...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


elderberry syrup

are so good.

good tasting.
and good for you.

oh yeah.

super duper high
in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, anthocyanins.
plus vitamins A, B, and lots of C.

(in one study, people with the flu
who took elderberry juice
recovered 4 days faster
than those who didn't have
the precious
purple berry.)

so we went and got ourselves
more than we could possibly use...

for our first experiment,
we decided to make syrup
and used this recipe as a general guide:

we took about 8 lbs of elderberries
(ours were frozen, stems already removed)
and defrosted them in a big pot.
(fyi: stems contain toxic compounds so you need to remove them!)

then we added water to make any extra stems or unwanted stuff
float to the top.  removed any floaters, and drained.   

then took the immersion blender
and blended them up every so briefly
(so as not to chop up too many of the seeds,
which would make for a bitter syrup... bleck!)
then brought the berries to a boil,
stirring often.

then came the food mill:

processing through the mill to remove seeds and skins.

look at the beautiful purple juice coming out:

and there's this beautiful dry mash of seeds and skins
which we saved for our chickens
they looooooooove seeds:

we sent the juice through the mill 2 more times
to get every last seed out.

then it was time to re-boil,
and add sweetener, until it froths:

we chose to add honey
which is also good for sore throats, flus, etc.
due to it's anti-bacterial properties.
simply sweeten to taste.

then comes the bottling:

you can bottle straight up and store in the fridge
or you can process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

you can use it as a health tonic
throughout the winter
to prevent colds / flus
sipping it by the spoonful
or adding to tea...

or you can
drizzle it for the
earthy deep berry flavor
on goodies like
crepes, pancakes, waffles.

or as a sauce for any dessert
over ice cream
panna cotta

or a nice spritzer
by adding a dash to some seltzer.

might also be great as a glaze
on pork or poultry or wild game...
(check out this recipe for "pontack")
could even be a nice addition to
a vinaigrette...

so many things
you could do!




It was a sad day today.

See these eggs here?

We had to BUY eggs for the first time in almost a year.

When we got chickens, we thought we'd never have to buy eggs again.

Turns out, the sweet little ladies are molting.
(i.e. losing all their feathers, and growing new feathers.)

Our feather-losing flock of 7
is laying 1-2 eggs per day, at best. 

Which doesn't quite cut the mustard in an egg-loving,
frittata-eating, cookie-baking family such as ours.

Oh, girls.
You've gotta pick up your game!

It's really embarassing buying eggs
when we pamper our chickens
like no chickens have been pampered before.


Turns out that molting happens this time of year.
Seems counter-intuitive, right?
Why would chickens lose their feathers when it's starting to get cold?
I have no idea.

But it takes so much energy (lots of protein) to grow new feathers,
they can't also make eggs.

This ordeal can go on for up to six weeks.

So I guess we have to get used
to the idea
of eating someone else's eggs,
which just seems
so weird.


things to do with eggshells

Not only do the chickens give us food in oh so many forms,
but they also give to the dogs and to the gardens.
Those girls are the gift that just keeps on giving!
(except when they're only giving 1 or 2 eggs a day, which is a story for another post!)

Why let a good eggshell go to waste?
We save the shells after we've used our eggs. 
Keep them in a bucket until there's enough to fill a baking sheet or two.
Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake them at 250 degrees F.
You can bake them for 5 minutes or 15 minutes - there's really no set rule here. 
The longer you bake them, however, there will be an interesting odor.
Not bad, in my opinion.  But not exactly pleasant, either. 
Let them cool.
Then comes the really fun part.


Put them into a sturdy bag.  
Feel free to crush them in your hands a bit
as you're transferring them from baking sheet to bag. 
You might want to double bag.
You can pound or roll them with a rolling pin.
I like to pound for a bit, then roll.
Some people don't bother with this step,
and just put all of their eggshells into a blender or food processor,
and grind away.
We didn't care for that method.
It created a TON of dust.
Probably not great for us to inhale.
And it also wasn't great on the motor of our food processor.
So, for us,
the pound and roll method
it shall be.


Then simply fill up your favorite storage vessel with your shell bits.
You have oodles of calcium in a jar. 
Add a teaspoon to your dog's food,
and you'll give them a nice little calcium boost.
Plus, our dogs just like to eat them. 
Why wouldn't a dog like egg shells?
They like eggs.
They like bones.
They like all of that good stuff.

They don't seem to mind that it's not fully pulverized into powder.
They're not fussy like that.

And if you want to feed your GARDEN, here are:

Five Ways to Use Eggshells in Your Garden
(by Colleen Vanderlinden on TLC Home / Planet Green)

1. Add crushed eggshells to the bottom of planting holes, especially for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. These crops are susceptible to blossom end rot, which is caused by calcium deficiency. While this deficiency is most often caused by improper watering, there's no harm in making sure your plants have a steady source of calcium. As the eggshells break down, they'l nourish the soil, and your plants.

2. Use eggshells as pots for starting plants from seed.  Then plant the seedling, "pot" and all, into the garden.

3. Use crushed eggshells to deter slugs, snails, and cutworms. These garden pests are a real pain in the gardener's neck, and cutworms are the worst, killing seedlings by severing the stems at soil level. All three of these pests have soft undersides, and dislike slithering across anything sharp. Crushed eggshells, applied to the soil's surface, may help deter these pests.

4. Add them to the compost pile. If you aren't planting tomatoes or trying to deter slugs, add the eggshells to your compost pile, where they'll add calcium to your finished compost.

5. If you are feeding birds in your yard, crush up the eggshells and add them to a dish near the feeder. Female birds, particularly those who are getting ready to lay eggs or recently finished laying, require extra calcium and will definitely appreciate it!


autumn leaves

It's almost here.
I can feel it in the air. 
In the angle of the light.
And in these cooler nights.
Once I get past grieving the summer,
autumn is truly my next favorite season.
So many things I love about it,
which will be in blogs to come.
For now, let's start with some music.
Autumn Leaves is a great song.
There are so many versions of it out there.
Here are three of my favorite,
starting with it in it's original French form:
Yves Montand "Les Feuilles Mortes"
(song starts at 0:55)
Miles Davis
Eva Cassidy


end of summer flowers

Many of my favorite perennials in our garden 
come into bloom at the end of the summer...


another rudbeckia variety
I love how it looks at this stage...
So spindly, like its petals are wheel spokes
that slowly start to open at the ends,
little yellow hearts
until they open all the way.
a late blooming rose
and one that's in bloom right now
rose of sharon

white japanese anemone
russian sage
purple asters
water lily

(my favorite sunflowers are the ones that the birds plant!)
and you guessed it... this one right here was a gift from the birds...!



make your own vanilla extract!

Making your own vanilla extract is so fun!  so easy! and economical! --
You'll wonder while you've waited so long to do it...

It's sooooooo simple.
It's all about the bean, baby. 
And the relationship between the bean, the alcohol, the jar,
and passing time. 

That's it.  And that's all.


Start by getting some good quality vanilla beans from a spice store.
Nice plump beans.  

We've have had great luck sourcing them at My Spice Sage.
They have free shipping, they always include a free gift
and their spices are incredibly fresh. 
They have a huge variety and even carry kaffir lime leaves, which I adore. 
But I digress...

You might notice that there are vanilla beans from Madagascar, Mexico, Tahiti, etc. --
they each have their own flavor profile.  If you want to taste the difference, create a jar of each!

As for how many beans to use, most sources recommend 1 oz of beans per cup of alcohol, 
depending on your beans - that might be 2 beans or 4 beans, depending on their size...

Split your beans lengthwise to open up all that deliciousness.

Some people stop after just splitting the bean open.
But since the point is to expose as many of the fragrant flecks
on the inside of the bean so that they may be "extracted" into the alcohol, 
we do a little more gentle chopping to open them up more...

Some folk scrape the bean flecks out and add them in with the bean shells for maximum exposure.
We did that the first time, but not this time -- we'll see how much of a difference it makes.

Then you simply place your bean pieces inside a glass jar,
and add your alcohol. 

Vodka imparts no additional flavor, so that's what we use.
But some people like to use bourbon to make "bourbon" vanilla beans. 
It's just a matter of preference.

Wait 8 weeks, then strain out your bean pieces, and re-bottle.
As long as you keep your jars away from the light,
it doesn't seem to be critical that you use an amber or brown glass bottle. 

But if you prefer them you can find small quantities of them on ebay
you can also get them at Mountain Rose Herbs (a great company, though shipping is expensive)...
or re-use your old vanilla extract bottles... 

We give ours a gentle shake whenever we think of it.
After just a few days, you can see the process is really at work:



make like a bee... (or a chipmunk)

In these dwindling days of summer,
this is the time to make like a bee.
Crawl all over summer.
Rub your face in it.
Revel and roll around in it.
Gather every last sweet drop.
Don't let any bit of nectar,
any ray of sun,
 go to waste.

Make like a chipmunk
and fill your cheeks with summer.
Stuff what's left of it
deep into the furrows
of memory.
When you sit
under the hungry winter moon,
you will have
honey and seed
With one small nibble,
you will feel freedom
on the tip of your tongue
and the sun
glowing softly
in your belly.