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

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

A Winsome Journey…Yours and Mine.


A series of Journeys ~ Life.

cropped-sort-through-the-weeds1.jpg

You will love, you will lose, you will encounter many circumstances and experiences, you will meet people, you will see things. Some of these experiences and people you will always remember, some you won’t forget fast enough. Some of these will teach you, some just warm your heart and soul. Do these happen by accident; no,I don’t think they do.

>Finding beauty in flowers and life.

Some hurdles or blessings you will experience alone, some will be shared with family, or with friends. Some of the people we meet become so ingrained in your soul, they become part of you, or they become a close friend (family).

>Finding beauty in flowers and life.

In life and through our journeys, we are similar, you and I; we stumble, we fall, we grow, and from all those experiences we learn. We learn who we are, we learn of our strengths and weaknesses; we find ourselves. We follow our dreams.

>Finding beauty in flowers and life.

I trudge along on this adventure of mine, where ever it may lead…I appreciate the adventure of having, working for, and living my dream, and with a lot of courage, a little creativity… some stick-to-itiveness I will move in the direction of my dreams.

fall-and-feather.jpg

I am glad you blog, and that you visit and comment on mine.
As I read and envelope myself in your blogs, your writings, and photographs; it is a vast source of motivation, reassurance, and inspiration. I do not travel this path alone. I take strength and peace from your gentle kindness, your sincerity, and your generosity.

saturday-afternoon-setting-glow.jpg

Though we are all different we are very much the same, we put our hearts, faith, and souls into our dreams. We stumble and fall, we pick ours selves up dust ourselves off and begin where we left off…No matter how easy some folks make their journey appear,at the end of the day , we all just put one foot in front of the other… time and time again. We move forward – together and alone.

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Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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

Ya Know What They Say; When in Rome…


If it feels like spring outside, I thought I would make it feel more like Spring inside as well, and for $2.99, how could I go wrong.

rome

Nothing says Spring like pink tulips.

spring

Some time ago, in a post or two I referenced an old barn and a kitchen island…here is the result, whaddaya think?

kitchen isl

This true color, I added a green to the last photo, you know – (fake)Spring thing and all…
Island

My sauce is simmering downstairs..gotta run.

Be well,
Jess

Baby, it’s cold outside…


I Do Not Mind You, Winter Wind

(Jack Prelutsky)

I do not mind you, Winter Wind
when you come whirling by,
to tickle me with snowflakes
drifting softly from the sky.

I do not even mind you
when you nibble at my skin,
scrambling over all of me
attempting to get in.

But when you bowl me over
and I land on my behind,
then I must tell you, Winter Wind,
I mind . . . I really mind!

The wood furnace is dancing with flames, hardly struggling to keep our little cottage farmhouse warm. But boy, is it cold outside; it was -17 in the pre-dawn hours and up to a brisk -5 as I headed out to do morning chores, and check on the chicks and ducks, needed to be sure I didn’t have any “chooksicles”. All was as it should have been; animals in their nests of hay. It even looked as though Syria, our oldest llama had made her own nest of hay; though it was supposed to be her and everyone else’s breakfast..silly girl.

After the chores were done, both outside and in..I settled in to sip hot tea and knit. I am trying to finish a lacy patterned brushed suri, ear warming, head band for Jenn. Then a bit of spinning,I have finished a skein of llama/merino blend yarn(I am not sure what I am going to make that into).

Funny how each season sets it’s own rhythm on a farm. Nature eases you from one season to the next, each with it’s own flurry of activity. Reminding us to enjoy, if you wish, the comfort of home on a cold winter’s day, the refreshing nip of the wind in October, and the warmth of the sun’s rays in May. ( May plantings,oh shivers xoxox)

Time to warm the Earl Grey…

spinnings
A blend of llama and merino…

Chet
Chester, is grateful for his spring shearing…He would be way too hot in his fiberluscious coat all summer.

LLaLLa
Thank you for the fiber LLala..(Shangrala)

llama rovings
Llama rovings…

rovings
Merino rovings purchased at the Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool festival.

kromski My Favorite wheel…a Kromski castle style single treadle.

my wheel 2
..such a pretty wheel,they make.

wheels 2
flyer, whorl, and maidens…

Kromski wheel 2.0
:)

lazy kate
The lazy kate…used when plying the fiber.

Be well, stay warm.
Jess

Rainy day with nothing to do …


except:
Remove dead and non-productive vegetable crops.
Apply manure and compost to our clay soils.
Planting crops for late autumn harvest: lettuce, swiss chard, spinach
Drying peppers and squash.
Start new strawberry beds.
Dig up and divide garlic, perennials, iris, daylilies, bulbs, and…
Keep watering properly even as the weather begins to cool.
Clean up all dead fruit.
Fruit trees fed and mulched…

worm and trim llamas feet,
breed 4 girls for early fall cria,

order more minerals,
rake around llamas barns..keeps bugs and slugs down…then,
Remove any dead shrubs and trees.
Mulch trees and shrubs.
Raking fallen leaves and add to compost pile.
Purchase bulbs from nurseries.
Remove spent blooms from roses.
Weed vegetables and shrubs, mow lawns.
clean chicken and duck house,
Start to prepare sheds, tools, and equipment for Winter weather.
locate heated water buckets,
Repair roof on garden shed….oh, and

stack the remainder of wood for heat…

My daughter, Julianne; looking for usable old barn wood; she and Josh are making a table.

Family photo

It is September after-all.
Be Well,
Jessica

When life hands you tomatoes….


Make sauce…
I wasn’t sure what this dry, dry summer would bring at the harvest; smaller heads of cabbage, less tomatoes on the vine, stunted carrots… well, happily none of the above. I even had a few bunches of grapes on my baby vines!

I credit the llama manure,and the toppings of straw and lawn clippings that I used to keep the beds covered. We did get about an inch of rain a few nights ago, but at last check we were still about 6 inches below the norm ~ leading to dry wells and brown lawns.

Brown lawn and a green, full garden; I’ll take it. With the air a bit cooler this week, (and Howie away in Jacksonville, Fl. on work) I filled my days working in the garden, harvesting veggies,herbs, and caring for the animals…I also tried my hand at blending Merino wool with KatDoll’s fiber. (I am a spinning fool, some days).
back to te sauce; I made a simple seasoned sauce to be used as a soup base, tomatoes soup, or a pasta sauce beginning…

To begin you need to prepare the Roma tomatoes: 20 pounds or there about…
* no bruised or or overly soft tomatoes please
Boil a big pot of water:
place the cleaned tomatoes, a few at a time in the large pot of boiling water for no more than 1 minute (30 – 45 seconds is usually enough)
then….

Plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water.
The peels will pull right off.

After peeling the skins off the tomatoes. Removing seeds, and juice is a bit messy, but necessary, or you will have a very seedy, watery sauce, not at all appealing. So just give your tomatoes a squeeze, and scoop out the seeds You don’t need to all crazy about it…just get most. I bet there are neater ways of doing this ,but .. I just give em a squeeze.

Place the tomatoes into a colander or strainer, as you go. letting water to drain; I have a glass bowl under the strainer to save the fresh tomato juices. ( save the juice for cooking or strain and drink cold)

Simple sauce:
saute, in olive oil;
2 cups chopped fresh onions
2 tablespoons chopped celery
3 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons chopped sweet peppers
You want to infuse the chopped veggies with flavor at this point, so keep the heat low and slow, I add sea salt , black pepper, and other seasonings at this point( I usually taste to see what it needs) use the seasoning you like it’s your sauce after all..
As you are sauteing the veggies, have the peeled and squeezed tomatoes softly simmering in your pot with:
3 Tablespoons of oregano
2 bay leaves ( remove these after simmering)
2 Tablespoons diced,fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon Sea salt

Add sauteed seasoned veggies, and continue to gently simmer, let the mixture reduce to a consistency of your liking. I also use a submersible hand held blender to give a smoother texture.
Your kitchen will smell luscious!
Enjoy or freeze for later. I am purposely not recommending this for canning, as I am not certain it has the proper acidity level to maintain freshness.

Be well,
Jess