you may dried chipotle and use a coffee grinder to grind.

Coconut Cilantro Chutney
2 cups

1 cup freshly grated coconut or 10 tablespoons dried and 8 tablespoons water, soaked for at least one hour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 fresh jalapeño chilies, seeded and chopped
2 medium shallots, chopped
3 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons whole brown mustard seeds

Combine coconut, salt, sugar, lemon juice, chilies, shallots, and 4 tablespoons water in blender. Blend to a fine paste.
Add cilantro and ginger. Blend again adding more water if needed. Place oil in a small pan over medium heat. When very hot, add the mustard seeds stirring constantly. Roast until they start to pop. Remove from heat and add to chutney.
This sauce goes very well with seafood, especially scallops. Add to the pan to warm after searing the seafood. Serve with rice.

Recipes are courtesy of Emma's Food for Life restaurant, Selinsgrove, PA

Sunday, June 28, 2009

T&D Cats of the World, Penns Creek, PA

I don’t go to things like zoos or circuses because I don’t want to support taking animals from the wild so that I can have the pleasure of seeing them. In cages. Out of their natural habitat. Obviously not living the way nature intended them to live.

But T&Ds is different. They rescue these animals from idiots who think having monkeys, lions, tigers and bears for pets is cool, until they realize monkeys, lions, tigers and bears are wild animals not intended for home keeping. Some of their animals are from zoos, an aged tiger couple, exhausted from constant human interruption, retired to T&Ds –where visitors and hours are more limited and obtrusive than a public zoos. Some of the animals came from other places, those set up to entertain people with a wild animal tour that wasn’t profitable.

For whatever reason they are there, these animals are now trapped in a caged life. But T&Ds mission is not to run a profitable zoo, rather they use these animals as a tool to teach people why wild animals should be kept wild, and to bear witness to what happens to those animals when they are taken from the wild and find themselves unwanted and homeless.

It is because of this mission, and their excellent care (thanks to the owners and countless volunteers and donations) of the animals, that I found myself able to enjoy seeing these amazing animals up close and personal.

Because it was a cool breezy day the animals were very active. But my camera battery died ½ way through the walking tour, thus I missed photos of the lions playing like kittens, the bear who followed us hoping for a treat, posing, doing bear type tricks and grumbles very similar to my dog Mo when he wants biscuits.

The tiger in the pool was cooling off before taking a leap at his tiger friend, playing a wild game of chase, the second tiger took a turn cooling down, and then peeking over so carefully over the edge of the tank to stalk his fellow tiger prey. They were a joy to watch and I was glad to see, despite their lack of real freedom, their pleasure with one another.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Flowers in Bloom

I thought these pictures turned out real nice. Notice the droplet of water on the small white flower (snow peas) and the litle ant and tiny pink center on the large white flower.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Eat More Good Stuff

I have several friends who are vegetarian or vegan, one who is raw vegan and another who eats all raw food (including raw meat and fish).

The whole raw food thing intrigues me; consuming all fresh healthy organic low calorie fruit & vegetables fresh from Mother Earth… yet I like meat. And hot soup on a cold day. And pasta, who could live without pasta? And I love to cook.

With all those ands the chance of me eating a totally fresh raw diet is pretty slim. But I have tried to ad more fresh produce to my diet. Even so, I don’t like boring, so here are a few of my favs, concocted to provide fresh healthy foods while still be yummy –and pretty, too.

Spinach Salad
A plate full of fresh baby spinach
Fresh mozzarella cheese cubes
Sliced black olives (drizzle w/ olive juice for dressing)

Vegetable Salad
1 peeled and sliced cucumber
1 sliced or diced tomato
½ sliced onion

Dress with fresh garden herbs, a tablespoon of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar, stir, serve, or make beforehand and chill.

Tropical Blender Smoothie (serves 2-3)
1 Banana
1 lg. can pineapple w/ juice
1 sm. can mandarin oranges

Blend on high, pour, drink.

Fruit Smoothie
1 Banana
1 cup strawberries
1 sliced apple
1 cup water

Blend on high, pour, drink.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cats are pretty cool...

I saw the cat watching over her kingdom from her perch atop the porch swing. She hopped up, and later down, as though it was nothing. Cats are pretty amazing.

Baby Robins Leave the Nest

The baby robins that were born in the nest on top of the outhouse light have left the nest. While the other three took flight, this little fellow made it to the ground, flapped like hell and got nowhere. I put him back into the nest before the cat got him. Mom returned with a juicy meal, fed him (her?) and off they went.

A little protein goes a long way :-)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grow Your own Victory Garden

With the onset of World War II, numerous challenges confronted the American people. The government found it necessary to ration food, gas, and even clothing during that time. Americans were asked to conserve on everything. With not a single person unaffected by the war, rationing meant sacrifices for all. In the spring of 1942, the Food Rationing Program was set into motion. Rationing would deeply affect the American way of life for most. The federal government needed to control supply and demand. Rationing was introduced to avoid public anger with shortages and not to allow only the wealthy to purchase commodities.

Others planted "Victory Gardens" to conserve food. For a small investment in soil, seed and time, families could enjoy fresh vegetables for months. By 1945, an estimated 20 million victory gardens produced approximately 40 percent of America's vegetables.

Training sessions were held to teach women to shop wisely, conserve food and plan nutritious meals, as well as teach them how to can food items. The homemaker planned family meals within the set limits. The government's pursuading of people to give up large amounts of red meats and fats resulted in people eating more healthily.

The government also printed a monthly meal-planning guide with recipes and a daily menu. Good Housekeeping magazine printed a special section for rationed foods in its 1943 cookbook. Numerous national publications also featured articles explaining what rationing meant to America.

Essentially it is a vegetable garden. The intention behind it is what makes it unique. Victory Gardens are a legacy of World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.

But now some say the pendulum may be swinging back. Between E. coli scares, global warming, the "buy local" movement, aging baby boomers with more time to spare and a desire to enjoy the freshest of fresh, a new wave of grow-your-own has begun.

And a new study out of St. Louis University suggests that young children in rural areas eat more fruits and vegetables when the produce is homegrown, and that garden-fed children prefer the taste of fruits and vegetables to other foods.

During World War II, some 20 million people answered the call to plant their own gardens in the name of patriotism. This time, Doiron says, the issue is about feeding the world, which is expected to grow from 6.5 billion to 9 billion people by 2045.

"It's all meant to be working toward the goal of sustainability, which we have to be working toward if we're going to feed 9 billion people nutritiously in the next 40 years or so," he said.

Here are 10 tips for starting a backyard garden in the spirit of the World War II era. The advice was assembled by Blair Randall, the director of a San Francisco project to revive victory gardens.

1. Get to know your soil. What is the history of your soil? For soils near freeways or alongside buildings older than 1978, when lead was banned in paint, consider having your soil tested for lead before growing food crops.
2. Know your climate. This will determine what plants you should purchase or seeds you can sow. North Texas is USDA Zone 7 north of LBJ Freeway or 8 south of it.
3. Add compost, add compost, add compost! Compost will greatly improve the nutrient profile of your soil and allow your soil to accept and release water. Compost is easy to make at home with either a backyard compost bin or a worm compost bin.
4. Give up part of your lawn. If you have a yard, consider turning part of it into a vegetable garden. If space is limited, use the sunniest part.
5. Plant a fruit tree. To eat a plum today from your garden, you need to have planted that tree three or four years ago. A large number of fruit trees can be purchased on semi-dwarf root stock, keeping them to a manageable size.
6. Share with your neighbors. You will grow too many tomatoes, and they will grow too much zucchini. Invite them over for a picnic, and make a salad with your extra produce.
7. Plan in the winter for your spring plantings. Order seed catalogs, and allow the excitement for the coming spring and summer to carry you through winter.
8. Eat locally. A frequently cited 2003 study found conventional produce traveled an average of almost 1,500 miles from farm to markets in Chicago and St. Louis, consuming a great deal of fuel in the journey. You can reduce those "food miles" by growing some part of your meal at home.
9. Get out into your yard by tending a garden. The flowers you plant will attract wildlife such as birds and beneficial insects to your yard, but it will also attract you to your yard.
10. Donate extra produce to your local food bank. It is common to have too much of, say, okra.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The best garden tool ever

A hoe requires a lot of "weed whacking" where the metal blade on this type of hoe is merely pushed back and forth in the garden, the metal blade cutting the weeds at their roots.
In about 10 minutes I eliminated any little weeds sneaking into the garden. It also serves as a nice edger around the garden, a few strokes around the edges each week keeps that grass that tends to wander into the edges back where it belongs.
I think the tool cost around 15 bucks, a worthwhile investment for the gardener who prefers 10 minutes of working standing on 2 feet to an hour or more on hands and knees.


Leeks are a member of the onion family, except they are longer and tube like rather than roundish, their flavor is milder and every part of a leek can be used; the tube for salads, soups or stews (like an onion) and the green can be used like chives.
Though you can grow them from seed, I find it easier to just but them started (the seeds are very small and the starters very delicate).
To get large long white tubes it's best to keep adding soil, straw -or in my case here, shavings, to keep allow the tube part to grow long and stay white.
Like potatoes, the more you mound as they grow, the more you get at the end of the season.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The summers first salad

What could be more beautiful than the years first salad? Fresh picked from the garden, the variety of lettuces can be picked and laid out in the most wonderful arrangement.

The purple romaine has a bit of a spicy bite to it and is said to be an excellent cancer fighting food. The top layer are baby spinach leaves. Sandwiched in between the two are a variety of other lettuces.

I choose lettuces that look interesting from the seed packets or at the garden store. I often don't even remember their names. I sprinkle them in the lettuce plot together and let them do what they will. I have never been disappointed in the end result. And planting much close than the packets recommend, I prefer my 'don't follow the planting rules' result. The lettuce grows tight, like a little edible lawn. Because it's grown tight it rarely gets dirty even when it rains.

Most would recommend you wash your lettuce first, but we usually just eat it. I know what's in my garden, and anyway, a little dirt is good for you :-) Keeps the swine flu away.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Speaking of Dandelions...

Our neighbors lawnmower broke, so his yard looks like this. All those yellow dandelions have gone to seed, and I assume will be blowing right into my garden (ugh). Yet, I still find the seed filled field beautiful, like a marshmallow field. And I couldn't help but think, if I dug all of those plants up and roasted the roots, that I'd have dandelion coffee for a year. But I doubt I'll get that energetic.

Back on the Water

After several days of steady rain, it was finally nice enough to get back on the water. I don't mind kayaking in a light drizzle, but in steady downpours? Not so much fun.

This am, besides ducks and geese of various sorts (those ducks I could not identify, by the way, are mixed breed escapee farm ducks, that explains that), anyway... I saw 2 Mink!
The first mink was strolling up the road this morning, apparently he knows little about traffic and could care less anyway, but no cars came by and he made it around the bend safely, and hopefully, to where ever his final destination was. Hubby says this is the time of year parents boot out the young males and send them packing, so I assume, this little dude was off to find his own pad and a chick to breed with.
The second mink was hanging about the creek bank when I paddled by. Like the one I saw this morning, neither scurried, both just went about their business and paid no attention to me.
In picture 2, you'll see our resident alligator. Of course we don't have alligators in PA, but every time I round the bend toward home, this log in the water looks to me like an alligator in waiting.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Incredible Edible Dandelion

I don't know how often you go out to the lawn to pick dinner, but you could.

I have been reading "The Wild Food Trailguide" by Allen Hall and have found that we are surrounded by edible plants. We could, if you so chose, probably live off of the wild plants and 'weeds' in our yard.

While many people have their yard sprayed to kill these 'unsightly' weeds, having learned more about them I feel pretty good about having them around.

Every part of the dandelion can be used for food. In early spring the leaves can be eaten liked cooked spinach (though once they flower they're said to be way too bitter for most palates). The flowers are used to make dandelion wine and the roots? You can make coffee from them.

The book says Indians (and settlers I assume) would roast the white root until brown, grind up, make a coffee like drink. The roots can also be sliced and cooked like a turnip.

So I hope, like me, the next time you see pesky weeds in your garden you'll rethink their presence.

Weed Free Garden

Last year friends and neighbors raved about our beautiful garden. The biggest difference between our garden and theirs was not what we grew, or how we grew it, but that our garden was virtually free of weeds, offering a beautiful, as well as a bountiful, garden.

It's not that I work harder than those other gardeners, in fact I tend to be on the lazy side. The secret to a weed free garden is in the preparation. A little work in the spring saves hours and hours of weeding on your hands and knees, and eliminates the need for toxic chemicals and sprays.

In the top photo, our tomato plant is
started and planted, but after several days of record heat, then rain, then sunshine, you can see the little weeds are starting to sprout alongside the fruit.

This is the time I take that huge stack of newspaper I've been saving and spread it on top of the weeds (I don't pick them, just block precious sunlight from them). Then I top the newspaper off with a few handfulls of dirt to keep it from blowing about. After that I hose down the paper to make it wet, adding weight to it and making it stick together and to the ground.

Once the garden is covered with wet newspaper I cover that with some compost. Straw, wood chips, shredded paper or mulch do the same thing, but since we have compost we get for free, that's what we use.

Once the newspaper is topped off (picture 3) the garden is beautiful and weed free.

We continue to cover the top layer with grass cuttings (from our bagger mower). The newspaper, unlike plastic, will rot on it's own and add to the garden.

A few weeds will poke up here and there, but for the most part, we're weed free for the summer.
Now how easy was that?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Kayak in the Rain

Despite the rain, my neighbor and I braved the elements and went kayaking this morning (wild & crazy women that we are).
The ride reminded me of the last time it flooded and with banks swelled, the water was very swift. There was a group of ducks that would float downstream in what appeared to be a high speed duck race. They'd zoom down around the creek bend, then would fly back up stream and race one another again.
If you're reading this, oh dear neighbor, there was a better closeup of you and your reflection on the water, but the scowl on your face from my taking your picture did no justice to your major cuteness! Next time, smile, you're on Pooh Pooh's Candid Camera.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Since they're calling for five straight days of rain, today seems like a perfect day to de-stuff.

Stuff, stuff, stuff. Why do we acquire so much stuff? Then, when when we no longer need it, we save it..."just in case."

I got rid of those piles of jeans that I hoped to one day shrink back into. Being over 40, I have realized the chance of me being a 6 or and 8 again is probably not going to happen. Not without giving up all good food, alcohol and having to work out intensely every single day for the rest of my life. Thus, out with the 6's and 8's and acceptance of the 10s and 12s. Not only is my closet cleaner and roomier, I think my mental body image is much better. Looking at all those skinny clothes gets depressing. Instead, I am trying to be healthy and fit, not just a size (skinny).

Being a coffee lover I get many coffee mugs for gifts. In addition to my 13 collectible Hull mugs (I have the drip ware set), I have 12 fake drip ware mugs (should I really USE the collectible... yeah, I decided I should), then there is the M&M mug from NYC, the frazzled mug from Mothers Day, etc. In the end, I must have more than 50 mugs. How to decide? the fake mugs go, the gifts and collectible mugs stay, yet that still leaves me with more than 20 mugs... one step at a time, I am minus 12 at least. Maybe my daughter, moving into her first home, can use the gift mugs?

Thus it goes, from room to room. Much more stuff than a family of 3 needs.

The picture, by the way, is of the servants staircase at Wheatland, home of James Buchanan, Pennsylvania's only president, and the guy who is most famous for being the countries worst president ever.

Simple Things

One thing I have always enjoyed doing is taking pictures. Now that cameras have gone digital, this is a much cheaper hobby. With no film to buy and develope I feel free to take as many pictures each day as I see fit.

Yesterday, as we do every day, we played stick with Honey, who loves to play fetch over and over and over and over again. While she fetched, Mo took the opportunity to begin his frog hunting expedition in the just emerging lily pads. Our three legged old man, Gus, prefers to sit upon the bank and make nasty growls and nips at the other two dogs while they're having fun. Yeah, he's gotten pretty cranky in his old age. I think it just pisses him off that he is not the toughest and faster fellow on the block anymore.

I love the closeup of Honey, you can see in her intent gaze just what she's thinking, "Throw the stick, throw the stick!"

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Floating Home

I often take pictures of the water from our house. This picture is fun, as it's of our house from the water (peeking out behind the weeping willow).
And for Mudpuppies (you know who you are)- note that I also have hand painted clogs, and I think mine are the nicer pair. Don't you?

Lily Pads on Penns Creek

The shiny things on the water are lilies just starting to sprout. In due time they will cover a vast area of the water off the bank. Once they are full sized they will offer a floral bouquet as well as shade to tad poles and sunny pads for frogs to rest on.
My dog, Mo, will spend many hours in the lilies on frog hunts. Buried in lilies, nothing but the curl of his thin black tail will assure he is indeed amidst the pads. This is a funny event, as he often catches frogs (sometimes 2 at a time), but has no idea what to do with them once he has them. He holds them gently in his mouth -legs peeking out here and there, then places them upon the shore where he pokes them with his nose, encouraging them to jump, jump, jump away and back into the water so the game can begin anew.
I haven't discourage this hunting, as the frogs seem to come out no worse for wear than before their capture and release, and it makes for some good laughs for watchers of the sport.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Morning Paddle on Penns Creek

While most of the world is bustling off to school and work, I start my day in a kayak.

There is a different beauty in a morning ride than in the afternoon, evening or a weekend. In the morning, I am alone on the water, and –it feels, alone in the world. In the silence of morning I can take the forty minute float from the local dock to my own front door.

With the rising sun in front of me, the view is different from any other time of day. The world, which yesterday afternoon was the lime green one only sees in spring, is black and white in the morning. With the sun behind the world, everything is a silhouette of black and white, everything except the reflections on the water which reveal the colors of nature on the mirrored water.

I brought my little digital camera today. And though in the light, I cannot see what I am shooting through the screen on the back of the camera, I hold it steady, take blind aim, and shoot.

When handled lightly, a kayak makes very little noise as it moves through the water. The paddles make less noise than a jumping fish. Thus, until you are upon them, the creatures don’t scurry. Yet the Canadian Geese, ever guarding of their new goslings, spot me from a distance and begin to make a fuss. I paddle left, trying to offer them some security but they bark and holler and move away quickly.

A lone duck sits in the shallows bobbing for a breakfast of what I assume is water weeds. Or is it a loon? Its shape says duck, yet I have been unable to match his markings in my bird books: black and white with a red head.

While raccoon tracks mark the muddy edge, and trees have been trimmed by the bank beavers, I have yet to see either this spring.

A small fish floats dead upon the water, and though I don’t fish, I wonder if these waters are too polluted to provide food? A sad thought; is the water polluted water everywhere?

When the creek forks I know I am almost home. Though the water doesn’t not separate into different veins, it finds its way around the island that forces it to meander it’s way around it.

I take a left, round the bend, and head toward the bank.

Dragging the kayak on shore, I look forward to the hot coffee I left brewing while I paddled.

Yes, this is how I will start my day until the weather won’t allow it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

There are few places I would rather spend a warm spring day than on the deck. Because we live on the water, we are in flood zone A and have that risk. Yet, the risk is worth the rewards. Almost everything on our deck rocks or glides, and while swinging I generally enjoy coffee, a good book, or more often the view.

Migratory birds abound. Goslings and baby ducks will soon appear, trying their webbed feet on the water with mom and dad as guides. The fish crane is a frequent visitor to the bank. Other birds abound- blue jays, robins, cardinals, etc.

The bank beavers, muskrat and mink will soon bear their young and will be seen darting to and fro across the waters doing whatever it is beaver, muskrat and mink do.

Though there is a road out front our main passerbyes are either neighbors or campers going down the road to visit the campground on the water, will they too can enjoy waterfront living -even if only for a few days.

Otherwise, the waterfront is ours.

And the sign greeting guests says it all, "Lazy Hog Inn," because once you sit down, you never want to get up again.

Everyone should live on the water.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Paper Making (made with love)

When my dear friend wrote me with good news I felt inclined to send a gift. But for those who live a truly natural life with the Earth there is nothing I could send, even from an organic store, that would be right.
At the very least, I felt a card was in order. Yet, this friend is not the type who would appreciate a mass produced Hallmark card. So, I decided to make one in as Earth friendly a manner as I could find.
Making the card was simple, and fun. I first tore pieces f newspaper in small pieces, place them in a canning jar to soak (photo 1) up the water and turn mushy. I added some old organic garden seeds that were past their prime for texture. I closed the jar and let the mixture set over night.
The next day I poured the concoction into my blender, added a little water, and blended the wet paper and seed into a mushy pulp.
I then poured the pulp onto a screen (photo 2 -and that is a bird seed feeder, used temporarily as a paper making screen). Leaving the paper to strain on the screen, I went out to the garden.
There I selected 2 herbs, mint and lambs ear, both showing signs of life after a long winter.
Along with the new life theme (because we're celebrating a baby), lambs ear seemed and excellent choice, as it's so soft and fuzzy and can be used as a baby boo-boo band aid.
Anyway, I lined my little herb leaves up in no particular pattern on a cookie sheet (photo 3) then coated the herbs with a layer of paper mush (photo 4), flattening it with my bare hands, then set the paper in the sun to dry.
When dry, I gently peeled the paper from the cookie sheet. Though the backside of the paper was rough, the side with the herbs -that was flattened on the cookie sheet, was smooth as, well, a babies behind.
The card was made with time, love, recycled material and nature, and cost nothing. Yet, I imagine my friend will enjoy this handmade gift more than anything I could have found in a store.
I was so pleased with the results, I think I will make more in the future- for birthdays, gift tags, and maybe some as ornaments for our holiday tree (punch a hole, add some string and hang).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My Dear Eco Friend

A while back, I wrote this article about a friend. A project I am going to post later involves her, so until have that project finished, you can get to know her a little bit.

Mother Natures Daughter: Joanna Castro
By Paula Cochran

Everything she owns fit in a backpack: Three pants, five shirts, two jackets, two pair of socks, two pair of shoes, enough underwear for a week and a hat. When night falls she can be found sleeping on the Earth under the cover of a hand-made shelter.
Yet her tale is not one of woe. She has not lost all she owns to a natural or manmade disaster. Limiting her belongings to what fits in a backpack and sleeping upon the Earth is a conscious choice, one that intimately connects her to the ecology of whatever location she is in.
There was a time when Joanna Castro lived the American Dream: a master’s degree, a good job, a choice property and a dog.
Despite the influence of growing up in a “back to the land” household and her desire to live an eco-friendly life, she felt “like a parasite on the Earth, always taking and taking.” Ms. Castro said, “I was surrounded by the influence of American culture,” a culture too often consumed with work, money, consumption and waste.
In her search for something more she left her home in Beaver Springs to embark on a trip around the world to explore other ways of approaching life.
Funded by her savings, the trip has taken her to Hawaii, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Dominican and Guatemala. In each location she worked on an organic farm or sustainable community in exchange for room and board and immersed herself in the local cultural and ecological community.
All of the locations offered experience and education in eco-friendly living, peaceful resolution and “each destination has been a unique experience and I have gained something different from each of them.” Ms. Castro said.
Her original goals for the trip were “to free myself from the cultural conditioning about what I can and cannot do with my life, to give people of these cultures experience with a US citizen who believes in equanimity and peace, and to learn about a diversity of approaches to social and practical applications to sustainability,” Ms. Castro said.
In the end she found “that there is another reality from the work-a-day-plan-for-retirement-prove-your-worth reality that I have been socialized to believe.”
Each location offered Ms. Castro a personal lesson. “In Hawaii I found that I could grow by being very clear to my heart about what I wanted to learn. In New Zealand I learned that community is an excellent place to get immediate feedback about my behavior and how it affects others. In Australia I remembered that I am but a part of all of nature and that living apart from it takes me out of harmony with it.”
As she continues her journey she “envisions deepening my relationship with my environment and living more harmoniously with my ecology.” That journey will continue here in the United States.
This time Ms. Castro will not be traveling alone. She will be joined by Paul Blake, an eco partner she met in New Zealand. Together they will visit the Carolinas, Tennessee, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Along the way they will be sustained by eating only local organic raw food in season and drinking from the purest water sources they can find. They plan to walk barefoot on the land, and sleep in primitive structures the two will build for shelter and then tear down, returning them to the Earth.
The trip is continuing as a “sabbatical to connecting with ecology and immerse ourselves in our natural surroundings,” Ms. Castro said.
Ms. Castro sums up her newly-found discoveries: “This way of living allows me to establish a more symbiotic relationship with people, animals, plants and the Earth.”
Ms. Castro has been willing to give up a lot. She sold her final 2 possessions, a laptop computer and digital camera. She feels guilty owning devices which in their creation and use harm the Earth. The sale of them causes more guilt: “I have accepted that by selling them I will reduce the production of two more electronic devices,” Ms. Castro said.
Therefore, the photos accompanying this article are the final photos of Ms. Castro and her travels as she is now living “photo free.”
After their trip across the US, Ms. Castro and Mr. Blake plan to return to the tropics and continue their travels by sailboat, “a more Earth-friendly way of travel than a car or plane,” Ms. Castro added.
She no longer feels like a parasite on the Earth. She has learned that following her heart and being aware of her relationship to the Earth makes her happy, “and when we’re happy, we spread happiness,” Ms. Castro said. “I have found that, for me, the only way to create sustainability with personal integrity is to reduce my impact on the Earth.”

For more information, read Ms. Castro’s eco-travel blog.

Solar Shower

Along with many spring projects, building an outdoor solar shower is on the short list.

Having found this plan, that appears to be both simple and cheap, it'll be a good practice trial for a -hopefully bigger project (like indoor solar water).

We already have an outbuilding, a section of which is a outhouse. It seems only appropriate to use another section of that building for the solar shower project -or somewhere close to the outdoor pot, anyway. Though I doubt I'll take my daily shower in the backyard, it might be handy for washing dogs, rinsing dirty feet and rinsing off after creek play (well water via the hose is quite cold, I assure you).

We'll need a water tank, some plumbing hose, some copper pipe, and a silver sheet of metal to put the piping on. I think we can mount the syatem on the shed roof, with water source inside the building. I'll update when we get started, and let you know the final result. Sounds fun, though, doesn't it?

This plan is from