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The hands have it – AND, a giveaway

wintercreekIt’s winter where we live (which is, strangely enough, why we refer to the place as ‘Chez Siberia’). We got up as high as 24 this week. Woohoo!! Break out the suntan lotion and halter tops (or something like that).

Winter is tough on everyone, especially on exposed skin (I will not try to get statistics on the sales of lip balm at this time of the year, but I have the feeling that something like 75% of the pockets in North America have at least one tube of lip balm in them at this very moment). But exposure to cold and wind is not the only thing and exposed skin is not the only area of the body that suffers in the winter. (more…)

When choosing garden seeds, what information is most useful?

seedcatGood day, folks. I know you are veritably bristling with excitement over the upcoming gardening season, champing at the bit, so to speak. And, for the ‘old-timers’ out there, what I’m going to discuss today might seem old stuff, so you might as well go pour yourself a cup of tea, coffee or perhaps something stronger (hey, it’s been a really cold week here in the US – in Tampa, Florida, it was 36 degrees F at one point. The rest of us here in the northeast have had to sing praises when it hit positive numbers).

For the rest of you out there who are beginners or who have not been involved in vegetable gardening for very long, this, my little dear ones, is for YOU. (more…)

2014 – a year in review

Yoohoo, everybody!! Since today appears to be ‘International Gotta Review 2014 Day” for bloggers, I guess I have to woman up and work my way through the good, the bad and the did..not…work for 2014. Organization, I realize, is everything here, so we will go by topic sub-group so that for those readers who are only interested in one topic, just scroll down until you hit that. (more…)

So, whatcha got?

Good afternoon, little munchkins. Now that you’ve theoretically crawled out from underneath the holiday wrapping paper and all the cookies, I’m sure what is burning at your brains is this:

What is new in the seed catalogs for 2015?

Yes, my plump little gardening elves, the seed catalogs have been out for a while; I swear the first one to hit my mailbox arrived the week after Thanksgiving. They are everywhere and I think they are all sharing their mailing lists as well since I’ve received some catalogs from companies that I’ve never heard from before.

However, I, your sweet old Auntie, have spent some of MY holiday time (a dirty job, but someone must do it) in checking out what is new. Not that I immediately rush to whatever new thing the seed folks are serving up (I do have my favorites, such as Royal Burgundy beans), but it’s always good to check things out because, after all…you…never…know.

Here are a few things that caught my eye. Not that there are not literally hundreds of new and newly-rediscovered varieties out there but here are a few that rang my bell:

Territorial Seed (Oregon): These folks, ever since I started buying a big block of onion plants which always do very well, have become one of our favorite sources. They have some very interesting things which might (depending on your point of view) be worth trying out:

Summer Purple
Summer Purple Broccoli. This does not form a big head (which is not a disadvantage in my book since you have to cut it up anyway) and, with a 60-90 day growing period looks to be something people could try out for early spring gardening, fall gardening and even, if you live in a relatively mild early winter area, winter gardening.

Quinoa
Quinoa. Yes, believe it or not, if you are interested in giving growing quinoa a shot, you can get seed here. Even if you live in a short-season area, it might be worth it to grow just for the nutritious greens.

Pinetree Garden Seeds (Maine): This seed house has been a long time favorite with us. In the early days it was because we could get small, relatively cheap packets of seeds. Since then they have grown on us because we can also get mixtures of seeds (such as mixtures of lettuces, or mixtures of peppers and so on), which is actually a lot more fun to grow.

Chia
Chia. This will take 4 months, and here in the north, will require starting just like tomatoes and about the same time, but if you’d like to give it a shot, here you go.

Celery
Peppermint Stick Celery. This looks good – fast to germinate and worthwhile growing because to be frank, grocery store celery is one of the top items on the ‘dirty dozen’ list of fruits and veggies which have high concentrations of pesticide residues. Grow your own.

Seed Savers Exchange (Iowa)
The grand-daddy of the heritage seed saving organizations.

Sorghum
Sorghum. Want to grow your own pancake flour? Shoot – want to grow your own pancake flour AND pancake syrup. Here you go. Long season – strictly for the south but definitely worth trying.

Hustard
Heirloom Mustard – the description says it is not prickly, which makes it a huge improvement on anything I’ve found. If you want to try mustard greens – here you go.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds (Vermont)

Gunsho
Gunsho (looks like Chinese asparagus to me), also referred to as choi sum. Great for stir fries and harvested for the tender stems and just-opening flowers.

Radish
Sora Radishes – The best feature here is heat tolerance so you won’t lose your radishes as soon as the first hot weather in the spring shows up.

Tiren Tomato
Tiren San Marzano. Great San Marzano tomato shape and flavor but earlier which is always a benefit.

So, check out the seed sites; open up those seed catalogs and put together your order, pronto.
What am I excited about this year? Cover crops – in specific, tillage radishes (which are really selections of daicon radishes which grow HUGE roots, pull up all sorts of nutrients in the soil and then…DIE, releasing all of that goodness into the upper reaches of the soil. Great stuff.

How to handle Christmas Breakfast

So – is your family a ‘get up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning, create a hurricane of wrapping paper and THEN eat something’? Or are you a ‘eat something first; then open gifts, then eat some more or something different, go back to the gifts or start watching Christmas movies’ sort?

Well, no matter what sort of breakfast you anticipate for Christmas, here are some ideas which I think are terrific and come under two basic headings:
A) Pull together the night before, leave in the fridge and then cook/bake in the morning while everyone opens the gifts, or…

B) Pull together the night before in a crock pot, turn it on and the whole thing is all finished when you get up so people can eat it whenever they like – before, during, after, here, there and everywhere.

Frankly, either one works as far as I’m concerned because it takes one important item (nutrition – kids don’t live by gingerbread people alone) off the list of ‘to do’ in the morning and allows Mom and Dad to actually enjoy the complete chaos.

Here are some great ideas (and I certainly did not invent them – they are standard breakfast fare, brightened up with some spices and goodies:

Using the Crockpot:
French Toast

No gluten French toast

Breakfast eggs and etc. casseroles Just a note here: Don’t want meat? Don’t put it in.

Overnight oatmeal

Crockpot Cheese Strata

Set up in the fridge and cook when you get up:
Casseroles you can set up the night before

Overnight oatmeal – cold

Now, just a note – if you have the sort of family that will eat anything and everything for breakfast, then you certainly can set up chili or stew in the crockpot the night before, bake some corn muffins and off you go.

Have a good breakfast.

Oh, my gosh, I’ve been missing

snowyfield Well, ‘missing in action’ does not even begin to describe my lack of posting. We’ve been busy-busy (as have everyone else at this time of the year, but we have birthdays as well as the usual holidays so it’s been a veritable factory here at Chez Siberia.

And the elves are all out on strike so it’s up to us. (more…)

Thankful-ness

Most of the time, when Thanksgiving rolls around, I remember my father’s yearly ‘what I’m thankful for’ speech, which used to be served up between the turkey and the mashed potatoes, as I recall. Every year, it was the same and certainly I never thought about it. My father was not a particularly emotional guy, nor was he prone to fits of psychological analysis. But looking back, what he said was the most important thing.

“We’re all here.”

Now, he didn’t mean ‘here’ in the physical sense, because there were parts of the fam who were hundreds if not thousands of miles away. What he meant was that we’d gotten through another year and we hadn’t lost anyone. No one had died or disappeared; we were all still in touch with one another, in some way, shape or form (and this was before Skype, for goodness sake).

What a blessing it is when you can roll that sentence around in your head – ‘we’re all here.’

In 2002, my dad died and in 2006, my mom died, after a horrible last year battling cardiac disease, dementia, a broken hip and a world spiraling vastly down and out of control. So, we weren’t ‘all here’ again for a while.

And then my two eldest got married and started families of their own. One of them is far, far away and we don’t get to physically see them very often, though Skype is a big part of our lives now. And the others are actually close by and we share them with the in-laws (the way all families must where married kids are concerned). But today, I thought about my dad and smiled because we’re now at that stage where I can say to myself, “things are good; we’re all here.”

For this one moment, everyone is safe. Everyone is in good shape healthwise. Everyone has a place to live and food to eat, jobs, heat in the house, a decent car, time to dream a bit and have a bit of fun. Perfection? Perhaps not but actually extremely good. Feeling lucky – touch wood.

Dad – we’re all good. We’re all here.

Hope you all had a lovely, love-filled Thanksgiving today.

Thoughts on Bunkbeds

cut pieces The DH and I took on a project this fall to built bunkbeds for the grandkiddos to use when they spend the night with us. The youngest is now out of a crib, so it was, we felt, a good time to rearrange things in the guest room (cough, deal with the fabric stash, cough), recapture some space and do something that the little ones would enjoy. So, I went to the internet and found a set of plans for modular bunks.

The big difference between these and other plans is this: Instead of building two twin beds that get hitched together at the headboard and footboard and if you take them apart, are still two twin beds, these plans make four giant ‘ladders’ which are then either screwed together or bolted together to make the bunks. Then you put in the mattress supports and the mattresses and voila. If you no longer want bunks, or you are only using them on a temporary basis, then you can unscrew the corners and store the four ‘ladders’ and so on. (more…)

End of the season?

novgarden2 And a good, good day to everyone, wherever you are. This has been a very busy week in the garden for the DH and your Aunty. Not for choice necessarily, but sometimes you have to get things done before the weather gets colder, or rainier or something else (yes, what is on that kale is SNOW – it was 27 degrees F this morning. I think we can safely say that winter is coming).

The big job that had to be taken care of was the arrival of the replacement fruit trees. Yes. Replacement. Not addition. Replacement, as in ‘Dear Sir, the fruit trees x.y.z etc. that I ordered from you did not grow. As a matter of fact, they died. Toes up. Kicked the bucket. Gone to meet their maker. Please send replacements. Respectfully…” It happens, and if you don’t know this first thing in the spring (which most people don’t because you are waiting, hopefully, that the damned things will leaf out and oh, joy!!

Only these ones did not. (more…)

We interrupt this blog for a civics message

0307-IraqElec3_full_600 If you live in the USA, this Tuesday, November 4th is Election Day. (If you don’t live in the USA, then your election system is totally different and you can go and make yourself a cup of tea or something perhaps stronger while I harangue everyone else)

Why am I bothering to get up on my soapbox at this point?

Well, if you have been following the news, there are states where legislatures, dominated by a certain political party, have decided to put into place rules for voting now that frankly are preventing people from voting. People who are US citizens, but who are young. People who are US citizens, but who are female. People who are citizens but who are elderly. People who are US citizens but whose skin is perhaps a different color or they are perhaps speaking a different language at home.

This is wrong. Thousands upon thousands of people in the United States have marched, fought, been incarcerated and died to get the right to vote, to have a voice, and to have their opinions heard and counted. It took women in the US for example, seventy years to get the right to vote (and frankly, it’s all tied up with the movement to outlaw selling of alcohol in this country, but I’m not going to go into that here).

And there are people in power in this country who frankly would much rather that you…just…don’t..bother to vote on Tuesday. They’d rather discourage you from voting.

Because if you don’t vote, then that is one less voice saying, “I don’t agree with you; I think you are wrong.”

voting lineSo, go and vote on Tuesday. Make the time to vote. If you’ve got little kids you care for at home, then frankly, take them to vote with you. Let them SEE the process. Let them SEE you vote. That is important, that they know that you voted. If you see neighbors or friends tomorrow, ask them, “You’re going to go vote, right? I’m going to vote. It’s important.” Because people sometimes need that little encouragement to take the time, on the way to work, or the store or whatever, to go and cast their votes. Local races are important – sometimes the most important ones because local and state races effect you more at the local level than national races do.

So, make the time to go and vote. A lot of people are going to vote this year because they are concerned that if they don’t vote, this might have been the last chance they ever got to vote. So, there might be long lines (a good reason to go first thing in the morning, BEFORE you have that cup of coffee, eh?) and you don’t want to get left out.

Vote as if your life and the lives of your neighbors and friends and your kids and their kids and your grandkids depended on it.

Because, in truth, it actually will.

Peace, people.
(images courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor, AP/Lynn Sladsky)

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