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Can out in the field can be put to use in the garden?

mustard1The DH and I went to a conference run by NOFA, the Northeast Organic Farmers Association. Are we Farmers? Not yet – but working on it. If you have the chance to go to a conference like this, I encourage it – it’s the fastest way for you to get immersed in information that might take you years to winkle out. We took workshops on growing grains, beekeeping, mushroom growing (yes!!), growing organic oats, organic orcharding, marketing and I’m sure I’ve forgotten the rest. One class I took which was completely fascinating was using mustard as a biofumigant for soils.

Seeds, glorious seeds

appleseed2The simple act of pushing a seed into some dirt, watering it and having it come up is still pretty much magic to me. Whether it’s from a plant where the seeds are so small that basically, you water the dirt first and then scatter them on top and hope for the best, or plain old bean seeds, the whole act of burying them in the dirt and then their coming up is really an unceasing source of rather childlike joy to me. (more…)

Water: Where the rubber meets the road

soil1 4-22 That’s the dirt in my garden. Right now. After two days of light rains here. Doesn’t look terrible, but it’s not great.

Climate change is not just ‘it’s a lot hotter now’ or ‘this month is the hottest xxx every recorded’ (and every month now is the hottest xxx ever recorded – get used to it. It is not going to change). It’s also ‘we’re not getting rain/snow the way we used to’. And for people who farm and grow gardens, this is a huge issue.

Soil is something that you can improve. If you have too much clay and what rain you get sits there in puddles, then you can put in compost (or barring that, put in bags and bags of peat moss); if your soil has too much sand (hello, Florida, New Jersey and Long Island, New York) and the rain just washes through, then you can put in … compost (sorry, but organic matter is the universal ‘fix-it’) or bags and bags of peat moss. Plants, like people, are mostly water. If there is not enough water, they won’t grow. If there is not enough water when they need it, even if they have grown, they’ll transpire whatever moisture they’ve got through their leaves and droop and perhaps die. The name of the game when growing plants is keeping the water in the soil so that the plants have access to it. (more…)

Buttons and zippers will break you

shirtWhen my Great Aunt Lily died, I inherited a suitcase filled with trims and notions from her. Inside it were bundles carefully done up with ribbon of metal-toothed zippers, and little bags of buttons. All sorts of buttons. It was also obvious from the condition of everything that these are not brand new stock that she’d bought and hoarded.

She’d removed them all from clothing that she and her sister had worn out.

This was a real head-scratcher for me until I asked my dad about it. Why would anyone save used zippers and buttons? He explained to me that all of those notions were expensive – and replacing broken zippers or lost buttons got expensive.

Do you remove zippers or buttons before you send clothing to the rag bag? Good question.

But buttons and zippers, for us home sewers, get expensive. So, one of the ways to reduce the expense of sewing your own is: sew clothing that doesn’t require a zipper or buttons to close.

Now, if you sew knits, depending on the pattern, you can definitely get away with no buttons or zippers, unless you are making a jacket.

But if you want a shirt. A woven fabric shirt. This can get dicey. So, I’m always on the look-out for patterns for woven fabric items which basically pull over the head. I got one last year when we were in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but I think you can find this company’s patterns in the US and other countries as well.

Here’s the pattern, called ‘The Factory Dress’: Merchant and Mills Its’ a multi-sized pattern (it’s in UK sizing, which for US sewers, means that if you take a US 12, then you need to use the size 14 lines). The thing that makes this dress really useful is that it has a separate bodice and skirt. (cue triumphant music here)

That means that I could take the bodice part, do a bit of magic on it and make a ‘pull-over my head shirt’.

Now, this pattern only has bust darts, so I had to do a little ‘split and add tissue’ in the front to deal with my rather luxuriant boobage, but other than that and lengthening the pattern to 27″ from shoulder to hem so that I’d be able to tuck it in once I was finished, that is all the change I had to do.

One other item, and this is my own particular bias: This pattern calls for a back neck facing, something which I hate. I hate them. If every grain of sand in the Sahara Desert had the word ‘hate’ printed on them, it would not equal 1/5th the amount of hate I have for back neck facings, which flip out, look yucky and are a pain in the neck. So, on the necks and collars of woven tops, I do a Hong Kong finish. Neat, tidy and.. no back neck facing. It ends up looking like this: shirtneck What I do is:
1) Make the collar and turn it right side out. Poke out the corners (and these are usually just little collars – not the righteous collar and neck band variety)
2) Zigzag across the bottom of the collar and pin it to the neck edge. Match all the notches and dots and what have you.
3) Baste the collar to the neck edge, pretty close (I use a 1/4″ seam)
4) Either use bias binding or self-fabric bias (1″ wide) as long as the collar edge is, plus 1″
5) Putting right side to right side, sew the boas along the collar edge/neck edge.
6) Fold down the unsewn edge and roll that over the collar edge/neck edge to completely encase it. Pin that down and sew it down. You can do this by hand or with machine.
7) Follow the directions for any front facings extending to the shoulder seam. Once you are done, you will see, Voila!, that the ends of your Hong Kong finished collar seam is neatly and tidily covered by the front facing. No back facing.

Anyone else have any tricks to save money on sewing clothing?

Why bother growing your own?

onionseedsIn the grand scheme of things (to flog a oft-used phrase, along with ‘at the end of the day’ and so on), why bother to grow your own vegetables. Or, for that matter, flowering plants?

Well, I’m not going to even discuss the issue of ‘cheap food’. I still think we can produce garden vegetables at a lower cost (again, we are not charging our own time) than we can buy them in the grocery store. But that is not the issue here. (more…)

Nuts to you!

chestnut1So, for those readers breathlessly waiting on tenterhooks to find out exactly what these seeds are, the answer is: (more…)

Rescuing an apple tree

appletree7Now, dear reader, you may never, ever be in a situation where you find a wild apple tree.

But then again, you might – or you might buy some property or a house that has an old neglected apple tree on the property and you’d like to rescue it and see if it will come into bearing fruit.

This post, dear friend, is for you. (more…)

Windows, wax, and getting ready for spring

wax1At this point in the year – end of February – no matter how sunny your disposition, we can look at the calendar here at Chez Siberia and count the weeks until genuine spring. At best, we will have 5 weeks to go; at worst, it will be 8. And the weather folks have been mumbling about a nasty Northeaster in our March future.

Yum. Yum. (more…)

Beans again

cannelliniburgers1 I’m sure there are readers out there who feel that either our diet here at Chez Siberia is horrifically limited or that I’m on the payroll for the American Dried Bean Congress or some other PR group. ‘

Today’s post is not going to change your minds in that regard.

In our ever-growing efforts to eat more vegetarian/vegan meals, tonight, I made bean burgers and cole slaw – my attempt at a summery picnic meal (no, your Auntie’s knees do not allow her to kneel down on picnic blankets on the floor. I do draw the line someplace). Bean burgers are generally made with black beans – probably because when they cook, they are very dark and if you squint your eyes extremely small, you might fool yourself into thinking that they are rather well-cooked beef burgers. There is no way these burgers can be mistaken for beef or anything else, really because they start out light colored and end up…slightly toasted light colored burgers. We shall have to just throw in the towel, close our eyes (and no, not think of England..) and…chew gratefully.

Cannellini Bean Burgers
2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed really well, mashed rather thoroughly.
Veggies to mix in:
— one sweet pepper, chopped extremely fine
— 2 cloves of garlic, ditto
— Finely chopped mushrooms. If you are using canned, then one small can will do. If you are working with fresh mushrooms, then chop up 6 mushrooms that are about 1-1.5″ across the tops.
— 1/2 onion (about as large as a good-sized fist), chopped finely
Saute in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very limp

— 1/2 c. of flavored bread crumbs – if you are not eating any wheat products, you can replace with the same amount of cooked quinoa or cooked brown rice, barley, buckwheat (yay!) and so on.

— A good grating of black pepper, 1/4 tsp. of smoked paprika

Put the beans, the bread crumbs (or other grains) and the veggies into a big bowl (as the above photo indicates) and mix thoroughly. Take large spoonfuls (a spoon the size of the sort of thing you’d use to drain veggies in a pot – several inches across), form into balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Then flatten with your hand or a fork. You’ll end up with something that looks like this – this recipe makes 8 burgers.cannelliniburgers2

Bake in an oven set at 375 degrees F. for 15 minutes. Then carefully, with a spatula, flip them over and bake again for another 10-12 minutes. This, frankly is just to give the outside a bit of crispness. If you’d rather fry them in a bit of hot oil, then bless you – go for it. Just cover the bottom of a fry pan with oil and heat until bubbling – carefully slip the burgers off a spatula into the oil and fry one side until crispy; then flip and fry again on the other side.

I served these with cole slaw (mine is grated carrots and cabbage with a mayo/vinegar dressing), on whole grain buns that I’d toasted a bit, but again, this was just to give the meal a bit of the ‘summer picnic’ feel. If I was not going to do that, I’d serve them with whole grain pasta or, for people who don’t do grains, I’d do a quinoa salad or potato salad or something like that.

Bon Appetit!!cannelliniburgers3

Desperate for spring

orchid1Your old Aunty knows that this time of the year can be mighty difficult. Too cold to garden outside in most places except for the Southern Hemisphere. And still short days; I don’t care where you live, but when you have fewer than 10 hours of daylight, it’s just depressing.

So, here at Chez Siberia, I try to get in as much ‘indoor gardening’ activities as I can. Planning the vegetable garden with the seed catalogs all spread out before me is one activity that I think all gardeners indulge in at this point in the year, if for no other reason than they want to beat everyone else to the newest and best and what is in short supply. But another thing I do is to do a bit of ‘housekeeping’ with the houseplants. (more…)

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