Thursday, June 28, 2012

Designing the Side Garden

The side garden in 2012:

The side garden in 2010:

Our side garden has been a struggle ever since we moved here 12 years ago.  It's wet and filled with roots.  In 2010, I declared it a "garden" after grass refused to grow in the space, and then spent a fair amount of time reading garden design books and setting out a plan for the space.  I purchased a fern and hosta garden for the shady area, along with some other plants......and nothing grew.  Then, I just decided to move things from other parts of the yard.  That worked.  So much for the official plan! 

I then decided to plant blueberries long with the hostas, lirope, and other plans in the space.  When the new bushes arrived and I told Jeff where I needed holes dug, he politely refused, with a decent reason since the roots in the area make it just too difficult to dig proper holes.

So, this side area remains as it is...a hodgepodge of plants that like the space.   It's so much better than it was two years ago when I decided to tackle the area and turn it into a garden.  The blueberries, though, necessitated a move of our entire front picket fence to place them within our fenced in yard.  It might have been easier to dig in the side garden with all the roots! 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Demo at the Nanticoke River Jamboree

We were priviledged to demonstrate colonial blacksmithing at the Nanticoke River Jamboree, this past Saturday at Handsell to support the efforts to restore the house of Handsell and to celebrate the historic nature of the area.  It was an amazing event, filled with interesting people and fascinating history.  We've never been at a place before where the content of a festival was so solid - early American history and the war for Independance....the Underground Railroad and African American history... and Native American history all focused on one place.  I was so jealous of the folks that got to attend all the various talks.  There was so much to learn!

We deliberately seek out events that are interesting and family-friendly, and the Jamboree definitely fit the bill.  Our kids had a blast "working" at the colonial games tent, hanging out at the Friends of the Library tent, and making prints of various fish at the Nanticoke Watershed Allience tent.  I grabbed a few moments to walk down to the Chicone Creek and enjoy the amazing farmland.  It made me rather homesick for the farmland of the Midwest, where we spent many years.

While the Jamboree had reenctors from 1612 through 1812, more "modern" craftspeople and others displayed their talents in a seperate area.   In that area, the Jamboree had a great musician performing throughout the day.  I had to laugh at myself interpreting in full Colonial attire in 90 degree heat for Jeff who was forging colonial nails, while humming "Every Rose Has Its Thorn", by Poison.  That was definitely a first! 

Jeff demonstrated how to forge leaves before moving on to making nails, which really appealed to a lot of men.  These guys knew their nails!  We'd never before demonstrated in front of a people who knew to ask right away if Jeff was making "rose head" nails.  It was great fun!

Near the end of the day, a reenactor with the militia asked Jeff to make a combination tool for him -- part screwdriver, part tool to clean out a musket (someone will have to fill me in on the correct name!).  Jeff really enjoyed copying, yet changing, the tool to fit his personal style and the reenactor's musket.  As you can see, Jeff chose to make his twist a bit different than the original, and I should comment that this is not a photograph of the final version -- after testing it on the musket, they "tweaked" it a bit more.

We truly had a wonderful time. The folks at Handsell are doing a special thing, and we hope to return next year to support their efforts. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Photos from Claude Moore May Fair

We were happy to receive an email the other day from someone we met at the Claude Moore Market Fair in May (Hi, Dave!).  Dave is not only a great guy, but he had some amazing camera equipment with him at the fair.  Jeff joked with me about how often I was getting into photography discussions with folks who were visiting the's a good thing we weren't doing 1st person character interpretation!  Here are some of the photos Dave took and shared with us.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Pretty in Pink

The other day, I was placing burlap bags on various parts of the garden as a weed-management technique.....there's nothing glamorous or beautiful about the job, but it certainly works well to control weeds.....when I suddenly glimpsed a vibrant pink color I'd never noticed before in the garden.  Some plant (if you know its name, please let me know!) from a flower arrangement years ago decided to bloom this year.   The color and lines just stopped me in my tracks -- they were so amazing and beautiful and I felt blessed to have noticed them.  I dropped the burlap and grabbed the camera:

Edited to add:  Many thanks to Mimi, my mother-in-law, who thinks that this is a Calla Lilly.  I'm not surprised she was able to identify the flower.  In fact, I think she probably gave us the flower arrangement that had the lilly in it, in the first place many years ago!  Thanks again!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

An Outdoor Grilling System At Home

If you recall, I mentioned that the last Claude Moore Market Fair became the "chicken hook" grilling demonstration in our family lore.  I talked and talked about the grilling system to the two thousand and some visitors, while Jeff forged all the components.   It was truly quite a set-up, with preparation hooks/stands for the skewers, tripods and rods for over the fire, and all the accompanying hooks and chains. 

We recently received a photo of the system now set up at its new home in Arizona.  Jeff might change a few things on it in the future, but it looks great so far!

Many thanks to Ginny and Dennis for the photo! What will the July Market Fair become known for?  Jeff has a Betty lamp on his list of things to make.....we'll see if that makes the cut for the demonstrations!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Garden in Early Summer

A snapshot of our kitchen garden from the kids' tree house.

Our garden is going quite well this year, although I have seen recent evidence of mildew on the tomatoes which is rather concerning.  We've also gotten a LOT of volunteer plants, so we have a tomato jungle in various beds (the mildew is probably due to the crowded conditions where the volunteers popped up and I didn't remove them quickly enough), squash among the broccoli, and potatoes everywhere we missed them in last year's harvest. 

The potatoes are flowering and we're watching the garlic carefully as it seems to be getting ready to harvest earlier than usual. 

We've made our first batch of pesto from the basil, enjoyed early harvests of broccoli, chard, lettuce and spinach, and frozen all the peas for use this winter.  Oh, and the boys have already eaten the few strawberries that ripened on the new plants.

Space is an issue like always, so we need to find places for cucumbers, squash and beans.  I'd love to plant some broom corn for fun, but I need to find a spot for it -- maybe it is time for the garlic to clear out a space!  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bottle Tree

One of the earliest pieces Jeff made was a bottle tree.  Jeff was taking a welding class and we'd just had the pleasure of meeting Felder Rushing at a gardening conference.  We really appreciate Felder's approach to slow gardening and his sense of humor.  Felder also has a love of bottle trees, which we'd never heard of before meeting him.  When Jeff needed a project to try out his newly-learned welding skills on, I asked for a bottle tree.

Jeff made what we lovingly call a "bottle bush" because it's rather short.  I emailed Felder a picture of it, and he responded that "hubby did good!"   I agree. 

Since we installed our bottle tree/bush in our garden a few years ago, we've noticed a few more bottle trees pop up in the neighborhood.  Currently, our bottle tree is in a garden bed surrounded by apple trees, blueberries and cranberries; just yesterday, someone walked by and admired it.   Maybe Jeff should make an even bigger one this summer for the side yard!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Scape Season!

It's the season for garlic scapes, a delicacy we'd never heard of until we started growing our own garlic.  Now, we eagerly await their arrival because it means some lovely meals!

This year, we've had a wonderful garlic scape soup as well as some great pastas.  Our favorite recipe for scapes during this busy time of year, though, is an easy dip based on a New York Times recipe. 

Here's our basic recipe:

1/3 cup or more sliced garlic scapes (3 to 5) (we use more because we love garlic)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon or more of ground cumin (we like a LOT of cumin!)

1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 (or a bit more) good olive oil

Salt & Pepper

In a food processor, process garlic scapes with lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper until finely chopped. Add  beans and process to a rough purée.  With motor running, slowly add olive oil and process until fairly smooth. Pulse in 2 or 3 tablespoons water, or more oil, until mixture is the consistency of a dip. Add more salt, pepper, cumin, and/or lemon juice, as desired.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Strawberry Jam Workshop

The other day, I helped 40 children ages 9-12 make their own strawberry jam.  They had grown the berries all year, tending a small plot at their school.  After carefully freezing the berries as they ripened, they had enough to make jam for each student. 

Most of the children had never made jam before and it was really fun to guide them through the process.   To keep it simple, or as simple as it can be with 40 kids and only 2 hours, we worked with a freezer jam recipe rather than the usual cooked jam recipe I make at home.  We probably made about 8 batches of jam, in all.  The children made their own labels and used ribbon to decorate their jars. 

Many of the kids were amazed at how simple the process was -- one boy joked, "Smuckers, watch out!"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Turning Leaves into Hooks

One of the primary reasons we demonstrate blacksmithing is because we care about teaching others about the art.   It's wonderful to be able to interact with people, show them how it all works, and answer their questions.  Usually, we get to discuss where George Washington got his iron, the process of forging, the various types of forges, and other interesting topics. 

We also often get questions about various pieces we have on display.  I happen to absolutely love some of the organic leaves that Jeff makes, with a stem that twists a bit under the leaf.   Ever leaf is different and they are beautiful pieces of art.  But, in the midst of other pieces that have a basic housekeeping purpose like trivets or candlesticks (although those pieces are also works of art), we often get questions about what the leaves "do."   

After a weekend of fielding such questions, Jeff decided to turn some of those leaves into hooks with leaves, just for fun.   Here are how a few of them turned out: