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At the best of times, the internet is my connection to family, friends and the rest of the world. I coAt the best of times, the internet is my connection to family, friends and the rest of the world. I communicate with my loved ones and can see and talk to them. I discovered a whole network of food and gardening bloggers out there, the answers to all my gardening questions are there, a recipe for any odd combination of foods I might have on hand, how to preserve how to forage, how to grow how to make…it’s all there.

Except when it’s not. I happen to live on a street that does not have phone or cable connections, so my internet is delivered via mobile phone network and it is slooooooow. So slow that I can’t really download much, like updates to my software. As a result, I have old an operating system, browsers, etc. Right now I can’t really use half of the websites I have grown to depend on, like FB and my mail server. Or Skype. I feel so cut off. Which is tough when you live thousands of miles from many of your family and friends. And I don’t even have a telephone to call them with.

Hopefully I will be able to fix this problem soon, though I fear it will take some time. Luckily I can still post on my blog. And write letters. I wonder if there is a telegraph office around…
mmunicate with my loved ones and can see and talk to them. I discovered a whole network of food and gardening bloggers out there, the answers to all my gardening questions are there, a recipe for any odd combination of foods I might have on hand, how to preserve how to forage, how to grow how to make…it’s all there.

Except when it’s not. I happen to live on a street that does not have phone or cable connections, so my internet is delivered via mobile phone network and it is slooooooow. So slow that I can’t really download much, like updates to my software. As a result, I have old an operating system, browsers, etc. Right now I can’t really use half of the websites I have grown to depend on, like FB and my mail server. Or Skype. I feel so cut off. Which is tough when you live thousands of miles from many of your family and friends. And I don’t even have a telephone to call them with.

Hopefully I will be able to fix this problem soon, though I fear it will take some time. Luckily I can still post on my blog. And write letters. I wonder if there is a telegraph office around…

Of all the things I have attempted to grow in my garden, I have been most successful with herbs. In fact, sometimes it seems like they are the only things doing well. And already this spring, I have chives, mint, lemon balm and parsley ready to use. And the best part is, they seem to thrive on our poor soil and my benign neglect. In time, I may convert to all herbs.

A big project I have been working on for a year now is to turn the slopes of the vegetable garden into a perennial herb garden. I’m about half way done and excited about it. For the past 3-4 years I have tried to grow annual squash and beans on the slopes only to have the weeds invade. It got so I was putting more effort into weeding every year. That’s no way to have a garden! Permaculture, among other things, teaches that you should let the plants do the work for you, so I hit on the idea of planting the slopes with perennials. Less weeding for me – maybe almost none eventually, soil stability, soil improvement, great things to eat and use , a real win-win situation.

So here is what I am growing and what I do with it:

  • mint - We use it fresh, dried and make syrup from it, mostly for drinks
  • chives – fresh and freeze, for cooking
  • garlic chives – fresh and freeze, for cooking
  • hyssop – dry for tea, supposed to be good for colds
  • yarrow – nothing yet!
  • thyme – fresh and dry, for cooking
  • lemon balm – fresh and dry, syrup for drinks
  • tansy – bug repellent
  • tarragon – fresh for cooking
  • parsley – fresh and freeze, for cooking
  • comfrey – compost, companion plant, poultice for sprains and bruises
  • salad burnet – fresh in salads
  • lavender – dried
  • basil – fresh, freeze in pesto
  • rosemary – fresh and dried, for cooking and hair rinse
  • marjoram – fresh and dried, for cooking
  • oregano – fresh and dried, for cooking
  • summer savory – fresh
  • lovage – fresh and frozen, for cooking
  • betony – dried for teas, headache remedy
  • calendula – fresh on salads, dried, make calendula oil and moisturizer
  • dill – fresh and frozen, for cooking
  • sage – fresh and dried, mostly for tea
  • chamomile – dry for tea

To make syrup, I usually make simple syrup with sugar and add the herbs. I leave the herbs in until the syrup cools and then strain them out. I often freeze the syrup until I’m ready to use it, typically for cold and hot tea.

To dry, I either hand in the pantry or use my dehydrator. Stored in glass jars, the dried herbs keep all winter. I’ve become quite fond of sage tea with honey and lemon.

Herb lore is fascinating and every time I look at an herb book or web site I am quite sure I will never know even a fraction of the things I read about. It’s all so overwhelming. My goal for this year is to make more cosmetics and learn more about the medicinal uses of the herbs I have.

If you’re keeping track, I am way behind on the B-Z blog month! But I’m on spring holiday now, so am hoping to catch up in the coming week. 

Because yesterday was my birthday.

My kids have been asking me what I want for my birthday, because they want to give me gifts. I tell them that what I want is for them to make me something, and they reply, “Yes, but what do you really want?”

That IS what I really want! I don’t need them to go buy me stuff. I don’t need anyone to buy me more stuff (although I would not say no to a pressure canner). Nothing makes me happier than seeing them make something, and giving something of themselves to others. Like every Mom, I treasure those gifts the most.

But I know what they are thinking because I often think it, too. The things we make are not as nice as the things we buy. I worry about that. I tend to give gifts I make myself. And I worry that they are not as nice as something I could buy or that people will think it’s just because I’m cheap.

When I make a gift for someone, I think about them the entire time. I ask myself what they might like and at every step of the way when I have a choice of materials, color, technique, I ask myself what they would like most. And as the object takes shape, I often smile in anticipation of how much I think they will like it. Sure, in the end there are sometimes little imperfections, but I hope that only adds to the charm!

There are other reasons I like to make gifts, and receive hand-made gifts. I think we should all buy less stuff. There is no reason our joyful and celebratory feelings must be accompanied by the consumption of more stuff.

So, give gifts, but make them. Or give your time and thoughtfulness. We’ll all get more out of this kind of gift-giving!

 

 

Foraging has become one of my favorite activities. There is something very exciting about gathering wild foods to eat. I’ve read accounts of first-time hunters in which the authors relate a sort of instinctive and primal thrill in hunting and killing that they did not anticipate. Since I don’t eat meat and have no particular desire to kill an animal, I’m not likely to try it, but foraging takes its place quite nicely. You still have to track down your intended food, be in the right place at the right time and face the danger of perhaps gathering the wrong (maybe poisonous?!) foods – don’t underestimate the primal thrill of remaining alive after eating your first wild food! Ok, perhaps not as dramatic as facing down a wild boar, but more than enough thrills for me!

Our foraged foods include:

  • dandelion leaves
  • dandelion flowers
  • elder flowers
  • elder berries
  • wild raspberries & blackberries
  • nettles
  • wild garlic
  • wild plums
  • wild blueberries when we are in the mountains
  • mushrooms
  • goosefoot leaves (Chenopodium genus)
  • rose hips
  • wild strawberries

Recently gathered lots of wild garlic – it’s time and looking forward to elder flower season and fresh nettles coming soon!

 

The daffodils we planted last fall are up and blooming, little splotches of yellow in our green-brown garden. They are little cups of yellowy happiness! I can’t get enough of them!

My kids are delighted with them and marveling at how many we planted and how beautiful they are and how exciting it is to see them. They remember the long hours of planting them, how unremarkable that work was, tedious and slow. But now that they see the rewards of their labor, they are proud and satisfied. I hope they remember. I hope that they are learning that not all gratification is instant, that sometimes you have to wait. And the rewards are all the more exciting and satisfying because of that wait. I have come to realize that I am growing so much more than vegetables and flowers in my garden.

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Ok, so these are not daffodils. We planted tulips, too, but tulip doesn’t begin with D.

 

Comfrey, Symphytum genus, is one of those plants that you either love or hate. it is quite aggressive, spreading quickly by underground runners and able to smother less assertive plants. Now that I have it, I am sure I”ll never be rid of it. But if I’m going to have weeds, they might as well be useful! Maybe the comfrey will even smother some of the weeds I don’t want!l

Comfrey draws nutrients from deep in the soil and accumulates them in its tissues. It can be used to enrich compost and to make fertilizer. Permaculture books recommend using it in guilds with fruit trees. My friend and neighbor reports much more vigorous growth of young fruit trees underplanted with comfrey compared with those growing without comfrey.

It has medicinal uses, too. I’ve used it to make poultices to treat sprains and bruises. One of its folk names is boneset.

It also has beautiful flowers and attracts bees and other pollinators.

The goal this spring is to transplant lots of comfrey to some of my problem slopes and also establish it under the rest of the fruit trees. I have realized that I need to work on ways to minimize my energy input and let the plants do the work for me. I am hoping comfrey will be one of my hardest workers!

 

 

Have you heard of the A to Z blogging challenge? I heard of it today, too late to become an official A to Z blogger, but early enough to become a B to Z blogger.

Just what I need to kickstart another season of blogging about my garden and our attempts to live a greener lifestyle.

I am glad I am starting on B because it gives me another opportunity to practice not being perfect (a perfect blogger would start at A) and a great opportunity to reflect on my blog a little. First, some data:

29 months in existence

68 posts

66 comments

2,355 views

38 followers (not counting my Facebook friends)

122 tags in 8 categories

Not the most impressive stats,  but I am satisfied.

Why did I start this in the first place? I was inspired by reading blogs by other people like me, people who were gardening and home-making and thinking about how to live more lightly on this earth. I thought it would be fun to get in on the discussion. That happened a bit at first, but it was soon very apparent that I just wasn’t putting in the time to make this a widely read and “important” voice in this discussion. And that is fine by me. I soon found that this was a nice way of sharing what we are doing with people I know near and far, and perhaps a way of getting some feedback on what we do and how it’s going.

After a year, though, the frequency of my posting became less because I found myself back where I started, doing many of the same activities I had done the year before with nothing new to say about it! And I certainly didn’t want to bore people by repeating what I had already said. I figured the original version was probably boring enough. It also made me realize that the years have their rhythms and I like that. The holidays are big markers for that, of course, but so is the seasonal availability of the foods we forage for. But do you really want to see my dandelion salad recipe again?

Another reason I started blogging was to document what I am doing so that in the future I could look back over the progress we are making. Turns out I don’t go back and read those old posts very much, but perhaps that is a topic for “R is for Remember” on day 18.

In the 29 months since I began this blog I find that not only do I write less but I read other blogs less often, too. It turns out there is a limit to how interesting most people can be over the long term. I am sure that applies to me, too, so I hope you’ve enjoyed the break of a couple of months!

I have been asking myself whether I want to continue blogging. This challenge will be the way to find out. I need to define or rediscover my reasons for doing this. I’m no expert sharing advice and amazing ideas (see Erica for that) and I’m no shrewd commentator on the world (see lots of things for that). So what am I doing here? I hope that by the time I hit Z, and perhaps even sooner, I’ll have figured it out.

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