Thursday, July 31, 2008

Around the House and Garden

This is why I plant river birches.
A southern heirloom crookneck white cushaw pumpkin.
My makeshift trellis to keep the melon vines off of the soggy ground. We've had rain rain rain and heat heat heat, so most of the plants are sulking. Not the melons. They seem to love it. I'll have to prepare better for trellising next year.
The only plants that love this weather--tropicals. Hibiscus and gingers.
A corner of my garden. Mexican sage is in the foreground. That's agave in the hidden urn. Shell ginger in the background which bloomed beautifully. I believe I posted a picture of it's bloom earlier this spring.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Seeds and Tomato Trials

When on vacation, I love to seek out plants! Whether I buy seeds or sneak a pod or cutting off of a tree or vine, there's plants in my car when I arrive home. I have been know to pinch a tip off of a plant and stick it in my pocket to root later. Around here there is a saying that, "stolen plants grow better" and "never say thank you for a plant or it won't grow". Maybe there is a way to test this theory. I'll just go around stealing plants without even a "thank you"!

So now there are a bundle of new seeds waiting to be fit into the planting schedule. There are several packets from the Thomas Jefferson Heirloom collection and some I found at a seed store in Bird In Hand Pennsylvania. I have heirloom Anne Arundel Muskmelon, Red Wethersfield Onion, Golden-rain tree, striped french marigold, Romanesco cauliflower, Early green broccoli, Broad Windsor bean, Dutch Beets Baby Ball, and Henderson's bush Lima beans.

Here in the New Orleans area there are three seasons, hot and humid, warm and humid, and cool and humid. We have few frosts and even fewer short freezes. Once in a 10 to 15 year period there will be a freeze long enough to threaten citrus. The upside of this is we can grow all year long. There is time for a second crop of tomatoes. So maybe I can find redemption. We ate maybe two tiny tomatoes from my first crop before the armies of armoured stink bugs took over. Hand picking does not work. There were just too many of them. I am going to give it another try this fall and I am going to try planting earlier next year. Hopefully I can get in most of the crop before the plague o' stinkbugs shows. If this doesn't work, I am considering building a screen house. Kinda like a greenhouse except made of screen. Maybe this will allow me to grow tomatoes organically and actually eat some.

So far I haven't found a local resource that can provide me with all this information so I don't have to learn the hard way. C'mon Dan Gill, Give up the chemicals. Teach us how to grow Louisiana the healthy way...hmmm? Please!?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My First Blog Award!!

Thank you Egghead for the award! Egghead recently received this award for her blog The Little Egg Farm and she passed it on to me. Thanks Egghead for thinking my blog is AWESOME! I love going over to the Little Egg Farm and reading about all the mysterious happenings in her hen yard and all about living in the northwest. Now the fun part...who can I pass it on to?

Hanging Out the Clothes

It's important to me for my children to understand and appreciate how things come to them. When they experience first hand the time and effort that goes into providing clean clothes, clean home and yummy food it encourages thank fullness. A thankful child is a happier child.

My children mostly enjoy doing these chores. Especially if it's new and novel to them. Like hanging clothes to dry, planting seeds, cracking the eggs to scramble, following a recipe, measuring things, mopping....of course age appropriate chores. It's educational and builds their confidence in who and what they are and what they are capable of. I believe children miss out on a lot of growth and happiness when parents do or have every thing done for them.

Here is Seleste hanging clothes to dry. I snuck up behind her and took this picture. She was having such fun.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

BBQ Shrimp

BBQ Shrimp mix from farmers market. I'm not sure why they call it BBQ Shrimp. It doesn't taste at all like traditional BBQ. It taste like nothing else. It's a mixture of herbs (rosemary and others), peppers and butter. 1 lb of butter sauce mix and water.
Louisianan Shrimp bought from the small fisherman right off the boat at dock.
BBQ Shrimp from the oven.
Outta sight.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Let me introduce you to a few of our chickens.

Figuring out what breed each of our chickens are has been a lesson in patience. They're like my nephews. They change quickly! I think I've got a few of them figured out beyond doubt...I think!
Here is our roosters--Smith
and Wesson.
The Giant un-named Black Giant Chicken.
Bobcat the Ancona chicken
Icicle the Light Brahma Chicken
Shirley the Partridge Rock Chicken
Taylor the Silver Laced Wyandotte chicken
We are getting 3 to 4 eggs daily now, and two of our chickens are laying double yolked eggs!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Canning Fig Jam

8 lbs of Brown Turkey Figs
Canning tools.
The quartered figs with sugar, lemon juice, and water beginning to cook.
Jars being processed in boiling water.
Here's the harvest preserved!

Here's the basic recipe. If you want to learn to can, a wonderful simple book on the topic is the Ball Blue Book by Ball canning company. Canning is really pretty easy.

Fig Jam


1 cup of sugar for every pound of figs

about 1/4 cup of lemon juice for every 5 pounds of figs

about 3/4 cup of water for every 5 pounds of figs

Enough boiling water to cover figs

Enough sterilized jars and bands (for 8 lbs of figs I needed 2 qt jars and 11 pint jars)

New canning lids (place in a bowl of hot water)

Large pot of boiling water for water bath
Large pot for cooking figs

Wash figs and drain. Cover figs with boiling water. Let set for 10 minutes. Drain. Cut off stems off and quarter figs. Place quartered figs in large pot. Add sugar, water and lemon juice. Cook on high stirring constantly until mixture reaches gelling point (when mixture clumps or sheets as it drops from the spoon it is ready). The mixture will also get more difficult to stir. Reaching gelling point takes a long time. Turn off heat.

Fill jars one at a time leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Wipe rim clean put lid and band on jar. Set to side and fill next jar. When finished filling jars, place jars in pot of boiling water (enough water to cover tops of jars). Process jam filled jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. You will hear the tops "pop" as they seal. Yummy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


My cat Flossie smelling flowers from the garden.

Around the House and Garden and The Fuel Spill

The air is permeated with the nauseating smell of no. 6 fuel. Whatever that is. It really smells bad anyway. There was a 400,000 gallon fuel spill in the Mississippi river at 3:00 am yesterday. A boat hauling a barge of fuel was split in half by a tanker spilling all of the barge's contents into the river. It happened just above the bend in the river by New Orleans. Everyone below that including ourselves is conserving water, and there is no report on when the water will be drinkable again. This morning I went in my backyard and took this picture. The river is still slightly high so I couldn't approach it's banks and get a good pic. This is on the batture of the levee. The boat didn't have a properly licensed captain on board. While I was out there I flushed out two ducks and a heron. I can only wonder what the effect on the wildlife and land will be. Here are the "brown turkey" figs that I have picked and will preserve today. Part of a sustainable lifestyle is not wasting anything. I really only like fresh figs, but my family likes them
Today's harvest. Pattipan squash, figs, peppers, cucumbers, and finally - my first yellow squash!!! I also have some zucchini that look like they aren't going to rot. I will can the jalapenos and dry the Cheyenne peppers. We use a lot of red pepper in our cooking.

This is "moon and stars" watermelon. I have quite a few of them growing nicely.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Frugal Banana Bread

Most important things first. My Sister gave birth yesterday around 4:00 pm to a very healthy, beautiful and plump baby girl!!! Her name is Naomi Joyce and she weighed 10 lbs and 1 oz! Congratulations Ginger and Michael. I love you all.

Yesterday was a practice in frugality in our household. Eating all leftovers, making banana nut bread.... One important aspect of making your money go further is not wasting anything. I read that 27% of food in America is wasted (One Country's Table Scraps, Another Country's Meal). Here is a blog that tracks the wasted food problem - Wasted Food.It doesn't make sense to throw out perfectly good food when it can be used for other purposes.

If you are keeping in line with the general trend, you could possibly save 27% on your grocery bill. Being organized and knowing what ingredients you have on hand and when they go bad can keep you from making repeat or impulse purchases at the market. If you know what you have, you might even drive past that fast food restaurant. Creating other savings---hmmm?

One mantra I tell my girls is, "You can always get more, but you can't put it back." I start them off with a small amount of food, milk or juice (about an inch for liquids). This prevents having to pour expensive organic milk or juice down the drain. It might even teach them appropriate serving size and prevent obesity.

Also, we eat leftovers. They're good! We have many recipes to re-invent leftovers: eggs and rice, crawfish velvet soup (you use all the leftovers from a crawfish boil and it's to die for), chicken pot pie, sandwiches, salads...the options are as big as your imagination. Any inedible vegetable scraps get put aside for the chickens. I also give my dog appropriate scraps (She even likes lima beans scraps).

Then there is the ever wonderful Banana Nut Bread. The perfect yummy way to make use of rotting bananas. These loaves were made from 5 large rotting bananas, eggs from my hens and pecans from my back yard (shelled and put in the freezer last winter). Hopefully I will make my own butter from my own cow in the future :)! It was so delicious. Today I enjoyed a chunk with my morning coffee. Mmmmmm.. The Banana Nut Grand Canyon
Wish I could share it with you, but since I can't, here's the recipe.
Recipe: Banana Nut Bread

1 c. sugar

1 stick of butter

2 eggs

3 very ripe bananas

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 c. flour

1/2 c. chopped nuts (I use a lot of extra)

Cream butter, eggs and banana. In separate bowl, mix salt, baking soda, flour and sugar. While beating, add flour mixture slowly. Beat two minutes more. Stir in nuts. Put batter in greased bread pan and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until fork comes out clean.

Recipe: Leftover Rice and Eggs

Fry several eggs over easy and set aside. Fry rice in a little butter until slightly crispy. Throw eggs into rice, bust the yolks. Stir fry quickly and remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste. This is a very old Cajun breakfast recipe to make use of leftover rice. They also have a "lost bread recipe" which is really just french toast made from stale bread. Bread pudding is also a Cajun recipe to make use of stale bread.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

W-O-R-K Work - The new old ugly word!

It's been three years since hurricane Katrina. The national politicians are all here parading around the levee system vying for public and media attention, shifting blame to one another from the senate to the executive office and vice-versa. Meanwhile,we are getting on with life.

Those who care, have taken advantage of the help offered by government and friends, rolled up their sleeves and went to W-O-R-K!!!! There in no excuse except age, feeble mindedness or sickness for someone in this area not to be on their feet and in their homes again. Protecting the wet-lands is a whole other post.

Certain areas of the city look just as they did after the storm. The tour guides are still making money trucking big eyed tourist through these neighborhoods. Truthfully, these neighborhoods didn't look much better before the storm. There are still vacant houses everywhere. Yet tucked away among these sad little abandoned cottages are bright rebuilt homes.

I'm tired of catering to the complainers. They spend their time in the comfort of other cities whining about how "they can't come home" because "their neighborhoods are still destroyed" . Are they waiting for us to do their work??? Keep waiting. Because, I'm not. I will help someone who is trying to help themselves. I have shoveled the mud out of more than one house.

When will common sense over emotions ever make a comeback in our nation? The solution is really simple. Three years is sufficient time to make up your mind. Allow those who wish to salvage what they will from the abandoned homes and bring in the bull dozers. I'm tired of looking at the monuments to complainers. I'm also tired of politicians who bow to the vote of these people. I would say they abandon sound reasoning, but I am beginning to think they weren't capable of sound reasoning in the first place. Suffering fools is difficult - sigh.

My post has turned into a rant when I intended on posting about "salvaging memories". So here's my original thought:

My sister's cross stitch for my mother. Salvaged from the mud and washed three years ago.
I have finally framed it and will present it to my mother.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sewing Project Numero Dos

Yes! Yes! I love this machine. Why was I so intimidated for all those years. Maybe it was the non-earthy machineyness of it. Maybe it was all those little hooks, holes and springs I had to maneuver the thread around. I'm in love with a sewing machine. Today I am going to tackle the pile of stuff I need to mend and finish Talia's Skirt. Really, if you ever thought about it, just do it. It only looks difficult.
Here it is, a pic of my second sewing project. Seleste's skirt. I know, I know, it's not elaborate--give me time. But it's long enough to cover my daughter's extra long skinny legs and knobby knees, and she looks adorable in it. My two youngest are tall and thin. So usually if it fits in the waist or shoulders, it's way to short. She also told me it's extra comfy. One yard of material. One yard! (and a piece of elastic) That's all it took.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Around the House and Garden

Once I hated oatmeal. Not anymore. Being a baby of the seventies I was fed anything instant- instant grits, instant potatoes, instant oatmeal....I have discovered steel cut oats from a Pennsylvania farmer's market, with Vermont dark amber maple syrup from a country store in Woodstock, and butter from Sam's, and Byron doesn't mind cooking them for 30 minutes. Oh so very very yummy. Nothing at all like pasty instant oats.
My antique pink crinum is blooming. These things get huge. I also saw them on vacation in the National Botanical Gardens in the rare and unusual hot house. It seemed like everything that grows well in New Orleans was growing in the rare and unusual hot house!
Here is my southern heirloom crookneck cushaw pumpkin that has long since escaped its raised bed and is zooming along the lawn setting plenty of small fruit.
This is a french heirloom melon. I am not sure exactly what type because it came in a variety packet. When it matures I will try to figure it out.
The figs are marvelously large this year. I adore the rich color of figs. They remind me of the aged colors used in a Rembrandt painting. Melons and figs make wonderful table decor. Place a few different height glassed candle sticks in the center, surround them with foliage from the garden, then place small melons and heaps of figs cut and uncut artfully into the mix. Light the candles, dim the lights, enjoy the smell and visual delight.
Here is a close up of one of the few Ponderosa lemons on my tree this year. It looks like a grapefruit. I have planted Ponderosa, Lisbon, and Meyer's lemons.
Here is a view of the front garden. Just to give you an idea of how fast everything grows around here!
The luffa sponge vine and the sunflowers worked perfectly to provide the chickens with shade this summer. They love to hang out there when the sun's hottest. Look how huge that sunflower is! It is at least 8 to 9 feet tall if it weren't hanging it's head.

Here is another view of the luffa sponge vine. See how large the fruit is getting. When I was gone my mother-in- law picked quite of a few of these while wondering, "Why did she plant cucumbers on the chicken coop?" Luckily after a few she realized they weren't cucumbers and stopped. The chickens did enjoy eating her error though. Luffa is also called okra squash, and if picked around 8 inches long you can peel, slice batter and fry. It is supposed to taste somewhat like okra. I haven't tried this yet. I grow them for shade and luffas!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Making expensive stuff the cheap way!

I've learned to sew a straight line. So, I'll just hop into about a billion huge projects now---that's what my husband is most likely thinking. I've been accused of having way too many irons in the fire, but never of being bored or boring!!!

Hannah Anderson and Oilily have two of my most favorite children's clothing lines. When in D.C. visiting my sister we went to Tyson's Corner and peeked into these shops. I did buy Seleste a dress from Hannah Anderson's that was on sale and had to summon up every bit of self control to resist buying two other dresses at full price for Seleste and Talia. Way too expensive. A tiny little skirt from Oilily costs $100.00 or more. Eeeeek! You really need a Hollywood salary to afford that.

So what's the alternative? Make-em yerself honey! And that's what I am going to attempt to do. For the first project, I let Seleste and Talia pick out their own fabric (Talia - Left, Seleste - Right). As you can see they like pink!! Good thing, so do I. I've never been afraid of color and adore tons of it around. If I succeed with the basic skirt then I'll try adding all the tulle, fluff and stuff.
This next pic is of the fabric I bought from the scrap section. Just enough to make a table cloth. Sweet little bright print.
I've also been crocheting dish rags again lately. Hours in the car contributed to this! I used a smaller thread and had fun with the colors. As you can see I have been experimenting with some new stitches. Don't you just love the lacy flouncy look the shell pattern gives the purple cloth. The table is one I painted quite a few years ago. It started life as a cheap unfinished coffee table. Now look how it has moved up in the world. I'm painting the living room ceiling with a sky to match it. That's another one of my unfinished projects (about 2/3rds done) that will be finished this summer. You don't have to spend a bundle to have beautiful handcrafted things about. You just have to have the courage to tackle it yourself and try again if you must. My first really terrible piece of furniture I painted (the painting was terrible not the furniture) is serving humble duty in a dusty corner of the sound room at our church.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bedroom Decorating Project

Finally my bedroom is beginning to come together. I figured out how to use my sewing machine I bought several years ago. Wow, it is so easy! Look out unfinished projects here I come. Here are the curtains and pillow I made. Monkeys, butterflies and fish are the main themes on the fabric and it has seventies look to it. I fell in love with the fabric and bought it before anything else.

See the little bear table peeking out beside the chair? That's a tribute to Byron. He loves bears and moose. The table brings in the bears without looking rocky mountain cabinish. I simply adore the framed embroidered corals from Tuesday morning. I also bought the rug there. The pink boxes underneath the dresser contain photos. I love to use boxes and baskets underneath things for storage and to disguise clutter. We have five people living in a 1650 square foot house so we must make each inch count.

Here are the baskets where I store books, lantern, heating pad, sketchbook and colored pencils etc... On the table is a lamp I bought at Goodwill when I first was married. I still love it. The small boxes on the table hide lip gloss, lotion, glasses, remotes, tiger balm and a small flash light. I love pretty boxes...functional and lovely. This is sorta like my immediate business station. The baskets contain CDs, crochet stuff, diaries, projects and mail. The box and suitcase hide misc stuff and photos. Then of course stacked on either side are books and magazines I am currently reading. The painting is one of the primitive paintings I like to collect from Goodwill.
I need a few more pictures and a beautiful pot to hold a tropical plant in the corner and I think I'll be done with the bedroom. When visiting Monticello we were told Thomas Jefferson died before all of his projects for his home were completed. I feel like this sometimes....on to the next project.....!