Asparagus. Asparagus? Yes, Asparagus.


An aphrodisiac. Yeah, you heard me; Nicholas Culpepper, a 17th century herbalist, wrote that asparagus “stirs up lust in man and woman.”
In 19th century France, bridegrooms were served 3 courses of asparagus at their prenuptial dinners (not absolutely necessary, I hope, but asparagus lore nonetheless) to, well, you get the picture.

Asparagus

Can you tell I’m in the mood ~ for Spring!

What is spring without asparagus?!Do you have asparagus growing in your garden? If not, it’s not hard to get started, you just have to be patient, well. for a couple years!spears

You can get asparagus crowns at most garden centers.
images-5

Dig a furrow about 10 inches deep and wide and as long as you want your row to be. Fill the trench about halfway with compost and place your asparagus crowns on top, about 10 inches apart and cover loosely with soil and water. This is best done in the springtime as soon as the danger of frost has past.
You won’t get any spears your first year, but the fern-like foliage will still be pretty. Make sure you mulch well every autumn to keep weeds down and a steady stream of nutrients coming. Asparagus is a hungry plant.
asparagus-1

Do not harvest your asparagus until it’s at least three years old. This allows the plant to have time to build a strong root system. When your’s is ready; gather the asparagus and leave at least one stalk in the ground, for good luck, so the lore goes; actually it is common sense, it leaves seeds for sowing.
Asparagus is great for permaculture because it can live 15 years or more and keep providing you with tasty spears each spring.
It grows best in sandy, alkaline soil in full sun, but it’s not picky. It can handle a bit of shade and less than perfect soil too, as long as you fertilize it well.
spears
Your plants will start sending up shoots shortly after the frost has past and may continue well into June. Cut the shoots near the base when they are about 10 inches long and about as thick as your finger. If they are thinner than a pencil, your plant isn’t ready for harvesting yet, or it’s gotten tired of being harvested and needs to be let alone. Make sure the heads of the spears are tight and haven’t started to feather out. Once they’ve started to get ferny, it’s too late to harvest them.
Asparagus Berries

Asparagus is best eaten fresh, but if you want to save some for later, put it in a glass of water like a bouquet of flowers and store it in the fridge. If you want to save some for a long time later, steam the stalks for about five minutes and then freeze them in a freezer bag.

Asparagus is a good diuretic and is full of nutrients to help build up strength. Asparagus is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables you’ll find. It is high in folic acid, potassium, fiber, vitamins B6, A, C and thiamin, contain no fat or cholesterol and are low in sodium.

It is best lightly steamed so that it is tender-crisp and bright. I like to serve it with a tangy lemon butter sauce.
asparagus-

PS. It’s a good food to eat when you are doing a bodily cleansing, a great “spring tonic” kind of food.

Soup’s on…at Picasso’s: chicken noodle with kale, corn chowdah, and creamy carrot curry (vegan)
try a citrus salad on baby kale, or grilled pear and pork on mixed greens.
Turkey burger with vidalia balsamic jam!

Be well,
Jess

Remember when….A Wordless Wednesday.


Common sense and good nature will do a lot to make the pilgrimage of life not too difficult”
- William Somerset Maugham

Sophie, you are not a duck...

Sophie, you are not a duck…

Andrew, my sweet, sweet little neighbor. Oh, and Claire.

Andrew, my sweet, sweet little neighbor. Oh, and Claire.

dogs,chickens, and llammas oh my 5

Andy today

remember when...

a song

remembering

lovins

duo

Breez

girls

jenni .3

Andys

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.”
- Robert Frost, Two Roads

Be Well,
Jess

Finding Nemo…


Well, he never found us. He found every town around us…but not us. Funny how nature works, isn’t it. I was a little excited for the storm to arrive.

snowy morning in December 024

A big storm ~ one that needs preparation. Flash lights, kerosene lamps, water; you know provisions.
The type of storms that forces card games,board games, and allows for guilt free lazing about.

2013 snow 2

I filled the barns with a heavy bed of fluffy hay; filled waters to the tippy top (if the power goes out, so goes the pump), grained with copious amounts to help the animals generate their own warmth.

2013 snowy farm
(a farm on my morning journey)

The chickens and ducks tucked themselves in among the llamas. Everyone was settled in; cozy and warm.

2013 snow 4

And we waited for Nemo.

and we waited….

2013 snow cornfield

and waited…

We got about 3″…

2013 snowwolf cloud

Many parts of New England and New York were not spared; I do hope everyone was able to be somewhere safe and warm.

Be well,
Jessica

And All is Berry and Bright…


Feb 2013 Gio
Gio.

I will enjoy the snow fall we about to be “blessed” with, up to 24″. I find it refreshing, well, a refreshing change from grey days, and brown fields…blanketing everything in white; plays so beautifully against the deep blue of the winter skies(on a sunny day).

POO
Phantom of the Opera.

Yet I yearn for Spring, to dig my fingers into the earth…see precious livestock being born…feeling the warm rays of sun on my face! There’s nothing quite like the smells of the earth on a warm Spring day. Daffodil, crocus, tulips,and apple blossoms…mmmmm. When many trees and shrubs look as if they are most certainly dead but then slowly begin to show signs of life. Why wouldn’t we yearn for Spring?

berrilicious
some berries for dinner tonight…nom,nom..

We live for the rhythm and beauty of our day-to-day lives, yet, we start our Spring watch in early February.[don't we] Did the groundhog sees his shadow; if he does, he will be frightened back into his den and we will experience yet another six weeks of winter.No impostors allow, this seasonal predication relies squarely on the shoulders of, no other than Puxatoney Phil. So, we hold our collective breath…and,…and,…Phil did not see his Shadow! An early Spring?!

Feb 2013
The yard will look like a totally different landscape by this time tomorrow.

Of course, depending on where we live…this could mean many things… As Henry Van Dyke said, “The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.” I usually can’t do much planting until May…but, a bit of color pops up here and there as early as the end of March depending on snow cover. Perhaps that is why we yearn for Spring; could it be that we all long for a peaceful, delicious garden?

Feb 2013 Mali
OOPs, Mali. :)

For now, I will dust of the toboggan, gather some neighborhood kids…and WHEEEEE…enjoy this Old New England winter

Be well,
Jess

In Winter’s Cold Shadow…There is Gold.


I find that I am not as patient as I once was; sometimes, I feel as though I am attempting to strain the mud puddle rather than patiently waiting for the mud to settle and the water to clear….Do you ever feel as though you are treading water, when you should be swimming?
Feeling over whelmed, me? “Why”, I ask myself. I know there is no easy road, no magic bullet. I am well aware the frustration I feel is of my own making. . . yet as I concentrate so much energy on my objectives, my world, …stumbling through endless lists.
I have always had lists. That can’t be it; am I just getting older and grumpier? Is this what mid-life, what 50 feels like? If it is I don’t like it one bit. Is it just the solitude that winter brings? Could it be I just need to idle my motor, wait for things to happen as they should, when they should?
Or maybe, just maybe; I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these that let me savor a bad mood….until the afternoon sun turns it to gold.

shadow
Mercedes’ shadow cast on the barn wall.

butts
Intent on supper…”oh, are you still there?”

Mercedes

Mercedes, always so graceful , never in the front, never pushy, or needing to be the first…always patient and full of grace. I want to be like her.

Andy 13

Andy, is so frail; he did not have the benefit of his mother’s milk and nutrients pat the age of 2 months. I worry about him in the cold; he is wearing 2 polar fleece vest, a goose down vest, and a rain jacket with the arms cut off, ( all zipped up across his back) to protect him from the frigid temperatures. He sleeps, always, between KatDoll and Camille…they keep him warm.
I am going to have him gelded, so that he never has to leave them.

the crew
Even the chickens head to the llama barn for warmth and protection.

The winter blues. How do you deal with this issue? Or is it not an issue for you? Where do you find your patience?

Be Well,
Jess

Are you and Alchemist?


Well, never-mind; you don’t need to be. It is all quite simple once you know the basics…we MUST know the basics.

Let’s talk mordants (just for a moment). Mordants are what I call binders..sort of like an egg in baking (right?) it holds the whole wretched mess together… a cohesive whole…if you will. If care is not taken to do this correctly…precious fibers/yarn could be ruined – or your barn, studio, garage…an explosive ending is not what we are after here.

Most dyes require a mordant; the mordant allows them to chemically bond to the fiber. Without them,the dye would simply sit on top of the fiber, rinsing off with each wash. The mordant chemically prepares and opens up the fiber to bond with the dye.

If you’re going to take the time to learn the basics of natural dying; be aware – this is not a quick project. Don’t rush, take your time (dare I say, enjoy the process) Don’t skip steps, as tempting as this may be, we are after quality results here…when the basics are conquered, results become more predictable, and the final results; well worth your efforts.

This is not a process to be shared with children, (there are kool-aid dyes for that) oh, and they are fun too; just be sure to use the kool-aid packet with out sugar.(no need to attract unwanted guests to the party..insects)

madder-sage- Photo from [Fleece on the duck]
The green shade was achieved by simmering sage with red basil. The liquid in the pot was purplish-red yet produced a khaki colored fiber. When lime juice was added the fiber brightened and became a soft sage green.

Take care not to breaht in the mordants whilst adding them to your pots…and for heaven’s sake; don’t directly breathe in the steam as it is processes. A little common sense goes a long way; so, gather your gloves, and find a mask some where. Go ahead, I’ll wait here.

a llama run to CT

Toxicity vs. amount used = low ratio – for a pound of fiber, you’re going to want to dilute around only 1/2 an OUNCE of mordant (with the exception of alum, which you’re going to need around 1-2 ounces. (although, Alum isn’t toxic ) Once the mordant bath is used up or weakened, it is pretty harmless.

A list of commonly used mordants ( not exhaustive by any means):

Alum (Aluminum Potassium Sulfate): Pretty much, alum is the easiest to find and use, it is less toxic, and it gives what we will call the “base” color. It doesn’t change the base color of your fiber. You can find alum, made by McCormick, in the canning or spice section at most grocery stores.
THis is a good option if you are dyeing by solar power.
You want to dissolve your alum in lots of hot water, put it in your chosen vessel (pot,enamel is best), crock-pot, whatever, place your fiber in the pot*, simple- dimple.

Copper (Copper Sulfate): Copper will turn your fiber a light aqua-to-greenish color. That could be fun. It can be used with yellows to get soft greens, to make blues and greens more turquoise, and to make warm tones.

Iron (Ferrous Sulfate): Ehhhhh, some people class this as a “color modifier” not a true mordant. Makes stuff greyer/darker. Used with indigo or logwood, or even sometimes walnut, to get black. Known in medieval dyeing recipes as “copperas”, SO DON’T ASSUME COPPERAS MEANS COPPER. You can pre-mordant with this like you normally would, but a lot of folks just use it after dyeing to grey it up. Used alone, iron will darken your fiber. I don’t ever use it by itself as a pre-mordant. I only use it with something else, or afterwards to modify.

And some less common, but still widely used ones are:

Chrome (Potassium Dichromate): *TOXIC* I don’t use it; but some dyers love the effects it can cause…(color me chicken)

Tin (Stannous Chloride): Brightens colors. Tin does not change the base color of your fiber. Tin will give you the brightest, clearest reds/yellows/oranges, and can be used with cochineal to give hot pink. It’s my most favoritest mordant ever because I like the bright shinies, and it turns the mordant bath opalescent. Oooooohhhhh, pretty.

a shiny sheep

HOW TO MORDANT

ALWAYS! ALWAYS! – have dedicated mordanting pots. NEVER EVER USE them for cooking after! Nod, that you understand. Might I also recommend that you work outside. Most of the natural dyes, I’m not terribly concerned about allowing in my home, many of them are herbs and spices that we already have in our home. I will not allow mordant in the house.

The basic method is this:

Dissolve your mordant in a pot of warm water(think room temperature), LOTS of water, you need to let your fiber have plenty of space to move around, or the mordant can’t attach everywhere, Use a non-reactive pot—enamel, no chips please, or stainless steel. Keep in mind metals are mordants, so using a cast iron, copper, aluminum will alter your results…you understand the dilemma. Now, set it on the burner,( I have a burner on the side of my gas grill, but they do sell propane burners) and add (presoaked, wet)fiber. Turn the heat source to medium, and let it sit for about 1/2 hour, (if you are like me, you will find it hard to wait, I wanna see it now!) Stir occasionally; oh, so gently, with a non-metal utensil of course…don’t agitate..no felting allowed here. Let the pot cool. Ok, now you can remove the fiber and RINSE (keep rinsing til you are sick of it) rinse some more. Keep in mind, the mordant has made a chemical change,rinsing won’t hurt it. Having excess mordant will. Those pesky molecules of mordant will dance about, holding on in all the wrong places…causing havoc with your color and finished results. Rinse people. It is ready to be dyed or it may be stored wet or dry, for later dyeing – if yo can wait. If possible, let it sit over night.

onion-skins
Fleece on the Duck ~ onion skins to dye fiber.

***If you use crockpots. Allow them to preheat. Water should be good and hot BEFORE you add fiber, and then leave it on the high setting for 1/2 an hour, just like on the stove. Always, rinse out your crockpots well. You do not want to allow deposits of metal salts to build up. This can cause crockpot explosions. If a crack appears..ditch it. If mordants get into the metal base the pot may shatter. Kind of neat to explode a crockpot, but nonetheless, a bad idea.

PREPARATION OF DYE-BATH
Place dyes (what ever dye medium you have chosen) into cold water and heat slowly. the smaller the particles- the better results…so break things up as best you can.
Most dyes need to be brought to a boil before color is extracted. Dissolve powders. Heat till color is drawn out…cool.(both physically,and metaphorically).Strain twigs, bark or other matter;you probably don’t want all that in your finished project.

DYEING
Enter wet wool into a tepid bath. Heat slowly. Gradual temperature changes, and gentle stirring prevent shrinkage and felting. keep the fiber or yarn in the dye bath until you are happy with the color. Or until the dye bath is exhausted, ( and hopefully, you are not) Do remember;colors are darker on wet fiber. Decide accordingly.
Allow the dye bath to cool before removing the fiber you have just dyed beautifully. Use care to gently, , I say, gently,squeeze fiber to remove dye liquids. Let’s rinse yet again…til it runs clear. Allow the fiber or yarn to dry.
Behold your creation!

So, now you know!
Be well,
Jess

Whilst the winds blow…


Planning a vegetable garden,a flower garden, perhaps an herb garden? If you have fiber animals, or are a fiber fanatic like me; your thoughts may also lead you to planning a garden for color…fiber color. There is no need to have an entire garden devoted to natural dyes…just add some plants that will grow in your area (zone); take rhubarb for instance, anyone can grow rhubarb- heck you may already have some in your yard. A much unappreciated plant, (unless you make rhubarb jelly, crumble or pie) It thrives in almost any garden. The tuberous, fibrous tissue at the base of the leaf-stalks feels sticky and soapy when skinned and sliced, but when boiled for an hour so, and strained, yields a lovely color – a serious pastel-yellow. Approximately 90% of all plants yield some shade of yellow…

Dye plants may interest the gardener who is also a spinner or fiber artist. Nature has its own palette of colors with dozens of dye possibilities, which even include some nuts, fruits, vegetables and other common foods and fungus (yup, fungus).Natural dyes are everywhere, colors can even come from tree leaves ; berries ; herbs, nuts and shells,and barks.

Growing the dye plants is easy, and can be fun project. But getting the most vivid colors from plant pigments and making more permanent dyes involves mordanting, or treating the fiber before you dye it with a metallic compound, such as alum.
Mordanting is a process..so more on that in another post. I will also post on needed equipment.

Different parts of the plants yield different colors…

Plants yield these colors most commonly, yellows and tans, blues, and reds; believe it or not, green is the most difficult color to achieve – seems odd doesn’t it.
Some plants you might consider:
Woad for true blues(a very, very invasive weed-take good care with this one)
Madder for intense orange, scarlet and plum
Saint John’s wort for gold, maroon and green
Sunflowers for deep olive greens
Hollyhocks for yellow, mahogany and reddish black
Purple loose strife for gold, brown and black (another invasive plant)
Weld for strong clear yellow
Coreopsis for deep yellows, oranges, browns and maroon
Lady’s bedstraw for orange, gold and pinky red

Well, I have to get back to ordering seeds and chicks…I will try not to be too over-zealous in my pursuit of both…

Speaking of pursuits, pictures from our December barn rescue(partial rescue):
winter weeds

barn old

winter barn

winter closed

winter doors

barn 029.1

winter saving

Be Well,
Jess

Let It Snow-Man!


Things to love about winter…

Watching the snow fall covering everything with sparkling beauty.

The crunch of snow under my feet.

Sliding down the hill on a plastic or wooden sled, or even a piece of cardboard box.(Well, the card board thing didn’t really work out so well, I broke my leg in three places and was in the hospital for a week and a cast from my toes to my waist for 3 months, after i had the cast “reduced” to just the length of my leg, I fell down the stairs while racing my little brother Sean; broke the cast- and back to the hospital I went…. Yup, I was that child.)

The holiday lights that make the whole outside world look like a winter wonderland.

As temperatures dip, and the long nights take hold,(they are now on the upswing) Enjoy some of the things that only winter weather can bring. Without cold weather there would be no snow, no ice, no backyard skating rinks, no sledding, no snow forts to build,(my children used to paint their’s with spray bottles full of food color and water) and certainly no snow boarding! So, as long as it’s winter time, get out and have some fun,put on an extra layer, and head outside.
I have always wanted to build a skating rink in my yard, I will try this year; it’s going to be cold for the next couple of weeks.

snow man
Building a snowman, or watching a small child build one…

Drew boy
I think there must be an art to sledding…

snow fun

the walk
Do you remember the walk back up the hill…worth it every time.

Finni fun
Zooom…(uhm, not so much) putt,putt was more like it.

Andrew
Winter fun, never goes out of style.

waiting
Waiting for their turn…to shine.

home
I love the snow;with winter I feel close to home. We have our rituals and family dinners. And as I reflect, I smile at the nostalgia of my life.
Be well,
Jess

Mud Season?


Mud season, It’s a time of pondering, planning, or plotting; for there is not much to do.

mud 2

The countryside is in limbo, ready for a sudden rebirth, the trees are bare and there is this drizzle that hangs and then drips from everything. People are grumpy, sick and tired of winter with its slush, snow and freezing pipes The skiing is over, the frost is out of the ground, and buildings, are looking tired and ravaged by winter……screech (sound of brakes) It is only January,people.

mud breeze

The Mud, which tracks into my kitchen,my car, and sticks to my dogs like…well, like mud! It appears that I can tolerate mud season better with the promise of the coming spring…until then you can find me mopping, wiping paws and under bellies, and slopping, sloppy barns…ah,well;carry on we must.

mud early

It might be warm for a January day..but, it sure was pretty.
mud and trees

I suppose these chairs can rest awhile longer.
mud chairs

Be Well,
Jess

Have you noticed?


The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer. Minute by minute they lengthen out. It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change. It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour.

snowy morning in December 13

snowy morning in December 14

snowy morning in December 9

Fiini in the snow
Finnigan? “Where does your white go when it melts?”

Sipping tea,the my toes and nose begin to thaw….seed catalogs in hand.
Be well,
Jess