Friday it finally warmed up enough for me to get out and do some weeding. Ran has been tilling and planting for the past month. Since we weren't able to buy seeds locally when we needed to get them started, we relied on what we could find, what we purchased last year and what we saved. In the end, it probably saved us quite a bit of money because many plants that we normally buy, such as; broccoli, cauliflower, celery and leeks we started from seed. Those free sample packets the seed companies sent us with our orders really came in handy! We used last years potatoes for seed, which is fine. The only thing we weren't able to buy was onion sets because the vegetable market we buy them from is closed. Ran is very particular about his onions and always hand-picks them from the bin. It must be a good strategy because last year's crop has lasted us until just last week. Those were some nice onions! Anyway, we did manage to find some onion sets in the garden decor area of a dollar store. They've been planted and are sending out little green shoots, so hopefully they will be nice wintering onions. BTW, I'd like to acknowledge Rhonda of If You Do Stuff, Stuff Gets Done for her very kind offer to send me whatever I needed for my garden and also for all her support and encouragement over the last couple weeks. Getting to "meet" people like Rhonda is one of the main reasons I blog, so if you haven't visited her blog yet, wander over there and say "hi"! On another note, our governor has now allowed garden centers to reopen! She crumbled under all the pressure, so there is an example of protesting, accomplishing something. She also opened up bike repair shops and golf courses (although you must walk the course and not ride a golf cart (?!), and I won't say anything more political here but leave you to draw your own conclusions.
The plot I was weeding is a good example of the old proverb "a job worth doing, is worth doing well". This plot was just put together in a slap-dash method to get some plants in the ground before the frost. That was years ago and since then, I must have clocked hundred of hours weeding out all the purslane and binderweed and still pulling grass clumps from it to this day. On the other hand, the first plot I painstakingly hand dug, took the time to shake all the grass from the clumps, turned by a spade and hand tilled every square inch of, rarely needs to have much attention. Just a quick hoeing. So that is why I always tell novice gardeners to start small and do it it right the first time. Your back will thank you in end!
Is it possible to love a plant?
This herb plant has been with me since I started herb gardening almost forty years ago. Slips of it have been carried as I moved three times. It has sired many plants that were the start of many friends' and acquaintance's gardens. It has been a loyal friend to me and I almost love it like a pet. Last year, after a particularly brutal winter, I thought I had lost it and was just sick about it, but I cut it almost back to the ground and gave it extra attention and it has come back bigger and better than ever. I'm not one of those mother earth, new-agey sort of people, but I do love this sage plant! After all, we've weathered almost a half century together and that is more than I can say for a lot of people!
You know the old saying "make do our do without"? Well, my home is the ultimate "make-do". Several times we've seriously considered selling it because it is just too small. But as always, we realize that the problem isn't that the house is too small, it's that we have too much stuff! One of the problems has been that it is a very old house and storage is a major problem. Everyone that has read this blog for any amount of time, knows that I can about five-hundred to six-hundred jars of food a year. When we first moved here, I made a back bedroom into a walk-in pantry, but one winter a storm knocked out our electricity for five very long and very cold days. It was then that I decided that a woodstove was a must. Sadly the only place to put it that didn't have the chimney going up through the middle of a room or in front of a window or doorway was the corner of my lovely pantry. And heat and canned goods don't play well together so that was the end of my dream pantry. We tried putting long shelves on the upstairs landing. But this is a very old house, built long before indoor plumbing, central heating or building codes, and I worried about all that weight on the joists and expected the whole thing to coming crashing through the ceiling any day. In the fall when the shelves were at full capacity, I think I could hear the poor joists groaning. So we finally came up with our final and I think best solution. Our living room is square and the doorway into it is about one foot from the wall. I could never figure out how to arrange furniture because the natural pathway is right along that wall so any furniture placed along there was always getting bumped into or moved. That is when we came up with idea to make a huge cupboard along that entire wall built to the ceiling. It would only take a foot of floor space and that wall was pretty useless anyway. If it was made of nice paneling and painted, we could still hang artwork on the doors. So Ran and Jamie built me the mother-of-all- mother cupboards this winter.
It can easily hold all my canning jars. And because we live in a cold climate, we love that it makes the living room even cozier. Plus I don't have to worry about my poor joists because the downstairs one are actual tree trunks spaced about twelve inches apart notched into a sill that is made back in the days of virgin forests. In other words, you could probably sit two elephants on the floor over there and the floor wouldn't sag a bit. As some of you might remember this was the wall that held all of Ran's guitars. They have now been moved to where the old canning cupboard on the landing was.
We are forever moving things around to make this home work. It was a cheap little house and it will probably never have any real value except to us, but of all the homes I've lived in, this is the one that has made me the happiest. It really is an artistic expression of us; all of the furniture is either made by Ran or things we picked up second hand and remade, the artwork on the walls is our own or something that has a personal meaning to us, the things that make it a home are things that have memories. For instance, I think of my knitting as artwork, so up on the landing, I use an old orchard ladder to display some of my handknit shawls.
And I like to have skeins of yarn, old embroidery hoops, my little doll sized quilts hanging here and there. Just so people know that a craftsperson and a musician live here.
We've been basically shut in since November, almost all our neighbors and friends went south for the winter and is was so blustery we didn't travel much, so I had plenty of time to knit. Over the past several months I've knitted, three shawls, two pairs of mittens, a hat, a Estonian style scarf, a Miss Marple scarf, a pillow, two pairs of socks, and the back and left side of a vest for Ran (this year's Christmas present) and various littles. Here's a picture of the edging of one of the shawls:
I love the fern-like edge. This was a quick knit and the pattern comes from Knitpicks, I believe the book was titled Under 100. The project I'm currently working on is Spring Bloom Mitts and the free pattern can be found here.
One thing that I realized during all this shut-in time is that I need to be prepared with more sewing supplies. When or if my local Ben Franklin reopens, I intend on laying-in a good supply of things such as sewing machine needles, snaps and fasteners, various sizes of elastic, etc. Last week I had a bit of a frustrating day when I wanted to sew something, broke my sewing machine needle, didn't have another one. And that was after I had to unwind a bobbin by hand because I didn't have a spare one. So then I decided to hand sew one of the snood-type headcoverings that I like, but couldn't find any elastic. A very long time ago I read a book about a women that had lived in either the Ukraine of Albania, I can't remember which, during WWII and afterward the Soviet occupation. She said that the one thing she did was sew clothes for children because, hard times or not, children do outgrow their clothes. And I had also heard many stories growing up about the Depression and how people had so few clothes, so I have been collecting nice pieces of fabric whenever I find them at garage sales and thrift stores, for "just in case". But I never thought about zippers, snaps, bobbins, etc. So I'll be on a mission, once the stores reopen!
IN THE KITCHEN
You hanging in there? Ha! We've been endeavoring to clean out our freezer in anticipation of the new gardening and fishing season. We had a ham in there bought during the holidays at something like 68 cents a pound, and plenty of bacon because our oldest son raises his own hogs and gives us a cooler full of meat for Christmas. We used to buy a holiday ham sausage from a Polish butcher at Easter time, but he had gone out of business long ago so we decided to make our own, all we had to buy was a inexpensive pork butt roast ($1.18/ lb.). As the pork was the most expensive ingredient, this sausage cost us less than a dollar a pound. And it is so good!
4 lbs. pork
3 lbs. ham
1 lb. bacon
1 tbsp. sage
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. thyme
4 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. dry mustard
Combine all the seasoning in a small bowl. Cut the meat in chunks that fit into your meat grinder. Toss the seasoning with the meat. Grind through the meat grinder. Form into patties and thoroughly cook to temperature for pork.
I brown my sausage and can it, which make it easy for me to get breakfast on the table, but this sausage can be frozen either cooked or uncooked. (The obvious things a person must write these days!)
If you haven't ever tried making your own sausages, you might want to give it a try. It's almost always cheaper than those tubes of it you get at the grocers. And you control what is goes into it. No pig snouts, no msg, no artificial colorings or flavors. You can often find meat grinders at estate sales and thrift stores. It's a pretty fun thing to try out old heirloom recipes of varieties that you can no longer buy. So give it a try! Maybe you'll invent the next hot dog!
So that's about it from the old Zempel boarding house. Hope you have a wonderful week. Now get out there and be thrifty!