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

3.31.2013

love your wood

I have no intention of turning my blog into an 'advertisement' kind of blog,
pushing this product and that product, but once in awhile
I might share things that I think are exceptional. 

Daddy Van's is indeed exceptional. 
It's a revelation. 

 
Just an unassuming can.
 

 
With unassuming ingredients:
beeswax, carnauba wax, and extra virgin olive oil.
 
I prefer the pure and perfectly heady scent of beeswax,
but they do have two scented varieties... scented only with essential oils).
 

 
Of course you can apply it with your favorite cotton cloth, if you want... 
But I prefer to just use my hands. 
 
I dip my fingers in and spread a thin layer over the wood.
And let the wood soak it in for a bit. 
 
Then the cloth comes in handy for any buffing/polishing.
(I think of it as massaging)...


 
Older or dryer wood will need a little more. 
Just look at the difference in this 200+ year old table...
It glows! 
It radiates woody happiness.
 
And a wonderful perk is that when you're done,
you can just rub any excess into your skin!
 

3.29.2013

starting tomatoes + eggplants indoors...

Of all the plants to start indoors, the holy trinity of seedlings is most definitely
tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
 
They really need the warmth and light and that extra bit of time to get started
to really be productive for the growing season.
 
In the past few years that we've been growing tomatoes, 
this is our first year of starting them from seed instead of buying ready-to-go transplants.  
 
Here's what we did:
 
 
First you need some growing media.
Look for organic or ask to make sure it hasn't been chemically treated.
We got Lambert LM-18 germination mix from Agway.
 
 
Seedlings are tender little things, so you want to moisten your growing media first,
rather than sow your seeds into dry soil and then flooding them with water.
 
So I took an old plastic storage container and a bunch of scoops of soil mix and kept adding water.
I mixed it and massaged it with my hands until it felt just right...
Uniformly wet, but not so wet like soup, oozing puddles of water...
But wet enough that if you squeeze a ball of soil in your hand, water would come out.

 
I scoop with my hands and fill the tray with growing media,
and press down a little to pack the soil in.
 
For tomatoes and eggplants, I got 36 cell trays. 
Depending on how large they get, I will most likely need to 'grow them up'
into a tray with larger cells, so their roots can keep developing and not get crowded. 
 
Then I took the end of a chopstick and pressed gently into each cell,
to make approximately 1/4" deep insertions for the seeds,
which is their preferred germination depth.

 
 Then come the seeds...!
I'm trying a bunch of different varieties of tomatoes:
cherries, grapes, heirlooms, tomatillos, and
tomatoes grown specifically for sun-drying. 
 
And just one type of eggplant...
 
 
Every time I hold seeds in the palm of my hand,
I can't help but be humbled by what an amazing thing it is
that an entire life is contained within such a small vessel.
 
Programmed and ready to go, when given the right conditions...
 
 
 The easiest way I've found to keep track of what's in my trays is simply to label them with tape.
First I write on a flat surface and then apply the labels to the sides of the trays.
 
 
I label them with arrows to indicate which part of the tray contains which plants.
In my made-up labeling system, two arrows mean the far back tray and one arrow means the front.
Sometimse I break it down further to 1.) and 2.)
if a compartment of 6 is broken up into two different rows of 3. 
 
Then I cover the seed trays with plastic humidity domes,
and get them under the growing light,
and let the growing begin...!
 
------------------
 
If you're curious to know about the varieties I've chosen for this year, here goes:
 
The Super Sweet 100:
 
 
A newer hybrid of the low-acid type.  The name says it all!
The breeders have added crack resistance and an extra burst of sugar in each 1” fruit.  
It grows TALL on indeterminate vines, so stake it and give it room, then enjoy a bumper crop of juicy cherry tomatoes until frost. It is perfect for pasta, briefly saut├ęd in halves with chopped garlic and arugula in olive oil. Serve over piping hot pasta; garnish with ground pepper, parmigiana and fresh basil. (John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds)
 
 
 
Yellow Jelly Bean Grape Tomato:
 
 
These sweet, little gems are really like garden candy: no one will be able to resist plucking them off the vines and popping them into their mouths. Clusters of 15 to 30 crack-resistant Jelly Beans are borne on vigorous, disease-resistant indeterminate vines. Easy to grow, they are small grape-shaped tomatoes that are incredibly sweet with a firm texture. Children of all ages love them.
(John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds)
 
Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry / Husk Tomato:
 
 
This sweet and fruity ground cherry originated in Poland. When ripe it turns a golden orange color and drops to the ground. This tomato has pineapple and vanilla flavor. Because of their high pectin count, they can be used for preserves, pies, over ice cream or in fresh fruit salads.
Will store up to 3 months in the husk.
(Territorial Seed Co.) 
 
 
 
 Purple de Milpa Tomatillo:
 
 
 The tomatillo that grows wild in Mexican cornfields. Very small (3/4") purple-tinged fruits borne on 3-4' tall plants. Fruit typically does not burst through husk when ripe. Sharp flavor preferred by some cooks over other tomatillos.  Plants are self-supporting, but sprawl over a large area. Cage or trellis when space is limited.  (Seed Savers Exchange)
 
 
 
Dr. Wyche's Yellow Tomatillo: 
 
 
A Seed Savers introduction, given to them by the late Dr. John Wyche.  Unique yellow tomatillo with contrasting purple blush (1½" diameter), delicious sweet flavor. Very prolific and easy to grow.  Excellent for salsa verde and chili verde.
(Seed Savers Exhange)
 
 
Principe Borghese (some write it as Borghesi):
 
 (photo from Horizon Herbs)
 
Principe Borghese is an Italian heirloom grown exclusively for sun drying. Traditionally, the whole plant was dug up and hung out to dry in the hot Mediterranean sun. Borne heavily on compact determinate plants, it yields abundant, small, plum-shaped, ruby-red fruits with a rich tomato taste that intensifies as it dries. To dry, we suggest cutting stems of the ripe fruit and drying in a dehydrator or on a baking tray in a gas oven heated only by its pilot flame. Dry until shriveled, leathery, and intensely flavored. Terrific in sauces, salads, soups, stews, pasta salad and bruschetta.
(John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds)
 
Black Pineapple Tomato:
 
 
Ananas Noire” is a beautiful, incredibly delicious and rare variety that was discovered growing amidst regular Pineapple Tomatoes in a Belgian garden. Ranging in skin color from black-purple to hazy green with red streaks, red-pink blotches or yellow splotches, these kaleidoscopic orbs will delight you with bright green flesh emboldened by deep red-pink striations.
Growing on regular leaf-type, indeterminate vines, this heavy producer yields large beefsteak-type tomatoes weighing in at 1 to 1½ pounds with a sweet, fruity, smoky, rich flavor. It is unadorned perfection. It will elevate summer sandwiches and salads to palate-blowing, festive party fare. 
(John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds)
 
 Striped German Tomato:
 
 
 
I saved these seeds from tomatoes we grew last year. 
Striped Germans are medium to large, variably ribbed tomatoes that are shaded yellow and red.
The marbled interior looks beautiful sliced.
The flavor is considered complex and fruity with a smooth texture.
(Johnny's Selected Seeds)
 
Rosa Bianca Eggplant:
 
Open-pollinated bicolor Italian heirloom. No bitterness!
Alan LePage calls it “the best eggplant in the universe,”
with a creamy consistency and delicate flavor. Gorgeous fruits, white with lavender streaking down the side, can command a premium in gourmet markets. Rosa is plump, about 3–4" across and 5" long, narrow at the top and widening with indentations almost like folds in draped fabric.
Fruits average 2 lb, max out at 4 lb, LePage’s highest-yielding eggplant. Rosa needs to be coddled, particularly in the northern half of New England. Seed needs alternating temperatures to break dormancy: warm days (preferably 80s), cooler nights (around 70°).
(Fedco Seeds Co.)
--------------
 
 Phew!
That's it! 

 
 ------------
 
p.s. Only 5 days later and all of the yellow jelly bean tomatoes have sprouted up!


3.21.2013

absquatulate

I'm a real dork.
I'm okay with my dorkiness, though. 
 
One of the dorky things I'm doing right now
is reading about a page of the dictionary a day.

Not in a rigid New-Years-Resolution-I-Have-To-Do-This-Every-Single-Day
kind of way
but in a Hey-This-Is-Really-Fun-I'll-Do-It-As-Much-As-I-Can-Whenever-I-Can!
kind of way.

I must confess, though, that I tried reading the encyclopedia as a kid
and only made it about 1/3 of the way through the letter A.
All those aardvarks and aardwolves got tiresome...
 
We'll see if my stamina as an adult is any better!
 
So far I'm going strong,
though almost every day
 I find something interesting that I want to research more...

I could easily get carried away,
because delving more deeply into something
is one of my favorite things to do. 
 
I'm reading the New Oxford American. 
If I keep up my roughly page-a-day habit,
I'll finish in about 5 years. 

That seems like a really, really long time to be reading one book.

 
It's become my breakfast reading when I have time.
I pop my vitamins while I'm scanning for unknown words and
looking more deeply at words I already know, like learning the origins and
seeing connections with other words.

words, words, words.
 
Every once in awhile, I might share something fun here on the blog. 
 
So, without further ado, and just in time for Friday, my favorite new word is this: 
 
absquatulate
 
It's fun to say.
 
And it basically means to leave abruptly, or to make off with.
 
So let's use it in a sentence so we'll remember it better:

When Friday afternoon rolls around, I'm really ready to absquatulate.  Aren't you?

or

I'm counting down the hours until I can absquatulate.

For crying out loud, let's absquatulate already!!!

No matter how you say it or do it,
just get down with your absquatulation, folks.

And enjoy your weekends.

3.20.2013

Big Red's back!


 
Wahooooooo!
Red-tailed hawks Big Red and Ezra are back
and on livestream videocam again!

Thank you, Cornell Lab of Ornithology!
(If you enjoy watching - consider making a donation
to help keep these amazing cameras running...)
 
 
 
 

3.18.2013

seedy things

There are some seedy things going on around here.
 
Down in our basement.
 
It's getting seedier and seedier all the time.
 
Here, in the morning:
 

Look at this pepper push through the surface. 
 
(I'm always in awe of how tender seedlings have the strength
to move several times their weight in soil... how in the world do they do it?)
 

A little pepper, mid-morning,
waiting to reach up and open itself.


 
 

 And here they are, a row of gatherer's gold peppers, showing us how it's done...
a little bit at a time. 

Now, a couple of days later, there are rows and rows
of light worshippers!


so beautiful!
 

 
Some of them look like they're jumping for joy...
 
If they could flap their tiny leafy arms, I bet they'd say
wheeeeeeeee!  


3.14.2013

Savons Oeufs: soap eggs



 A big thanks to our friend Sarah who gave us these whimsical egg-shaped soaps!
 
The soaps are called ''Savons Oeufs" (soap eggs)
and they're made by La Lavande.
 
Bootsy had the idea to put them in our vintage British egg cups.
I love these egg cups with the feet...
It feels like they're going to get up and walk away,
or maybe talk to us.    
 
Either way, washing our hands feels playful now!
 
The soap eggs even came in an egg carton...
It doesn't get much cuter than that.
 
Oh, and they're made from good stuff, too:
palm oil, shea butter, goat's milk, essential oils, bran
 
Thanks again, Sarah!
 
 
 
 
 
 

3.12.2013

biodynamic rhythms & cosmic paintings

Our friend Larri told me about this calendar.
She said it really makes a difference... out of all of her attempts
at starting her own seeds, this helped the most.
 

I really don't know much about biodynamics,
but the calendar is breaking some basic things down for me.
 


While I'm still mostly confused (!),
 I am learning that essentially: the positions of moon and earth and sun
can influence things for better or worse,
depending on what your aim is. 
 
All of the symbols in the calendar are intriguing, but as a novice
all I worry about are the days and what's 'favorable.' 
It also tells you when it's just definitely not a good time to plant anything,
which doesn't happen often, but it's good to be aware of.
 
Today is a favorable 'leaf' day --
and since it's also approximately the right time for starting some leafy seedlings,
that's what I'll do -- start spinach, parsley, kale, collards, cabbage... 
 
It's not that you can't plant something that's a root (i.e. carrot) on a leaf day,
but the idea is that you'll have better resistance to 'problems' / diseases / pests
and overall more vigorous and productive plants
if you plant them on a favorable day.

Yes, all plants have leaves and roots and flowers and many have fruits...
But each plant that we grow, we grow for an intended purpose.
Tomatoes are the 'fruit' of the plant.  We don't grow tomatoes for the leaves. 
So, plant tomatoes on a fruit day.
Make sense? 
 
Who knows how much evidence there is for this method,
but some organic farmers swear by it, and I'm willing to give it a go. 
 
Besides, I really like the idea of working with the moon
and harmonizing with whatever cosmic rhythms are occuring,
however unbeknowst to me.
I trust that they are there... working towards the greater good.

More light in the world.

Oh I could go on and on and on
 about the web of life and
 energy and the great mysteries
and consciousness,
but I'll spare you.

Let's just say it's a very good thing I never got into recreational drugs
because I can trip out so easily just by reading a calendar!!!

Speaking of tripping out...
in daydreams and imaginings...

I've been on a real cosmic jag lately from looking
at the truly amazing aboriginal artwork of

Alma Nungarrayi Granites:








 
Her paintings
make me feel like they're letting me in
on the secrets of the universe...
 




 


3.09.2013

wake up, it's a turkey morning...

It started with some wild turkeys coming to our backyard
to eat dropped seed around our birdfeeders.
 
One day, I saw a turkey jumping up
and pecking at one of the corn cobs
we have dangling for the squirrels...
 
When we discovered that they love corn,
 my girlfriend began tossing cobs of corn all over the back yard.
 
She tries to spread them out "so that they don't fight."
 
It seems the turkeys have been telling their friends,
and the gossip, or gobble, is out... 
 
What started out as 4-5 turkeys is now over 15!
They come every morning and are starting to come other times, too...
 
This is a typical view from the kitchen window in the morning now.
Turkeys everywhere!
 
To our delight, they hang out and take their time, for probably half an hour
until they've either eaten everything we put out for them
or until our old dogs see or hear them and start barking.
 
Sometimes that doesn't even scare them off anymore.
It's like they know the dogs are behind the walls of the house
and can't get to them, so they continue to enjoy their buffet...
 
Smart turkeys!


We had only ever seen female turkeys until a couple days ago.
Maybe because it's almost spring, some Toms are coming around now.
 

 Three of them came and made quite the debut the other day.
It felt like we were being visited by royalty!
 
 They came and as soon as we spotted them, they began what seemed like a ritual.
Not a dance per se, but more like a performance...
strutting, weaving in and out around eachother.
fantastically displaying their tail fans,
every move was dignified and regal.   
 
  The three Toms operated as a unit.
Their performance was in perfect sync, and a truly mesmerizing sight.

 
 Check out the snoods and caruncles on these two Toms!
 
 And the spurs!
 
 Their feathers are absolutely stunning.
It's no wonder Ben Franklin wanted the wild turkey to be our national bird.
 
 Having a wild creature look at you with more curiosity than fear is such a great feeling.
We're so thrilled that they enjoy visiting us, and that they accept our offerings. 
 
 One of our resident crows got brave today
and decided to try to eat suet droppings at the same time as the turkeys,
who are easily 5x their weight.   
 
If this turkey was in Kindergarten, 
she'd probably get a 3 on her behavior report card for sharing so nicely.