Thursday, June 30, 2011

ready to resume...summer!

After weeks of cancellation and sick kids and re-scheduling, on Tuesday A finally had his oral surgery we have been waiting since February for. It was scary for him and quite stressful, but it went well and is done. I hope I never have to watch one of my children going under anesthesia in an operating room ever again.

He has had a few days of recovery and not feeling quite so hot, but is feeling better and better each day (and he has a groovy new hair cut). And now we can move on with our summer. And somehow it is ... July? We have a lot of catching up to do!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

herbs from the garden.

Being home this week has meant plenty of time in the garden and kitchen. Many herbs are nice and new right now (not woody or thick), perfect for using in herbal recipes. I love growing things that are not only tasty but also have other properties and uses. For me, I like building and experimenting a little more every year so that I can build up my recipes and experience, as well as find what things really work well for us and that we use often. It feels good to see bottles of hand crafted goodness from the garden. There are a bunch of things we have made this week - here are a few::


::mint apple cider vinegar hair rinse::

1 quart freshly picked mint leaves (you can use any type of mint you like/have)
2 cups of hot distilled water (not boiling, but very hot)
2 cups apple cider vinegar

Place your freshly picked leaves in a quart jar. Pour over the hot water and loosely cover. Let steep overnight.

Strain into a bottle, squeezing the mint to get all the liquid out. Add 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to the bottle.

To use, simply pour some over your hair in the shower, and massage into your scalp (don't get in your eyes). Let it sit a minute and rinse if you like. You can also leave it in, if you don't mind the slight vinegar aroma for awhile.

Together with the mint, the apple cider vinegar cleanses your scalp and removes residue buildup on your hair from styling products, soaps, shampoos and hard water. The mint also adds shine and balances out the strong smell of the cider.


::lemon balm astringent::

1 quart of freshly picked lemon balm leaves
3/4 cup good quality witch hazel
1/4 cups of hot distilled water (not boiling, but hot)**

**(I noticed this morning I put the wrong amount of water in the recipe - this is now correct. It is 1/4 cup water, not 2 cups. I suppose that is a risk when blogging late night!)

Add the freshly picked leaves to a quart jar. Add the hot water. Let it steep with the herbs and come down to room temp. Add the witch hazel. Cover and let steep overnight (or a few days). Strain into a bottle, squeezing the herbs to get all the liquid out. Keep in the fridge for a hot summer treat for your skin - use with a cotton ball as you would any facial astringent.

The leaves of lemon balm contain potent astringent and antibacterial properties. Witch Hazel extract has astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, and anesthetic properties. This astringent can be used on your face and is nice stored in the refrigerator to cool and soothe a sunburn. It can also be used as a compress for eczema flare ups, sore muscles and plant rashes (poison ivy, nettles stings, etc.).

And in progress? Rose Water - to be made into linen/room freshening spray. It needs to steep a few weeks before ready.

Can't wait!

How are you using herbs from your garden?


Monday, June 20, 2011


Sunday, June 19, 2011

under the weather.

We have had quite the week. Sick A, then sick me, and then sick asthma boy G. Cancelled oral surgery due to the cold (for A).

Re-scheduling and sick days and snuggles and wanting to enjoy the nice weather, but really needing to just be inside, quiet.

Even with all the cold hoopla we have been puttering.

Bird and animal watching in our own yard.

Strawberry picking (it is time!).

Cold treats (strawberry elderberry ice cream).

Lots of lettuce!

Playing cards and board games, reading books, and watching movies.

Shadow puppets.

We are slowly feeling better, and looking to all the re-working of schedules to get A's mouth done so we can move on with our summer! I can't believe June is more than half over. Time does fly.

Happy Monday!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


That orbed maiden,
with white fire laden,

Whom mortals call the moon.

~Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Cloud

Thursday, June 09, 2011

a little flower.

We tend to live according to the seasons and flow with the weather. June is the month of the garden - and so I find myself almost single mindedly focused on it. I almost feel like I must apologize for yet more garden photos!

One of my biggest challenges is fighting the thought that I am "wasting space" with things that are "just pretty". When space is limited I'm tempted to grow only functional, but we need flowers. They attract the pollinators - wasps, bees, hoverflies, butterflies, birds. They smell good. They add color, make the garden look nicer, and they just make people happy. So every year I try to add more of all flowering types. In a small garden like ours even just small splashes of flowers throughout make such a huge difference.

In addition to the purely just pretty things, I like cross functional. Flowering and useful. I can't help it, I'm a Virgo. Throughout all of the beds I have flowering plants which are ALSO edible or medicinal:: sunflowers, nasturtiums, yarrow, toothache plant, feverfew, fenugreek, valerian, mullein, bee balm, anise hyssop, german chamomile, calendula, amaranth, lemon balm, mints, echinacea...and many are planted in a spot because they are companion plants to something else growing there! I get the pretty and the Virgo covered in one swoop.

This week is a beautiful flower week. So many things won't bloom until mid summer, but the early bloomers are always so pretty after so many months of monotone. And even the bushes are blooming!

The first bursts of flowers are always so amazing, aren't they? I can't wait to see it all in bloom.

"Just living is not enough" said the butterfly,
"one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."

- Hans Christian Andersen


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

garden tour.

With the heat comes a burst of growth. It feels like we went from March to August in one week. We haven't even gotten peas yet! But the greens are finally growing and we are cutting cutting cutting to get as much as we can before they bolt. I love how things look in May, er, June. When things leaf out, flowers bloom, and everything is still small and neat. I do love the jungle of late summer, but I like beginnings and how I can see everything!

I get a lot of emails asking about the garden - size, beds, etc. since I post mostly close-ups. So a mini tour with some big picture photos. Of our mini yard/garden.

Our house is almost on the sidewalk and street, but we have a small area around the porch where we grow golden raspberries, lemon balm, chocolate mint, some flowers and flowering bushes. There is one bed up front with strawberries (can't wait!). We also have a wall of bushes with a 'door' entrance into the back - it keeps out sound and separates us from the sidewalk nicely.

This is a view from the short hill to the alley, looking towards the front. We have a strip of grass down the center, and beds on left and right. The sides also have utility meters for two houses, air conditioning, etc. And our rain barrel. The neighbors house is on the left, ours on the right. The yard is between 12-14' wide. The left gets afternoon sun, the right morning. With shade on the whole thing early morning and after 4PM or so.

The left has a few lilac bushes near the neighbors garage, and then goes into the white currant bushes with squash plants in between. Further along is planted beans, peas, tomatoes, kale, chard, broccoli, onions, hydrangeas, melons, squash, cucumbers, amaranth, cutting flowers (around the bird bath). It is also interspersed with herbs such as valerian, lovage, toothache plant, feverfew, dill, stevia, parsley and flowers like calendula, german chamomile, and nasturtiums. Along the whole edge is marigold and onions to keep the bunnies back a bit.

The right has a few areas - the deck is lined with clematis, morning glories, and lemon balm. Throughout I have radishes, kale, spinach, carrots, borage, sunflowers and marigolds next to a few huge rhubarb plants. The rain barrel is surrounded by lemon balm, fenugreek, sunflowers, nasturtiums and whatever else I can't fit anywhere else. Along the raised A/C there is a flowering bush on one side with peas and mixed greens along the front. Under the flowering bush is broccoli, beets, head lettuces, squash, and chard.

Further up from the bush is a small strip with a barrel plopped in front of the gas/electric meters. It contains radishes, dwarf peas, carrots, kale and parsley. Around that is a few tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, calendula, onions, a blackberry 'bush', squash, cucumbers, kale and cauliflower. There are herbs interspersed such as anise hyssop, yarrow, feverfew, amaranth, and a few others.

Scattered throughout all the plantings, anywhere there was a space, I put squash and melons. There is no plan but to stick it where there is room. Butternut, fordhook acorn, white acorn, patty pan, charantais, sweet siberian, pride of wisconsin...some are bush some are vine. With the vining types I weave them as they grow around this, under that, along the edge. Wherever there is a space. By summer they are usually going into the yard, up the deck, into the bushes.

Next to the steps on the deck there is a square bed which is full of chives, marigolds, peas, radishes, beets, chard, onions, garlic, spinach, arugula, and some mache. I will re-plant this area with fall goodness in a month or so!

In the very back is a bed with rain garden plants by the downspout and a raised bed containing red raspberries and strawberries. There is a weird hill full of spearmint and landscaping trees/bushes with a compost pile in the middle, lined with two more rhubarb plants, and some flowers.

The deck is now full of pots - peppers, tomatoes, basil, celery, thyme, marjoram, fennel, kohlrabi, cilantro. More will come.

It sounds like so much in a small space and I guess it probably is. But I don't grow a lot of anything, but a bit of everything. It fills in the gaps of our CSA share, and provides extra of our favorites and gives me a good variety of herbs, fruit and flowers that we can't get with our CSA. Here's to a good season, hopefully!

How does your garden grow??


Monday, June 06, 2011

a little of this...

It is HOT! We have been working in the garden and getting outside during the cooler hours, and tucking in the house when it is the hottest. Of course we have had to make some trips out for cold treats. And the week just keeps getting hotter, so many more treats to come! Who doesn't love gelato or popsicle runs?

The boys have been busy busy. I think they like the inside outside of our days. There has been a lot of good stuff going on.

Books (wombats! frogs! Australia!), games, playing, drawing, writing stories. Library runs.

Building things (hovercraft!) and playing with color and surface tension and all kinds of experiments (goo!).

Experimenting with sound, tracks, digital audio, effects and recording.

Building things, putting on shows, and pretending to be every character they can think of.

Seeing a movie in a nice dark cool theatre. Visiting our neighborhood farmer's market (the season has begun - yay!!!!).

And of course getting outside whenever it cools down in the evening to run and roam and play hide and seek with the neighbors and water the garden and ride scooters and bikes and FLIP!

And of course harvest yummy things from the garden.

And find yet more ways to use rhubarb.

I think we have some more of *this* to come.

What have you been up to?


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

it is time.

Oh, this garden. I cannot believe it is June! There are so many things still unplanted, so many trays of seedlings. So much to do, and it is so late. But even with the clock ticking there are moments when I forget the calendar and stare in awe at something just because it is blooming (that bloomed in late April last year). It is always amazing how perfect it all is. I work my butt off to make a sloppy looking pie or struggle with a drawing for hours (days) and the seeds just ... grow ... and bloom in vivid array and make food which nourishes and sustains us. Perfect.

So, I'm behind. Wisconsin is behind. The north is behind. Nature knew what to do though, and waited. So we are behind together. And I think we are ready.

So I hoe and water and plant and dig and crawl on the ground and kneel in the dirt and walk barefooted in the wet morning grass and talk to the chipmunk and whisper to tiny seedlings and sing as I walk past nervous mama birds sitting on blue eggs in perfect nests and feel the sun on my back.

We have just begun...